New York Yankees 2013 Statistical Preview: Hitting
The Yankees likely opening day lineup features the major league leader in hits and OBPS. In fact, six hitters received MVP votes. One tiny little problem: this was all in 2006. As Daniel Barbarisi points out, the Yankees constructed an excellent roster if it was only seven years ago. One has to wonder if splurging for a DeLorean would have counted against the Yankees insistence on fielding a payroll below $189 million.
Part of the problem for the Yankees offense, at least early in the season, will be injuries. Derek Jeter will start the season on the DL, and will likely not play with the big league team until he can play back to back full games in the minors, which he hadn’t done before aggravating his ankle injury. Mark Teixiera may or may not need surgery, which may or may not keep him out for the season. Curtis Granderson’s broken arm will keep him out until at least June.
In the meantime, the Yankees will need Kevin Youkilis to have an OBP closer to 2011 (.373) than 2012 (.336 between Boston and Chicago). They will also need major league quality offense from Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli at catcher as well as Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch as the DH/4th outfielder.
Sleeper: Eduardo Nunez
The disaster that has been the Yankees offseason/spring training sets up nicely for Eduardo Nunez. Nunez clearly has a major league bat, hitting .292 last year and batting (an impressive for the 2012 Yankees) .273 in the postseason. His issue has always been defense, which was the primary reason he spent most of 2012 at AAA Scranton. Joe Girardi continues to insist Nunez will only play shortstop, but he is going to have to reconsider if Nunez is hitting well, because the rest of the lineup might not be.
Once Jeter comes back, Nunez can play third (419 career innings, .920 fielding percentage) while Youkilis shifts to first base. There are also available at bats versus lefties at DH if he continues to falter in the field. Regardless of how well he plays defensively, the Yankees will have to play Nunez if he keeps hitting. His positional flexibility is likely worth a look as a last round pick/injury replacement in fantasy leagues.
Bust: Ichiro Suzuki
Ichiro revived his career last year with the Yankees, batting .322 with a .340 on base percentage. His slugging percentage (.454) was his highest since 2009. Don’t expect that to continue for a variety of reasons, the simplest of which is one shouldn’t expect 39 year olds to continue to play 162 games and perform at the same level they did five years ago. With very little outfield depth behind Suzuki, burnout is likely in the second half of the year. Draft cautiously.
Any time a team is missing 78 percent of its homeruns from the previous year, they’re going to be in for a long season. However, if the Yankees can float at .500 until Granderson and Teixeira come back, there might be enough firepower to sneak into a wild card spot.