Yankees scouting report for 2014 season

Yankees scouting report for 2014 season

Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka takes the field to

Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka takes the field to work out at Steinbrenner Field on Feb. 17, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara)

INFIELD

Question marks abound. Can Kelly Johnson, with 12 career starts at third, play every day? Will 39-year-old Derek Jeter hold up? Will Brian Roberts, limited by injuries the last four seasons, stay healthy? How about Mark Teixeira’s right wrist? The worst-case scenarios won’t play out at each position, but it’s unrealistic to expect the best-case ones to occur across the board. That’s the reason the Yankees have been scouring the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues throughout spring training for infield help. GRADE: C

OUTFIELD

It has the potential to be among the best in baseball, with Brett Gardner in left, Jacoby Ellsbury in center and Carlos Beltran in right. Gardner, with Gold Glove potential, and Ellsbury give the Yankees as much coverage for two-thirds of the outfield as any team has. But all three outfielders, whether by fluke or otherwise, have had their share of injuries in recent seasons, and Ellsbury missed some time in spring training with a calf issue. Beltran’s knees also are worth keeping an eye on. Joe Girardi will have to get creative to get Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki — especially the latter — playing time. GRADE: A-

CATCHING

With one free-agent signing, the Yankees went from having one of the poorest catching situations in the majors, at least from an offensive standpoint, to one of the best. Brian McCann was targeted early by the club as a top free-agent priority, and the Yankees got their man with a five-year, $85-million deal. McCann’s swing should be perfect for the Stadium’s short rightfield porch and he’s known as a top-flight receiver, beloved by the Braves’ consistently excellent pitching staff. GRADE: A

BENCH

If Francisco Cervelli isn’t traded, still very much a possibility as the club continues looking for infielders, he’s as good a backup catcher as there is. If Cervelli is dealt, John Ryan Murphy has plenty of fans in the organization who would prefer to see him in that backup role, though Austin Romine would have some endorsements as well. Soriano and Ichiro, a future Hall of Famer for whom the Yankees would listen to offers, will get sporadic playing time, with Soriano getting more at-bats because of his success against lefties and the DH option. Can’t ask for a more sure-handed backup at shortstop than Brendan Ryan. GRADE: B

ROTATION

Could be one of the best in the American League, could be one of the worst. It’s easy to see the former if a few things go the Yankees’ way, such as CC Sabathia figuring out how to pitch with diminished velocity (he did not last year), Ivan Nova putting a consistent full season together and Masahiro Tanaka’s stuff translating seamlessly to the big leagues. If none of those things happen and 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda resembles the pitcher he was the final six weeks of 2013, it will be a long year. GRADE: B

BULLPEN

Most opposing team talent evaluators think David Robertson will be just fine replacing closer Mariano Rivera. But, as more than one has said, “he still has to do it.” More of a question for the Yankees is who will precede Robertson, perhaps the best setup man in baseball the last three years. As of now, Girardi could go with the lefty-righty tandem of Matt Thornton and Shawn Kelley, but he would prefer one lockdown specialist. A week before the start of the regular season, none had emerged. GRADE: B-

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