AL East Preview: New York Yankees

They've raised 27 World Series trophies, but a lot of the faces here are gone. Can the Yankees get No. 28?
Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

No, we didn’t save the “best” for last. Our title is Red Sox Life, not Yankees Life. Who wants that life anyway?

This is the final part of our AL East Preview series and we take a look at those Damn Yankees. We could start by saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Or, “New look, same ugly Yankees.”

But we have more respect than that. So let’s take a look at the 2014 version of the New York Yankees.

First, a look back at 2013, when the Red Sox took five out of six series and won the season series 13-6. The season total was the most wins Boston had against any opponent in the regular season. With the Red Sox winning their third World Series title in a decade, the Paranoid Pinstripes scrambled to engage their fans by letting one of their best players go – Robinson Cano – and signing a few high-priced free agents – Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka.

Arguably, the squad on the field in 2014 is upgraded. And let’s not forget that Joe Girardi had orchestrated one of his best managerial jobs, posting 85 wins with a team riddled by injuries. Now, he has to take try to mold the new pieces into a winning team.

Here are the projected starters for the Yankees this season:

C – Brian McCann
1B – Mark Teixeira
2B – Brian Roberts
SS – Derek Jeter
3B – Kelly Johnson
LF – Brett Gardner
CF – Jacoby Ellsbury
RF – Carlos Beltran
DH – Alfonso Soriano

Here is the projected starting pitchers:

C.C. Sabathia
Hiroki Kuroda
Ivan Nova
Masahiro Tanaka
David Phelps
Michael Pineda

The Yanks outfield depth is strong with Soriano able to switch out with Beltran and Ichiro Suzuki on the bench as well. Teixeira and Jeter lead a so-so infield, but what remains to be seen is if everyone can stay healthy. McCann should shore up the pitching staff – the hope there that he can return Sabathia to his old form, get Nova, Phelps and Pineda on the right track and help Tanaka adapt to the American-style of baseball.

Offensively, there are a lot of what-ifs. Most notably, again, if everyone can stay healthy. And even if so, will they all have productive seasons. The Yankees will always be a threat in the East, but they haven’t been the dominant club they once were. Teams like the Orioles and Rays no longer fear them.

Oh, and there’s no Mariano Rivera and no Alex Rodriguez on top of no Cano and no Curtis Granderson.

So what does 2014 have in store for the Yanks? And improved year, for sure, but don’t count on this being a championship season. There are too many issues that must be addressed before New York gains respectability again. There could be a quick turnaround from 85 to 100 wins, but this team doesn’t look built to win 100 … 88-93 seems more likely.

This will be one of the most competitive seasons in the East Division. Will the Red Sox finish on top? Well, they will certainly finish above the Yanks. We have Boston winning 12 of the 19 games against New York this season and finishing ahead of the Bronx Bummers in the standings. Where exactly? Take a look…

Rays 95-67
Red Sox 94-68
Yankees 91-71
Orioles 84-78
Blue Jays 82-80

The Yankees will be on the bubble for the second Wild Card spot. The AL West will likely produce the other Wild Card, but Cleveland is in the mix as well.

This was tough to pick because of how well the Red Sox played in 2013. I don’t believe it was lightning in a bottle, but the question marks are 1) How will the Sox replace the production on the base paths from Ellsbury? 2) Will Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz continue their dominant pitching? And 3) Will young stars like Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks (who make up one-third of the Sox lineup) be able to produce at a high level?

Those are a lot of things that must be answered within the next two months prior to the season opener in Baltimore. If the Sox win 94 games and host the Wild Card play-in game, rest-assured they will win and advance to the Division Series. From there, anything can happen.

There you have it, folks. Let’s hear your thoughts. How do you think the AL East stacks up in 2014?

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