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Taking a shot: Roster prediction

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This was a winter of predictable player moves for the Yankees. Granted, it would have been tough to predict the Youkilis signing back in October, but as soon as the A-Rod injury went public, Youkilis was heavily on the radar. For the most part, the Yankees re-signed a bunch of familiar faces, which doesn’t leave much room for surprises. I wanted to make some bold predictions in this space, but as long as everyone stays health, the safe bets make the most sense. 

Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Robinson Cano 2B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Curtis Granderson LF
Travis Hafner DH
Kevin Youkilis 3B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Austin Romine C

I’ve gone back and forth about Romine’s chances of making the team. The Yankees are making it clear that they project him to be in Triple-A, but that might be little more than setting low expectations and limiting the chance of disappointment. I’ll guess that Romine shows something this spring, earns the trust of the pitching staff and wins the job. I’ve written several times that I’m expecting Gardner to win the center field job, and that opinion hasn’t changed.

As for the batting order, the Yankees initial use of Ichiro last season — at or near the bottom of the order — seemed to be a clear sign that they recognize his skills aren’t what they used to be. He moved up last season because he got hot and the Yankees had a need, but Gardner’s patient approach deserves a long look and serious consideration. The Yankees have toyed with the idea of him as their leadoff hitter in the past, and the current lineup construction — without so many power bats, and minus one switch hitter — makes this a good time to give Gardner another shot at the top. The Yankees could mix-and-match Granderson, Hafner and Youkilis in several ways, but I’ll guess that Granderson has a good camp that restores hope that he can be an elite run producer, which wins him the No. 5 spot.

Chris Stewart C
Eduardo Nunez SS/DH
Matt Diaz OF
Jayson Nix UT

If Romine makes the big league roster, Stewart’s lack of an option should make him the favorite to return as the Yankees backup. And if Nunez shows anything offensively, he should be a favorite to get regular at-bats against lefties (probably playing shortstop while Jeter rests as DH). Of the in-house options for the right-handed outfield role, I’ll give Diaz the front-runner status — if injuries caused his recent dip in production, and he’s healthy now, he could show something this spring — but if Diaz struggles, I wouldn’t be at all stunned to see the Yankees find a trade partner to improve that roster spot. I’ll picking Nix to make the roster strictly for stability. He can play anywhere, and there’s value in that, especially on this roster.

CC Sabathia
Hiroki Kuroda
Andy Pettitte
Phil Hughes
Ivan Nova

Not really going out on a limb here. It’s hard to pick against any of the top four. Barring injury, those four have spots locked up. The only real choice is the last spot, and Nova deserves to be considered the favorite. He was awfully bad in the second half of last season, but he was awfully good before that. Nova’s stuff is good, and he’s worth another look. It’s worth finding out how good David Phelps can be as well, but as long as there’s room for only one of them in the rotation, I’ll give Nova the nod. For now, anyway.

Mariano Rivera
Dave Robertson
Joba Chamberlain
David Aardsma
Boone Logan
Clay Rapada
David Phelps

I really wanted to shake things up here, but these pieces simply make too much sense. As long as Rivera’s knee is fine, Aardsma’s elbow is strong enough to have a decent fastball, and Chamberlain doesn’t destroy his ankle again, there’s little reason to keep them out of the pen. Same for Robertson and Logan, and a second lefty really fits Joe Girardi’s style of bullpen management. He’d been searching for a second left-hander for years, and seemed to really find one in Rapada. For the last spot, the Yankees are going to need a long man. I could see Adam Warren having a great camp, and I don’t think Chase Whitley should be ruled out, but Phelps has been tested. Short of wanting to keep him stretched out as a starter, I can’t see much reason to keep him out of the big league pen.

Associated Press photos