The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

Setting priorities (with no right or wrong answers)

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Feb 04, 2014 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

So, earlier today I came up with a list of 10 factors that are sure to impact the Yankees in 2014. The idea was to rank those 10 factors in terms of importance. It retrospect, it was a dumb idea, because I’ve tried to do exactly that — put these 10 things into an actual ranking — but it’s basically impossible. Each one of these could move up or down depending on how you choose to look at it, or depending on the severity of the situation one way or the other.

Here’s what I came up with. I basically defined “importance” in terms of, how much trouble would the Yankees be in if this thing did not happen, and how much better off would they be if it did happen? But let’s not fool ourselves, this isn’t the kind of thing likely to generate universal agreement.

CC Sabathia1. General bounce-back season from CC Sabathia
The upside here it tremendous: a huge resurgence gives the Yankees a Cy Young candidate. The downside is massive: another 4.78 ERA would be a problem in the short term and a nightmare in the long term.

2. Mark Teixeira’s ability to drive the ball
Kind of like the Sabathia situation. The best-case scenario is that the Yankees get 35-40 home runs along with Gold Glove defense (especially helpful for a team with questionable infield defense everywhere else). The worst-case scenario leaves the Yankees with a problem at first base and no in-house replacement in sight. 

3. Major League adjustment of Masahiro Tanaka
Not suggesting he has to be a No. 1 starter, but getting a strong and reliable season out of Tanaka would go a long way toward building depth and getting impact out of the rotation. I tend to buy into the idea that starting pitching is the key, and for the Yankees, Tanaka’s a huge part of having a productive rotation.

4. Lower-body strength and health of Derek Jeter
If Jeter can’t play shortstop, the Yankees will have little choice but to use all-glove, no-bat Brendan Ryan (who’s at least a huge upgrade defensively). The bigger problem would be, what to do with Jeter? Can he play third? Can he still hit enough to deserve an everyday job? How much of an overwhelming distraction would it be if Jeter truly finished?

5. Dave Robertson’s success in the ninth inning
Didn’t expect to put this one so high, but the Yankees have left their bullpen vulnerable. Imagine the dominoes that would fall if Robertson either falls apart in the closer role or gets hurt and can’t take the job. Bullpens can be pieced together, but the Yankees are already doing that even with Robertson presumably handling the ninth.

6. Brian McCann replacing Cano’s left-handed run production
Not that McCann has to put up Cano-like numbers, but he does strike me as the most important piece in replacing Cano’s production. As a left-handed hitter in the middle of the order, McCann will be counted on for home runs and RBI and general production. He strikes me as the most pivotal part of the middle of the order.

Alfonso Soriano7. Money and prospects to patch a hole at the trade deadline
Age, injury concerns, and already thin situations in the infield and the bullpen. Chances are the Yankees are going to have to find some help late in the season. Plus, this factor includes two other points of focus: the ability to spend going forward, and the continued development of the farm system. Both are huge factors for 2014 and beyond.

8. Jacoby Ellsbury playing at least 140 games
In some ways, the impact of losing Ellsbury is minimized by the presence of Brett Gardner. At the very least, the Yankees have Ellsbury-lite ready to step into the position. That said, though, there is a trickle-down impact to any sort of Ellsbury injury. The outfield defense would become significantly worse, as would for the DH production.

9. Viable everyday production at second and third base
This one depends entirely on how you look at it. I’m ranking it pretty low on this list because I think the Yankees can get away with mixing and matching at a couple of positions — and even getting below average production at two positions — as long as the rest of the lineup is productive. But production similar to what the Yankees got at third base last season really does seem troubling.

10. Meaningful (and helpful) innings from Michael Pineda
It would be a big boost to get significant impact out of Pineda — and the back of the rotation is a big factor — but on this list, I’ll put Pineda at the bottom only because he doesn’t absolutely have to be any more than a No. 5, and because the Yankees have some alternatives in place.

Associated Press photos

4. Lower-body strength and health of Derek Jeter




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