Sep 17, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley (12) works out prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Here we are! Pitchers and catchers have reported, and Spring Training is in full swing (pun intended). Most of us will start having fantasy baseball drafts very soon, and we here at Fantasy CPR are no different. It is time to dust off the notes from last season, and check out which players could have an impact on your fantasy league.
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For each team, I will rundown the projected lineup, players to watch, and a complete list of 2014 stats to get you prepared for your upcoming fantasy drafts. We will start in the American League East, home of two of the most polarizing forces in Major League Baseball, and home to three of the top five payrolls in baseball.
New York Yankees Projected 2015 Starting Lineup:
C: Brian McCann (.232, 23 HR, 75 RBI, 0 SB)
1B: Mark Teixeira (.216, 22 HR, 62 RBI, 1 SB)
2B: Stephen Drew (.162, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 1 SB)
SS: Didi Gregorius (.226, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 3 SB) with Arizona
3B: Chase Headley (.243, 13 HR, 49 RBI, 7 SB)
LF: Brett Gardner (.256, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 21 SB)
CF: Jacoby Ellsbury (.271, 16 HR, 70 RBI, 39SB)
RF: Carlos Beltran (.233, 15HR, 49 RBI, 3 SB)
DH: Alex Rodriguez (.244, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 0 SB in 44 games in 2013; suspended for 2014)
There are a lot of big names in that lineup, but most of them are past their primes. However, because they are names, and they play for the most storied franchise in baseball, they likely will come at a premium. Which ones are worth paying for? Let’s take a look!
McCann hurt many a team’s batting average last year, and I even recommended dropping him in standard leagues later in the year. There is no denying his power, especially in Yankee Stadium, but he is unlikely to hit .260 again. That moves him down for me in the rankings, but 20+ HR are hard to come by from a catcher. If he slips and you can make up the average elsewhere, give it a shot. He might just surprise you and hit .250. He is a career .272 hitter, but he has not topped .260 since 2011.
Teixeira is another guy who struggled at the plate for most of the year. The power is still there, but at what cost? 20 HR are not hard to find at 1B, and most of those guys won’t hit as low as Tex did in 2014. Again, Teixeira is a career .273 hitter. He has not topped .260 since 2009, his first year in New York. You can count on Tex for 25-35 home runs, but be aware that his average could really hurt you again. I would say his ceiling is around .250 judging by the past five years. That said, at .250-30-100, he is still worthy of a roster spot in every standard league. Just don’t pay up for him and expect him to duplicate his numbers from the late 00’s. It’s just not going to happen.
Many, including myself, thought a move to the Bronx would help Stephen Drew. We were wrong. He hit just .150 in pinstripes, and couldn’t hold the job over the light hitting Brendan Ryan. He likely will not be as bad as he was last year. That said, rookie Jose Pirela is going to push him in spring. If Drew’s struggles continue, Pirela could break camp as the starter. Pirela would be worth an add in most leagues. He doesn’t have much for power, but he did steal 110 bases in 796 minor league games. He could be a source of cheap speed late in drafts. As for Drew, stay away from him. Even in deep leagues. At least until he can prove his miserable 2014 was a fluke.
Gregorius was acquired from Arizona in the offseason, and faces the unenviable task of replacing retired legend Derek Jeter. Still, Jeter only hit .256 with four homers and ten steals last year. There is a great chance that Gregorius can outperform those numbers. Gregorius is worth taking in most leagues of 12 teams or more. He will score some runs in this lineup, and could have a 15-15 season. That makes him fantasy relevant at SS in league that have a MI slot.
Headley hit .262 with six of his 13 homers after his move to New York. The ballpark undoubtedly helped, but we saw a revitalized Headley. Will he ever post another .286-31-115-17 season like he did in 2012? The chances of it aren’t great, but with an improved lineup around him, his RBI and runs totals should increase. Projected over a full season, he would have been at 18 HR and nine steals in New York. Those numbers would make him a fringe player in standard leagues, and worth owning in all others. I would expect him to come close to 25 homers and 80-90 RBI with a dozen or so steals. If he can do that with an average around his career .265 mark, that could make him a top ten third baseman.
For those of you that don’t follow the Yankees that closely, Brett Gardner’s numbers will surprise you. Especially the 17 home runs. While I wouldn’t expect him to do that again, he will likely steal at least 25 bags with a decent average. That makes him worth a spot in all leagues. Just don’t pay for the power that likely won’t be there again this year. He has 40 career home runs. 17 of them were last year. He may hit double digits, but I wouldn’t expect him over 15.
By most accounts, Jacoby Ellsbury had a down year in 2014. I disagree. He did start slow, but his full season numbers are impressive, and there is no reason to think that he can’t do it again. He should see an increase in runs scored as well. that makes Ellsbury the best fantasy player on the team, and well worth a late second-early third round pick.
If Carlos Beltran can stay healthy, he might be able to put up another 20 home run season. Keep in mind that at age 38, his speed is gone. His average won’t turn many heads, but at the same time, likely won’t hurt. He is a fringe standard league option at best, so don’t reach for him. Let someone else roll the dice on Beltran playing in 130 games.
The wild card for the Yankees is A-Rod. He has played just 44 games in the last two years. There will likely be a lot of rust, and let’s be honest here, we just don’t know what we can expect from a drug-free Rodriguez. There is as good of a chance of him hitting 30 homers as their is of him playing in less than 50 games. Only take a flier on Rodriguez late in the draft in standard leagues. You know someone else will pounce before most sensible people will.
Rob Refsnyder might be someone for you all to keep on your watch lists. The 23 year old second baseman has hit well in the minors over the last couple of years, and has some pop to his bat. He has the most clear path to the majors of any Yankee prospect with only the struggling Stephen Drew and unproven Jose Pirela in his way. Those of you in keeper and dynasty league may want to take a shot on him late in your drafts.
Next: How Does The Rotation Look?
Sep 21, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka (19) tips his cap as he leaves the game in the sixth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Projected 2015 Yankees Starting Rotation:
C.C. Sabathia (3-4, 5.28 ERA, 48K in eight starts)
Masahiro Tanaka (13-5, 2.77 ERA, 141K in 20 starts)
Michael Pineda (5-5, 1.89 ERA, 59K in 13 starts)
Nate Eovaldi (6-14, 4.37 ERA, 142K with Miami)
Chris Capuano (2-3, 4.25 ERA, 55K in 12 starts once joining Yankees)
Dellin Betances (5-0, 1/5 saves, 135K)
Sabathia has not posted a sub 4.50 ERA since 2012. After a dreadful April last year, he was pitching better in May before a knee injury cost him the season. So long as Sabathia is healthy, he should be able to get his ERA down to around 4. He likely is not much of a threat for 200 strikeouts anymore at age 34 either. He won’t be the ace of the Yankee staff or your fantasy team, but he is worth taking a shot on in the middle rounds. I would expect Sabathia to have solid value across all leagues, but likely not for what you will have to pay for him. Name value alone will push the cost too high.
Tanaka was well on his way to AL Rookie of the Year honors before being sidelined by a partial UCL tear in July. The team elected not to have Tanaka undergo surgery, so there is a chance that the elbow will flare up again this year. However, if he pitches a full season, 20 wins, a 3.00 ERA, and 200 strikeouts aren’t just possible, they are likely. He was one of the few starters to average more than a strikeout per inning last year. The looming elbow might make his stock fall a little, but for those of you that aren’t concerned, he is a top ten pitcher.
Don’t be fooled by the record. Pineda showed the dominance that he did in Seattle in 2011. If he can stay healthy, Pineda is a top 20 pitcher. He won’t be able to keep his ERA below 2, but he could keep it in the low 3’s and rack up 180 strikeouts. Not to mention 15 wins or so. Just keep in mind the risk associated with Pineda. He has only pitched a little over 100 innings at all levels of baseball in the last three years.
Eovaldi was electric last April, but came back to earth as the season progressed. A lot of people like him with the Yankees, but I am not one of them. He has struggled against lefties, and now will be pitching roughly 16 games in the most friendly stadium in the game to left handed hitters. His ERA could actually go up from last year’s 4.37 mark in Yankee Stadium. He will still net you around 150 strikeouts, and could be a standard league streaming option depending on matchups. He is worth rostering in leagues of 12 teams or more. He has an electric fastball, and could post some big srikeout totals. Just play him when the matchup is right.
Capuano is only holding the fort down until Ivan Nova (2-2, 8.27 ERA, 12K in four starts) returns, presumably by June 1st. Capuano is not worth owning, even in deep leagues. You can gamble on Nova in deep leagues if you want, just be aware that rehabbing from Tommy John surgery is a long process, and most players aren’t back to their pre-surgery level until 18-24 months after surgery. Nova likely won’t be fantasy relevant this year, even in deep leagues.
Should Nova hit a snag in his rehab, it is possible that the Yankees could turn to Jacob Lindgren, the best LHP prospect in their system. If he is not ready, they may elect to move Adam Warren into the rotation from the bullpen. At any rate, the fifth starter spot could be a sore one for the first couple of months.
Despite losing David Robertson, the Yankee bullpen is still a strength. Fireballer Dellin Betances is likely to get first crack at the closer role. Don’t let his poor percentage from 2014 fool you. He was never a closer per se. All of his “blown” saves were in the seventh or eighth inning. Should Betances falter, prospect Danny Burawa could get a chance.
Betances will be one of the first five closers off the board because of the team he playes for and his high number of strikeouts. He had 135 of them in 90 innings last year. If he can keep up that pace, he could be a top three closer. On the flip side, he has never closed at the major league level before, and we all know closer is the least sure thing in baseball.
Stay tuned as we cover the fantasy prospects of all 30 teams!
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