Since the 1994 MLB strike, the New York Yankees have been the most dominant team in baseball.
In the past 18 seasons, the Yankees have won five World Series titles, seven American League pennants and missed the playoffs just once. Each year, New York has been one of the favorites to win the championship.
Heading in to the 2013 MLB season, expectations for the Yankees are much different.
For the first time in two decades, New York isn’t considered to be one of the best teams in the sport. Most experts are picking the Toronto Blue Jays or Tampa Bay Rays to finish in first place in the AL East. The online betting Web site Bovada has set the Yankees odds of winning the World Series at 20/1. Eleven other teams were given a better chance of taking home the trophy in October.
Injuries and an aging core of players have called into question just how good the Yankees will be in 2013. The team lost Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Raul Ibanez, and could struggle without all that power in the lineup.
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Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira have been an integral part of the Yankees offense for the past few seasons. An injured wrist will keep out Granderson until the beginning of May, Teixeira’s wrist could keep him out until June, and Rodriguez is almost certain to be out until the All-Star Game.
Derek Jeter will start the season on the disabled list, as well. Recovering from his surgically repaired ankle, the team isn’t sure when the captain will be ready to take the field.
Replacing the Yankees stars a several players who have struggled in recent years. Kevin Youkilis will split time at first and third base, despite hitting .235 in 2012. Neither Travis Hafner nor Lyle Overbay has been very productive since 2010, and both will get a significant amount of at-bats. Chris Stewart and his .292 OBP will start at catcher.
New York is also relying on Vernon Wells, who they recently traded for. The outfielder is one of the highest paid players in baseball, despite failing to hit over .230 in each of the past two seasons.
With such a depleted offense, New York will have to rely on its experienced rotation. C.C. Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda were all effective for the Yankees in 2012. Each had an earned-run average less than 3.40.
Phil Hughes will be the No.4 starter when he comes of the DL. Ivan Nova and David Phelps will fight for the fifth spot.
When healthy, the Yankees top three pitchers have proven to be among the best in the league. However, they had trouble staying on the field in 2012. Sabathia spent two different stints on the DL and Pettitte started just 12 games because of a fractured left ankle. Kuroda was a workhorse for the team, but he’s not a lock to start over 30 games at 38 years old.
Despite all the question marks, it might be hard to bet against the Yankees. If the team can manage to stay near .500 for the first few weeks, they could be dangerous for the rest of the year. A healthy Granderson and Jeter, along with MVP candidate Robinson Cano, will give New York a formidable starting lineup.
If it can stay free of major injuries, the Yankees pitching staff will be one of the best in the AL. In addition to the front of their rotation, Mariano Rivera and David Robertson give New York a very strong bullpen.
Having to compete with the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles won’t be an easy task. The Yankees, though, have enough talent to stay competitive for the entire season and make a run to the playoffs.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Brett Gardner
RF Ichiro Suzuki
2B Robinson Cano
1B Kevin Youkilis
DH Travis Hafner
LF Vernon Wells
SS Eduardo Nunez
3B Jayson Nix
C Chris Stewart
2013 Season Prediction
First wild card winner, ALDS loss