With spring training now approaching, we can start to get get a feel for the answers and solutions to the questions facing the Yankees in 2010. Although this club is probably as strong as last year’s championship team, there are still plenty of issues that they will need to resolve on their way to a successful title defense. Here is my annual list of the top 25 questions facing the Yankees going into 2010, with last year’s list available here.
1) Steve, among others, has suggested on a number of occasions that Jorge Posada is likely to show signs of decline this season. Will that come true? Even if he does not decline in terms of skill, will he be able to stay healthy?
2) Who will be the backup catcher? Is the job being handed to Frankie Cervelli, or can somebody like Mike Rivera steal the spot?
3) Will Jesus Montero force his way onto the roster at some point? Can he handle catching?
4) Will Nick Johnson be able to stay healthy? Will his power return due to the inviting right field porch? Or will the Yankees miss Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui?
5) Can Robinson Cano improve defensively, or is he nothing better than a slightly below average fielder?
6) Will Derek Jeter’s contract situation become a distraction for the club, particularly if Jeter is slumping?
7) Will A-Rod be able to recapture his former mobility? If not, can he adjust and remain a solid defender?
8 ) Who will win the utility role and spell A-Rod every so often? Pena? Russo?
9) Which Nick Swisher will show up in 2010? Will it be the 2009 version or the 2008 iteration?
10) Will Curtis Granderson find a way to turn around his poor numbers against lefties? Will moving to a lefty friendly park help him?
11) Can Brett Gardner hit well enough to justify an everyday job?
12) If not, the Yankees will be depending on Randy Winn. Was 2009 the start of a steep decline, or can Winn return to his past solid performance?
13) If Gardner wins an OF job, who plays center field, Gardner or Granderson?
14) Who wins the final OF spot, Marcus Thames or Jamie Hoffmann? Do the Yankees go with speed and athleticism in Hoffmann, or lefty mashing in Thames?
15) Will the starters show any after effects of pitching deep into October last season?
16) Can Javier Vazquez reverse his reputation for being unclutch?
17) Can AJ Burnett remain healthy and effective, or was last season simply lucky?
18) Who is the 5th starter? Joba? Hughes? Gaudin? Mitre? Aceves?
19) What happens to Joba or Hughes if they do not make the rotation? Is AAA an option, or are they ticketed for the bullpen?
20) What can the Yankees expect from Damaso Marte? Will he sustain his playoff performance?
21) Will the Yankees carry a second lefty? Are the option (Logan, Ring, De La Rosa) too poor to do so?
22) If not, who wins that final job? Melancon? Sanchez?
23) Will Mariano Rivera ever age? Am I really asking this?
24) Will Joe Girardi’s unsettled contract situation create a distraction for the club? How will Joe handle his lack of security?
25) If the Yankees need help during the season, is there room in the budget for an upper echelon player?