Opening Night is finally here. Since the end of Game Six, we’ve waited for this moment. Our desire to see real baseball has only grown during the offseason in light of new arrivals. Now, every player will once again look to prove just how good he is and try to carry his team to a championship. Whether or not it’s true, every team gets to think “This is our year!” at some point in the next day or two. While we may know better, it’s nice to be un-jaded for a second and truly believe that each team has a shot to contend this year.
All throughout the year, we’ll be watching our favorite team and our favorite players and looking for them to dazzle us with their talents and efforts. Each player brings something different to the field and contributes in some different way.
Using the 25 man roster, I’m going to write–as I did for the other 29 teams–what to watch from from certain players.
Jorge Posada: Can he keep it up? He’s been one of the best hitting catchers in the league, but he is getting old. In the second to last year of his contract, can Jorge maintain productivity and stay healthy for the entire season?
Francisco Cervelli: Let’s see if he can maintain the backup catcher’s role for a whole season. I see no reason why he won’t be able to. All he has to do is hit and field like he did in ’09 and the job is his.
Mark Teixeira: Another April, another slow start? Tex got off to a slow start in 2009, and has traditionally been a slow starter. Will this continue in 2010? I’m sure it will, just because that’s how Tex seems to be, but maybe the fact that A-Rod is behind him for April 2010 helps him start a little faster.
Robinson Cano: Batting fifth. The Yankees are showing a good deal of faith by putting Cano behind Alex Rodriguez to start the year, and I think it’s going to work out quite well. Cano’s a fantastic hitter and with guys like Nick Johnson, Tex, and Rodriguez on base in front of him, Cano could drive in 100 runs. If the move doesn’t work, someone else–Posada, Swisher, Granderson–would be able to easily slide in to the fifth spot and the team likely wouldn’t miss a beat.
Alex Rodriguez: In a word: milestones. Rodriguez is coming up on 600 homers, 1,800 RBI, 100 WAR, and hopefully, a 14th season of at least 30 homers and 100 RBI. Since he’ll be playing a whole season, I fully expect him to hit all of these marks in 2010.
Derek Jeter: We know the Captain can hit, he rebounded nicely in 2009 after a “meh” 2008, but now it appears he can field. His defense has been getting better each year so we’ll have to see if that trend continues. Just using the “eye test” in 2009, it seemed that Jeets’ movement to his left was much improved but going to his right was still a bit of an issue. Jeter is never satisfied with being “good enough”, though, and I’m sure he expects even more improvement out of himself.
Nick Johnson: Johnson’s return to the Yankees–and the two hole in the lineup–is something I’m quite excited for. His on base ability in front of Tex and A-Rod should lead to tons of RBI for the both of them. Of course, we’ll have to see if Nick can stay healthy. Like Hideki Matsui in 2009, maybe staying off the field is the best thing for him. No matter what, though, I’m glad to have Nick’s patience in the 2010 lineup. His power should return, too, considering his ultra-low HR/FB rate last season and his return to a lefty-friendly ballpark.
Brett Gardner: Gardner can definitely field but I’m not sure if his bat will be able to stick in the lineup for an entire year. As in 2009, Gardner’s getting a starting job out of the gate. Last year, he gave it up to Melky Cabrera rather quickly. Let’s see if he can hold down the fort in 2010. If he can, his plus defense in left could make him 2010’s Nyjer Morgan.
Curtis Granderson: There are two things to look out for with Curtis: how he handles lefties and how he’ll hit in his new home. With the former, even if Granderson improves just a little bit against the southpaws, his value will rise. He’s looked okay in Spring Training when there’s been a lefty on the hill, but let’s see him do it against the real thing first. As for the latter, Granderson should definitely see an improvement once starting to play in YSIII. He could definitely add a few homers that were lost in spacious Comerica Park this season.
Nick Swisher: Like C-Grand (100 Grand, perhaps?), we’ll have to pay attention to how Nick does at home in 2010. The raw numbers there weren’t great–.226/.384/.394/.776–but the peripherals were all there: .158 IsoD, .168 IsoP. Hopefully, the raw numbers catch up to the peripherals for Nick in 2010. If they do, he could hit 30+ homers.
Randy Winn: As the fourth outfield, all I’m looking for Winn to do is adequately replace Melky Cabrera. I’m pretty certain he can do that. What Winn must do is be league average with the bat and play steady defense on the corners while not embarrassing himself in center field. Winn isn’t likely to get much playing time, but a solid fourth outfielder is never a bad thing to have.
Marcus Thames: He made the team on a minor league deal, now let’s see how long he can stay on it. Being 100% honest, I don’t expect Thames to stick with the Yankees for all of 2010. But, if he does his job–hit lefties off of the bench–he could surprise us all. I won’t hold my breath, though.
Ramiro Pena: Like Thames, I don’t expect Pena to stick with the team for all of 2010. There’s no doubting the kid can pick it in the infield, but last year (.699 OPS) was a career year for him at the plate that he’s unlikely to repeat. I’m not saying he’s going to crash and burn, but I think the team will want to look at Kevin Russo at some point.
This is running quite long, so I’m going to do the pitchers in “bulk.”
CC: Just be CC
A.J./Andy: Stay healthy and repeat 2010.
Javy: Show us the real Javy.
Phil: Stay healthy and show us the fruits of your potential.
Mo: Just be Mo.
Joba: Make the best of a bad situation and hope you get a chance to start again.
Robertson: Keep up the k’s, kid. Chicks dig the curveball.
Marte: Stay healthy and be the real Marte.
Aceves: Repeat 2009; it was perfect for you.
Park: Can he adjust to the AL (B)East?
Mitre: Prove me wrong about you.