(Hey look! Four starters!)
Well here we are. It's 2011, it's almost time for the baseball season to officially begin, and it's time to break down the Yankees 25-man roster as we head towards Opening Day. We'll start, as we did last year, with the starting lineup. And this year, as it was last year, the Yankee lineup will be one of, if not the, deepest, most dangerous, most talented lineups in all of professional baseball. At almost every position, the Yankees have a current or former All Star plugged in, and there isn't an easy out anywhere 1-9 in the batting order. At worst, the Yankees' least talented players (if there is such a thing) in their starting lineup will provide league average production. And while advanced sabermetrics might suggest that their defense isn't the strongest, they've got a handful of players who are among the best in the business in the field.
Looking around the infield, the 4 suspects are the same crew that started the last 2 years, and they are still the best all-around infield in the game. At first base, Mark Teixeira will be looking to rebound from a 2010 season of ups and downs. He was either ice cold or on fire, and a progression of small injuries as the season went on sapped him of his usual strength down the stretch, culminating in that pulled hamstring in the playoffs. Projections have Teix slated for a bounce-back year in 2011, and I believe the opportunity is there for him to have a big year and re-establish himself as the best first baseman in MLB not named Pujols. If he can shake his traditional April slump, he could set the groundwork for an All Star season very early.
At second base, the Yankees are as set as any team with 2010 MVP candidate Robinson Cano. Coming off a career year that saw him capture an ASG starting spot, a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger Award, a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group, and the Nobel Prize for Scientific Research in the Field of Chemistry, Cano will be looking to pick up where he left off in 2011. Now fully into his prime, Cano's maturity has caught up with his natural talent and there is no doubt that he is the best second baseman in baseball and the future leader of this team. Despite tempered projections, I expect another MVP-caliber year from Cano in 2011 and would be shocked if he didn't finish in the top 5 in the voting again.
We now come to 3rd base, where the majestic A-Horse, though older in age, still exhibits signs of being a premiere thoroughbred in its field. A-Rod has never looked better in Spring Training than he has this year, physically or at the plate, but it remains to be seen if he can translate the offseason workout regimen to a full healthy season of A-rodian production. The days of MVP awards are probably over for the 35-year-old Horse, but if Joe can manage his workload to keep him healthy and keep him off the DL, there's no reason not to expect A-Rod to improve his numbers across the board from 2010.