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Monday, March 2, 2015

Meet the new Bronx, same as the old Bronx: Assessing the 2015 Yankee Outfield

If your outfielder smacks 34 home runs and drives in 156 runs, you own a budding superstar.

If your outfield hits 34 home runs and drives in 156 runs, you own the 1962 Houston Colt 45's.

Nope, check that: You own the 2014 New York Yankees.

And if you bring them back for an encore - well, you own that, too.

Rest assured, the Yankees are NOT bringing back last year's Colt 45's OF for a return to Hell. Gone is Ichiro, with his one HR, his 21 walks and his .284 batting average, which would have led the team had he batted enough times. Instead, the Yankees apparently plan to play Carlos Beltran in RF, so A-Rod can be the DH. Good luck with that.

Beltran is coming off elbow surgery, plus practically every bone is his body aches from somethingorother. Also, he is a threat to go ass-over-tea-kettle (my favorite idiom) while chasing flies near the fence. If he goes Minnie Minoso (R.I.P.) on a hard wall, forget him.

He was forgettable last year. Beltran hit 17 HR and batted .233 - down from 24 and .295 in 2013. That was St. Louis, age 36 and no over-shifts. He's now 38, in NYC - his career dead zone - and facing those pesky over-shifts. Realistically, what can we expect from him?

In center, we have Jacoby Ellsbury in Year II of a seven-year sentence. He was our best player last year. He hit .271 with 16 HRs - about the same as his previous season in Boston. The concern is durability. He played 149 games last year - most since 2011 - and was limping at the end. Let's hope the hammy doesn't go.

In LF, it's the always-beaten up Brett Gardner, our homegrown weed. In the absence of Jeter, and considering that A-Rod is a non-entity, Gardner may be the de facto Yankee captain. It was he last year - not Jeter - who doused walk-off heroes with Gatorade. Gardner - like Ellsbury - is 31. And he played in more games than at any time since 2011. He might have peaked. He's no longer a threat to steal 60 bases, but he can hit 20 HRs. Let's hope the hammy doesn't go.

Finally, we have Chris Young - an enigma, at least, to me, because I cannot fathom why we have him. Last year, with the Mets, the guy hit .206. Two oh six. They dumped him. We grabbed him. He hit three home runs in three games and was anointed as proof of Cashman's brilliance. I don't see it. Two oh six. He's 31. Two oh six. .206. When you're touting a guy who hit .203 last year, maybe it's time to consider indoor pro soccer.

Young makes me yearn for a farm system. In fact, I plan to watch Zolio Almonte in Atlanta, where he is battling for a starting slot. Don't be surprised if Almonte doesn't hammer out a middling career outside NYC, while Chris Young does what Chris Young does: Two oh six.  Every spring, the Yankees cart in some aging obesity who was good five years ago, for the last 200 at bats of his career. We've seen Alfonso Soriano, Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner, Andruw Jones, et al. I am tired of this. Taylor Dugas would be more interesting, and he's not even on the 40 man.

This will be a year to watch the farms. Somewhere in Trenton, Aaron Judge - the de facto Yankee poster boy for the future - will either solidify his status as a prospect or go the way of Mason Williams, Jesus Montero and a bunch of others. Judge hasn't really done anything spectacular, but he looks good coming off the bus. He came out of college, missed a first year and did well at Single A last year. Keep the fingers crossed, because the Yankees really, REALLY somebody to give hope. If Judge tanks, we'll be forced to watch those 16-year-old millionaires from Latin America play in the Dominican Summer League, and let's face it: They will be lucky to reach New York while the subways are still dry.

Best case scenario: Health and happiness for Ellsbury, Gardner and Beltran. Gardner has his career year. Beltran bounces back.

Worse cast scenario: They all go down with injuries. That's a season-destroying meltdown.

The surprise hope: He's almost a punchline by now, but I'm still pushing Slade Heathcott. He missed all of last year with a knee injury, which may have taken his speed. But Heathcott's greatest talent, to me, was that unnamed Yankee scouts viewed him as a nut-job. I like that. He's at a crossroads. He'll probably start at Trenton. If he hits, the Yankees will almost surely run him up to Scranton. From there, around June, when Chris Young is being proven to be - well - two oh six sums it up, eh? - instead of trading for a new Soriano, maybe Prince of Pennies will cut bait and give the wacko a chance.

Final analysis: Decent, if everyone is healthy. In other words, same as almost every other outfield in baseball.


KD said...

The 2015 Yankees will be akin to watching a demolition derby. Nerve racking but somehow fascinating.

Local Bargain Jerk said...

The 2015 Yankees will be akin to watching a demolition derby. Nerve racking but somehow fascinating.

I think the 2015 will be akin to watching 162 demolition derbies. It will be somehow fascinating for a short while, but we'll soon figure out that there's no real point and that this time is the same as the last time. Then we'll start looking forward to pre-season football.

For me the only hope is if we change course and bring up some youngsters. That I'll watch with interest.