We were discussing this yesterday in EJs post on Cliff Lee and I thought it was an interesting starting point for a debate, so I wanted to pick it up again in a formal post. What if the Cliff Lee bidding gets out of hand and the Yanks decide to pass? What if the Yanks decide to do nothing but fill out the bench and bring back the same group for 2011? Would the 2011 Yanks be better than the 2010 Yanks if they keep the roster largely the same?
I say yes, they would be better for the following reasons.
-Aceves coming back healthy would stabilize the bullpen tremendously. I think he was a key (yet still underrated) factor on the 2009 team and a big part of what was missing on the 2010 team. He kept the team in many games, giving the lineup an opportunity for late-inning heroics and vultured a bunch of wins along the way.
-As down as we all are on Joba Chamberlain, his peripherals suggest a much better pitcher than the one we saw in 2010. A little bit of good luck will improve his numbers drastically, and another year of MLB experience should benefit him in learning what it takes to consistently produce at the MLB level.
-The 2010 bullpen was bad in the first half and good in the second half, but a main reason the bullpen settled down was the acquisition of Kerry Wood. Wood gave them a (luck aside) reliable 8th inning option and kept some of their lesser options from being in spots that could have cost them games. Wood most likely won’t be back, so I’d have to think the bullpen would be worse in his absence. But again, with a healthy Aceves I feel confident the bullpen roles will settle in nicely for the full season, unlike what happened in 2010.
-Montero should represent an offensive upgrade at Catcher. Even a rookie Jesus Montero who is struggling to find his way in the bigs should give you more with the bat than Francisco Cervelli did in 2010. If his projections hold, than he could equal offensively what you got out of 2010 Jorge Posada. The Yanks will need to be judicious with how he’s used defensively, but year over year it should be the equivalent of getting more ABs out of Posada, who hasn’t been able to stay on the field much in recent years and only started 83 games at Catcher in 2010.
-One or more of the Killer Bs could contribute either as starters or in the bullpen late in the year. All three spent time in AA last year, so a promotion to AAA at some point in the season is likely. At that point, they’re just a phone call away. If we were putting all our eggs in one pitching prospect’s basket, I would find this too speculative. But since there’s three of them, plus other solid AAA options like Hector Noesi and David Phelps, it’s reasonable to assume we get some MLB production out of this group. The Yanks have too much quality pitching depth in the minors not to take this into account for 2011.
-AJ Burnett was horrendous last year, and it’s hard to imagine him being any worse. A bounce back to careers norms would be in order. If he regresses any further, its hard to imagine him keeping his spot in the rotation. If that happens, one of the kids will have to produce (unlike 2010 AJ) and give the team a chance to win every fifth day in order to keep their MLB gig. So net+ for 2011 squad either way.
-It won’t be too hard to upgrade your #5 starter considering what Vazquez gave you in 2010. Ivan Nova could probably do a better job once he learns how to make better in-game adjustments, and again options like Noesi or the Killer Bs couldn’t be much worse than Vazquez was in 2010. If nothing else, the young guys could benefit from the first time through the league effect until the scouting reports catch up to them. If any of these guys give the team a chance to win more often than not, net+ for the 2011 Yanks.
That’s my case, and it’s based mostly on a healthy Alfredo Aceves and some horrendous 2010 pitching performances that won’t be allowed to be repeated. But my scenario is admittedly optimistic and focused on upside. It doesn’t assume any injuries, but those are hard to predict as to where or when they’ll happen. It’s also an open question whether Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez decline further with age, whether Phil Hughes can build on his strong 2010 campaign, and if Ivan Nova or the other kids can cut it as a MLB starters or relievers.
What do you think? Do you think the 2011 Yanks will be better or worse than the 2010 group if they don’t make an major changes?