Brien: A-Rod seems like a logical choice here, but he probably is what he is at this point, and what he is is 36 years old. I’d like to hope otherwise, but I don’t know that playing more than ~120 games is a realistic expectation for Alex at this point. Mark Teixeira, on the other hand, is still four years younger than A-Rod and has played less than 145 games in a season just once in his career, so hoping from a big rebound from his disappointing .248/.341/.491 performance in 2011 seems a bit more promising. If Tex can work out his issues against right-handed pitching and get back to the .292/.383/.565 hitter he was in his first year with the Yankees, the Bombers’ lineup will get a lot deeper and look a lot more formidable, especially since Teixeira figures to bat cleanup if/when A-Rod is unavailable.
Tamar: David Robertson. I started off thinking it had to be A-Rod because I do believe his ability to be healthy and make most of the starts at third is crucial to the Yankees success (I really don’t care for any of the Yankees’ current backup options for more than the occasional game). In the end, however, I think it may come down to David Robertson’s ability to put together another solid season like he did in 2011. There are two reasons I think Robertson is going to play a critical role on this year’s team. First, the newest injury to Joba makes it hard to know when/if he will return to the mound, nevermind whether he will be effective. Add the rumors surrounding Mariano Rivera‘s impending retirement and there are going to be a lot of eyes on Robertson (and Rafael Soriano for that matter). If Robertson can pitch like he did last year and the starting rotation can live up to our expectations, we may be in for an exciting season.
William Tasker: There seems to be a lot of “X-Factors” on this team. But for me, one that stands out is Rafael Soriano. Now a year removed from the “panic” signing made over the head of Brian Cashman and the vitriol that followed when he failed on an early outing against the Red Sox made Soriano a marked man for the rest of the season. It didn’t help when he was injured and missed a stretch of the regular season.
Hippeaux: A-Rod. I fear that we’ve gotten to the point that we trust the Yankee lineup to be “among the best in baseball” out of sheer habit. The only player who I fully expect to equal or surpass last season’s production is Robinson Cano. I can’t ignore Teixiera’s slow and steady decline, nor the fact that Gardner’s ceiling may be lower than many of us anticipated, nor the sheer lack of youth. I still love Granderson, but 2011 felt like a career year (and one to be proud of), so a slight step backward seems inevitable. If A-Rod could chalk up one more season in which he played 145 games and hit .300/.400/.500 it would go a long, long way towards compensating for regression elsewhere in the lineup.
Gabe Lezra: Michael Pineda. I’m still a huge believer in this guy. Like I’m all-in, 100 percent totally. He has both the mental and physical stuff (yes, he does) to make it in New York, and all the batted ball metrics think he can replicate much of his 2011 in 2012. The reason he’s an X Factor, and not a sure thing, in my book, is the tendinitis. This is an annoying, but ultimately manageable injury; however, it could cost him some time with the first club. But when he does come up (even if it’s in June) he’ll make a huge impact on the club–positively or negatively.