Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions: New York Yankees
There's a bit more mock skepticism in Rivera than there is with Jetes, but much of the relative confidence in The Captain has to do with the shaky shortstop class.
Broken ankles often sap speed, even more so when combined with his soon-to-be 39-year-old wheels. Last season's fence-clearing pace was above his grounder-happy head; that 16.1 percent HR/FB was his highest since 2005 (17.1) and, though the new Yankee Stadium can work miracles, that's a lot of faith required to predict a repeat.
Will Joe Girardi stay loyal and keep him near or at the top of the order if No. 2 turns into ... well, No. 2? Say goodbye to some team-dependent stats if so. Nick also reminds us of the trials others have gone through with his injury, and they were much younger. The physical and situational drawbacks don't point to overpaying for finger-crossing that he sustains the apex of his diminishing skill set.
Rivera has been one of the true robots in recent baseball history when it comes to conditioning and repetitive dominance. He didn't show many signs of a downturn before the fateful fly shagging, so maybe he bucks the odds and maximizes his repaired anterior cruciate ligament.
However, repeating a question many have asked about the last active No. 42: Do you want him on your team when he starts to decline noticeably? You can only go back to the well so many times - in his cutter and trusting that he'll continue vanquishing Father Time. Plus, the presence of David Robertson gives the Yanks an excuse if they make a delicate decision if there's any doubt in Rivera's readiness and ability.
If these icons slip far enough down draft boards, they'll shine a bit more, but the possibility of both performing below market value has never been higher and will only swell if both show positive signs in their Tampa work.
What percentage of New York's payroll covers AARP membership?
When spring training hits, the Bombers will hardly look like spring chickens, and that's not even accounting for Alex Rodriguez (hip), who may not play at all in 2012.
Besides the two staples, Ichiro Suzuki (39 years old) and Kevin Youkilis (34 in March) occupy prominent lineup places, and majority DH work will go to Travis Hafner (36 in June). Hiroki Kuroda (38th birthday coming this Sunday) and Andy Pettitte (41 in June) hope to be the fine wines of the rotation.
Luckily, the House that George Built aids the preservation of bat skills even as bodies wear down. The Ichiroll that took place last summer was exaggerated but not a fluke; a similar steals- and clip-leaning line has a better chance of sticking now that he calls the Bronx home. There's little to gain, however, for paying full price for a repeat that won't be much better than his last two seasonal lines.
The newly shorn Youkilis has tweaked his swing a bit, but he's more known of late for his pattern of dings that have kept him below 450 at-bats in every season since 2009. His brief revival with the Chicago White Sox says he can be productive again as long as you temper his expected at-bat yield and pay accordingly.
Speaking of damaged goods, the Hafner inking could pay off because of his left-handed power that seems like a perfect weapon for this park. Unfortunately, he'll somehow have to steal time versus southpaws - and stay off the DL - to be worth anything more than a mixed rental in most cases. His walk and strikeout rates improved last year, though, so maybe he has one more noteworthy year left in there.
The sinker-balling Kuroda boasts the necessary components to combat his age and his rough home ambience and will be bought accordingly in most rooms. He's not an ace, but he's a stable roto complement.
Pettitte probably made the right decision in declining a World Baseball Classic invitation; they want to handle him gently as he tries to sustain at least part of his brief but brilliant 2012. He's worked with gaudy left-on-base percentages before, but the 80.2 he produced last year will come down. And it's always hard to bank on over-the-hill finesse pitchers repeating nearly elite K levels.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous publications, and recognized as a finalist in FSWA's awards. The Boston University alum competes in Tout Wars and LABR and has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
During baseball and football season, he's on The Reality Check with Glenn Clark every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore. He hits the airwaves every Thursday at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, where he often crashes other shows, as well.
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