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The Yankees Infield

The Yankees have cobbled together a strange team, and the infield most strongly personifies this strangeness. New York is seemingly counting on three players who scarcely played last season due to injury and another who is new to his position (aside from 118 innings last season). Stephen Drew remains on the market and would seemingly solve a lot of problems, but it sounds like the Yankees are uninterested.

The Fab Five
Brian McCann
Mark Teixeira
Brian Roberts
Derek Jeter
Kelly Johnson

I wrote about about McCann when he joined the Yankees from a non-fantasy perspective. I love the move to Yankees Stadium, where he can be expected to hit 14 percent more home runs. Additional reps at designated hitter should further inflate his fantasy value. He’s almost certain to have a regular seat in the heart of the lineup, which makes 30 home runs and 100 RBI a stretch goal. McCann owners couldn’t have hoped for a better landing place.

Teixeira is reportedly feeling healthy, but he’s definitely a player to watch closely this spring. He missed most of the 2013 season with a wrist injury and he’s expecting “tightness” early this season. Wrist injuries notoriously sap power, which is about all Tex offers these days. Steamer calls for 24 home runs, 70 runs, and 84 RBI to go with a .247 batting average. Of course, Steamer doesn’t “know” about the wrist, which is why that projection looks so bullish. I expect a slow start to temper those numbers substantially, but he may eventually return to being the Tex of 2012. If he does struggle out of that gate as I expect, he could be a dirt cheap trade acquisition. Currently, he’s being drafted for pennies, so a draft and hold strategy is also viable.

Every year, somebody drafts Roberts and I mock them for the next 15 minutes of the draft. He nearly reached 300 plate appearance last season, his healthiest season since 2009. That was also the last time Roberts was fantasy relevant. When he’s in the lineup, he could be an interesting, low cost option. Just have a plan in place for the inevitable injury. Based on last season, he still has some pop in his bat but shouldn’t be counted on to steal bases. If you’re planning to target Roberts, do yourself a favor and come up with a better plan.

Jeter is hard to judge. He missed most of 2013 with an ankle injury. He’s entering his age 39 season with retirement at the end of the tunnel. Most baseball fans will be rooting for a healthy 700 plate appearance season, but age isn’t always friendly to that workload. At the moment, he’s practically free in standard leagues and he has the potential to contribute in four categories if healthy. Obviously, the health outlook isn’t great.

Johnson is a popular sleeper pick. His lefty bat is well-suited for Yankee Stadium’s friendly dimensions and the terrible infield depth should ensure every day playing time. He has platoon splits, but they’re unusual to the point where his wOBA’s are the same against righties and lefties even though his peripherals are completely different. Eligibility at third base, second base, and outfield makes him extremely attractive to fantasy owners in need of a super utility option. I expect over 20 home runs from Johnson with a handful of steals. Unfortunately, batting average will probably be a problem category, and he probably won’t have a great lineup slot.

Down the Depth Chart
Carlos Beltran
Scott Sizemore
Eduardo Nunez
Brendan Ryan
Dean Anna
Francisco Cervelli
Austin Romine
J.R. Murphy

Beltran will spend most of his time in the outfield and at designated hitter. If Teixeira gets injured, he’s the most obvious replacement at first base. That frees the Yankees to play a superior defender in the outfield. Beltran will be discussed more in the outfield report.

Sizemore is attempting a comeback from two torn ACL’s. He’s missed most of the last two seasons, but if he’s fully healthy he could take some playing time from Roberts and Johnson. His best skills are plate patience and decent power for his position. For standard 5×5 leagues, he has very little to offer even once he finds playing time.

I’ve enjoyed using Nunez’s spot starts over the past two seasons as he provides a decent batting average with the threat of a stolen base. Unless your league has same day roster moves, he should be off the radar. I don’t know if he’ll even make the club this time around.

Ryan has a slick glove but he can’t hit. It is known.

Anna is a Carson Cistulli special. He’s entering his age 27 season having never reached the majors, but his minor league numbers are impressive for an uncelebrated utility infielder. Like many of Cistulli’s finds, he’s a fun guy to root for but probably doesn’t have much fantasy utility. Over a full season of plate appearances, he might project to 15 home runs plus stolen bases and an acceptable batting average. As we know, he won’t get those plate appearances.

That leaves us with the backup catchers. Cervelli spent most of last season hurt or suspended. He’s not much to look at from the fantasy perspective and he’ll probably lose his job due to middling defense. Romine brings better defensive grades, but his offensive production is nonexistent. Murphy is a decent prospect, so the Yankees will probably opt to give him full time reps at Triple-A. He has a bit of pop in his bat – Oliver projects 16 home runs with full playing time.