By Andrew Grella
Welcome back to baseball season. To baseball fans, the offseason is always the worst part of the year. The time when you can’t flip on the TV and get lost in a baseball game for a few hours on a nice summer day. But nows brutal winter is almost over, opening day and warmer weather are right around the corner.
With that being said, Extra Point will be doing a segment over the next month taking a look at each of the team’s in the AL East’s players to watch for over Spring Training and the regular season. Each team in the division has question marks this season that they are looking to begin to address during Spring Training so they can get to that final product for when April 6th rolls in.
This week, we will be taking a look at a team with arguably the most question marks in the AL East. With an aging roster and several key contributors battling injuries, the New York Yankees always have expectations to win now. But, will the team stay healthy and get contributions from it’s aging players? And will this years roster find those few extra wins they needed last year to find it’s way into the playoffs and avoid brushing up on their golf skills in October for the third straight year? There are certainly more than five question marks on the 2015 Yankees roster, but we have narrowed our list down to five key contributors that you may want to keep your eye on during Spring Training and beyond.
5. Nathan EovaldiEmbed from Getty Images
Eovaldi was acquired from the Miami Marlins along with Garrett Jones in a deal that saw David Phelps and Martin Prado take their talents to South Beach. The most interesting piece out of that deal is the 24-year-old right-hander. Eovaldi is a hard throwing righty who has a lot of potential but has failed to develop anything other than a mid 90s fastball. It will be interesting to watch his development with Pitching Coach Larry Rothschild who led a very undermined pitching staff to 84 wins last season in the Bronx. Eovaldi will be a great power arm in the middle of the rotation.
4. Carlos BeltranEmbed from Getty Images
Carlos Beltran is one of a few aging stars set to be in the middle of the Yankee lineup. It was noticeable how much New York’s power numbers were down last season. Granted, they may have had a little help in the past from a juiced up Alex Rodriguez and a lineup whose average age wasn’t as old as a Macintosh computer. But the now 37-year-old Beltran is expected to produce in the final two years of his contract. In 2014, Beltran hit only .233 with 15 homers and 49 RBIs in 106 games for the Bombers. There were rumors around the clubhouse that Joe Girardi was unhappy with Beltran’s weight last year. Overall, it was a bad first season in pinstripes for the veteran outfielder. But, as a player, Beltran is capable of so much and is arguably one of the best postseason players of all time. The key will be if he can do enough to get the Yankees back to October.
3. C.C SabathiaEmbed from Getty Images
Carsten Charles Sabathia has been the ace of the Yankees since 2009 where he led the Bombers to their 27th and latest championship. But that was 6 years ago, when C.C still had a power fastball and a healthy body to complement. That was then, this is now. Everyone who has watched C.C pitch knows he is not the same animal out there on the mound as he once was. But, several scouts have said that Sabathia has the ability to reinvent himself as a finesse pitcher in the MLB. He needs to find more success with his location and ability to fool hitters more than his ability to overpower them. The 34 year old lefty has battled several injuries over the past few years, but there is hope for Sabathia to once again to be the ace of a pitching staff that could pan out to be one of the best in recent years.
2. Masahiro TanakaEmbed from Getty Images
The 155 million dollar man will be returning from an elbow injury last year. He’s young and he says his elbow feels good coming into Spring Training. Having Tanaka would obviously be huge for the Yankees. Tanaka was on pace to win the Rookie of the Year before he was sidelined with his elbow injury. Tanaka finished 2014 with a 13-5 record and a 2.77 era while striking out 141 batters. The Yankees and their fans certainly hope he can get back to where he left off before his injury.
1. Alex Rodriguez (Who Else?)
From his meetings with Manfred to his hand written apology, there’s not much else to be said about Alex Rodriguez. He is the major story line heading into Spring Training and every Yankee fan should be interested to see what Rodriguez, who is still owed 61 million over the next 3 years, can do this season. According to Joe Girardi, he will be battling for playing time. So only time will tell how Rodriguez will respond after his 162-game suspension from professional baseball.
Next week, we will take a look at the top 5 players to watch for the Yankees rivals the Boston Red Sox.