Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/1/12

The New York Yankees posted an AL Best record of 97-65 last year which was second only to Philadelphia in all of baseball. However, they were upended by the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, primarily due to Detroit’s superior pitching staff. So the Yankees went into the off-season with a goal of shoring up their starting 5.

Curtis Granderson

They sent shockwaves across baseball when they traded for young, fireballing Michael Pineda from Seattle. This trade was different from most trades the Yankees make because they were acquiring a young player still on the rise. They usually trade for or sign established stars. On the same day they traded for Pineda, they also signed Hiroki Kuroda. Just like that they added two quality starters to their rotation and bolstered their hopes of not being out-dueled by another team’s pitching staff in the playoffs.

[2012 MLB Preview Central]

The Yankees can now roll with a starting 5 of CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes (or Freddy Garcia). Backing them up is the best back end of any bullpen in baseball. David Robertson was filthy last year with a 1.08 ERA and 100 Ks in 66.2 innings out of the pen. Rafael Soriano was solid in a 7th inning role and of course there is the best closer in the history of major league baseball, Mariano Rivera. He showed no signs of slowing down last year with a 1.91 ERA and 44 saves.

Their offense is stacked. They’ve got power with Curtis Granderson (41 homers last year), Mark Teixeira (39 dongs in 2011) Robinson Cano (28 dingers) and of course Alex Rodriguez. They’ve got speed with Brett Gardner (back-to-back seasons with 40+ steals) and Granderson (25 steals in 2011). They have good OBP guys like Nick Swisher, Granderson, and Rodriguez. 

3 Up

Best case scenario for 2012: The best case scenario and the goal every year for the Yankees is a World Series Championship. Anything short of that is considered a failure. The Yankees have MVP candidates throughout their line up in Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Mark Teixeira. In a perfect world one of those guys will win the award and lead the Yankees to another AL East crown and a World Championship.

Most important Yankees: Robinson Cano is the most feared hitter in the Yankees line up. He has hit over .300 in each of the last 3 seasons and has driven in over 100 runs in each of the past 2 seasons. He also swatted 28 homers last year and 29 in 2011. The Yankees need him to maintain that level of excellence. CC Sabathia is their ace and he has to be the stopper, a 20 game winner and the workhorse that he always is.

Potential breakout players in 2012: Ivan Nova was brilliant last year going 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA. By the time the playoffs rolled around he was practically unhittable. With his stuff and the backing of the Yankees offense he has 20 win potential. So does Michael Pineda and if either of them reaches that mark, it will elevate them to the next tier of pitchers.

3 Down

Worst case scenario for 2012: The worst case scenario for New York is if Tampa Bay and Boston finish ahead of them in the crowded AL East.

Areas of concern:  Michael Pineda will have to be able to handle the move from baseball obscurity in Seattle to its biggest stage in New York. Can Kuroda make the difficult transition from the NL to the AL and stay healthy (which is something he hasn’t done throughout his career)? Will Mariano Rivera continue to defy Father Time? Speaking of Father Time, New York is counting on 39 year old Raul Ibanez to be a key component of their line up. How much gas does he have left in the tank?

Who needs to bounce back from a down 2011: In a season that was interrupted frequently by injuries, Alex Rodriguez posted 16 homers, 62 RBI and a .276 batting average. For a lot of third baseman around the league that would qualify as a good season. It doesn’t for Rodriguez and he is looking to get back to 40 dinger form in 2012. Another player in need of a bounce back season is Phil Hughes. After winning 18 games in 2010 he scuffled in 2011 going 5-5 with a 5.79 ERA.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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