Pitchers and catchers report in three weeks (thank god) and with the Yankees mostly inactive offseason and the two question marks in the starting rotation, there will be a lot of competition in spring training. At this point nobody can be sure of the exact roster that will be on the team announced at Yankee Stadium on March 31st, but it's fun to try and predict these things before it starts.
Ideally, an American League team has 9 starters in the lineup, 4 bench players, 5 guys in the rotation, and 7 in the bullpen (or 6 and one closer). There's question marks and different possibilities in every single area with different guys competing for spots. So here's my thoughts for the lineup.
Derek Jeter- SS
Nick Swisher- RF
Robinson Cano- 2B
Alex Rodriguez- 3B
Mark Teixeira- 1B
Jorge Posada- DH
Brett Gardner- LF
That by the way is also how I'd arrange the starting lineup regardless of who winds up being the starting catcher. I like Swisher 2nd and Cano third, as Swish is a high OBP guy with good power and Cano has earned the chance to hit third. I also like that this lineup doesn't have two lefties in a row. It's lefty-righty or a switch hitter mixed in, so it's tough to match up against.
As for the catching spot, I know that the Yankees have pretty much given Russell Martin the catching job. But I still think he needs to earn it, and if Montero comes out in spring and rakes and Martin plays awfully, I wouldn't be surprised if Montero is given the starting catchers job. However, I don't expect it with the money they're giving Martin. I'd go with Jesus, but I think the Yankees choose Russell Martin as their everyday catcher, at least to start the year.
Andruw Jones- OF
To me, Jones is the only one really locked into a role. I think that there's guys who will obviously be favorites, but eventually it will boil down to how they play in spring. The Yanks will need a backup catcher and infielder. A backup 1B would be nice, but with Tex and Swish it isn't necessary so I think they'd go with 2 infielders with the Yankees aging left side.
For the backup catcher, Francisco Cervelli will compete with Jesus Montero, and while Jesus is the better player and far better slugger Cervelli will win this battle against his God-Given son. If Montero isn't going to start it doesn't make sense to have him in the majors as a backup. Leave in him the minors to be seasoned and bring him up to start later in the year.
I think for the other two spots, you're looking at Ramiro Pena, Eduardo Nunez, and Greg Golson. If it were up to me, I'd give it to Eduardo Nunez and Greg Golson. Golson is a terrific outfielder with a cannon for an arm and he has great speed that can be used late in games off the bench. Nunez I take over Pena because he's a better offensive player in my opinion. Pena would have the edge on defense, but Nunez isn't an atrocious defensive player and I'll take the one who can hit a little.
We've been over this so many times. If Andy Pettitte isn't ready for spring (and I'm still hoping he comes back) then the Yankees will have two rotation spots to be won in spring training from a pretty big group of guys possibly competing. I think Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, David Phelps, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos will all be given a look during spring. Also somebody to remember is Alfredo Aceves. He's still available to pick up should the Yankees want him, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was a candidate come spring.
Mitre won't win, plain and simple. He's not good, has no upside and has no future with this organization so it makes no sense to give a spot to him. I think it goes to Ivan Nova and David Phelps. Phelps had a great year last year in the minors and is closer to being ready than Brackman, Betances or Banuelos. I think he's the guy who would win the fifth spot if he gets a decent chance. Nova is MLB ready and has MLB experience, and he could actually not be a bad option this year if he comes out and learns to not implode after the 5th inning.
Only one spot that needs deciding here (another reason I like the Soriano move). There's guys like Sergio Mitre, Mark Prior, Alfredo Aceves, Kei Igawa and others I can't think of right now going for the last spot in the bullpen. I think that if Mark Prior shows that he has anything in that arm left that resembles what he was before injuries, thats who they should go with. I like Prior, and if he still has good stuff he could be a solid long-mid reliever that the Yankees could use, he's the guy they should go with.
Remember, any of this could change with any other signings, so if the Yankees sign another starting pitcher or if Andy Pettitte comes back things change. This is what I think the roster will look like if the Yankees go into spring with the team they have right now. It's still a great team. There's question marks like there is with any ballclub, but the Yankees still have a terrific bullpen, powerful lineup and some good arms in that rotation. I expect them to be competing with Boston for the division right until the very end.