After the Yankees' 2013 offense was one of the worst-performing lineups in the American League, Brian Cashman and Co. set out to bolster the Yankees' offensive attack. In this article, I'll break down the players likely to be in the lineup in 2014. All statistics, including WAR data, are from FanGraphs.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury (2013 stats (134 games): .298/.355/.426, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 113 wRC+, 52 SB, 5.8 WAR)
In early December, the Yankees splurged by signing former Red Sox outfielder Ellsbury to a seven-year contract worth $153 million. It was a wise move, as Ellsbury is one of the premier center fielders in the game. He hits for average (with a good .297 career mark), steals plenty of bases, and is a great all-around player. Yankee Stadium's short porch should give him a few more home runs to make up for the slight lack of aggressiveness of the Yankees' baserunning. Ellsbury looks to be slotted into the leadoff spot of the lineup every day barring injury, and he could be a very good table-setter for the Yanks' new-look lineup.
2. Derek Jeter (2013 stats (17 games): .190/.288/.254, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 48 wRC+, -0.6 WAR)
Derek Jeter's performance in 2014 is one of the biggest and most important question marks of the coming season. At the age of 39, you have to wonder whether time is finally catching up to his abilities, and his 2013 season further gave people who think he is done more evidence for them to present in their case. With four separate DL stints in 2013, Jeter did not look like himself at all. Nobody knows if he will bounce back, but it seems as if Girardi doesn't want to put him at the bottom of the lineup because that would be embarrassing for a shoo-in Hall of Famer.
3. Carlos Beltran (2013 stats (145 games): .296/.339/.491, 24 HR, 84 RBI, 132 wRC+, 2 WAR)
Beltran has been a consistent performer for many years, and 2013 was no exception for the former Royal, Met, and Cardinal. Maybe he was slightly lucky last year (.314 BABIP), but he had a nice batting line. The .491 slugging percentage is especially impressive if you take his age into consideration. He was durable last year, sitting out just 17 games while putting up a 132 wRC+. Another lefty, his swing should play well in Yankee Stadium. He projects to bat somewhere near the heart of the order, in the 3, 4, or 5 spot.
4. Mark Teixeira (2013 stats (15 games): .151/.270/.340, 3 HR, 12 RBI, 58 wRC+, -0.2 WAR)
Just like Jeter, it is very hard to predict Teixeira's offensive output in 2014. He had already been declining, as his wRC+ has dropped in every year since 2008 (from 152 in 2008 to 116 in 2012), but his wrist problems have made his situation even worse. It's hard to be optimistic about Tex, but one stat that does stand out from 2013 are his 3 home runs in 15 games (though one was a Yankee Stadium cheapie). Hopefully for the Yankees, he still has some power left in his bat. He projects to bat mostly around the cleanup spot next year, like Beltran.
5. Brian McCann (2013 stats (102 games): .256/.336/.461, 20 HR, 57 RBI, 122 wRC+, 2.7 WAR)
Another one of the Yankees' high-profile free agent signings, McCann is about as consistent as they come. He has hit at least 18 home runs every year since 2006, and being a lefty the short porch will help him out during his Yankees tenure. He strikes out quite a bit (16.4% of the time), but he makes up for it by not hitting for a horrific batting average a la Mark Reynolds (career .277 average). His 2013 isolated power mark of .205 is encouraging for the Yankees. He projects to start in the fifth spot in the order.
6. Alfonso Soriano (2013 stats (151 games): .255/.302/.489, 34 HR, 101 RBI, 18 SB, 112 wRC+, 2.9 WAR)
Soriano had another terrific season in 2013, knocking at least 20 home runs for the twelfth straight year. He eclipsed 100 RBI's for the fourth time in his career and slugged above .468 for the fourth straight year. Everybody knows that he is a free-swinging player and strikes out a ton (24.9% of the time), and this results in a not-so-good .302 OBP (for comparison, Ichiro's was .297). He is getting old, but he has shown few signs of aging. Expect him to usually be slotted in the 6 spot as the DH.
7. Kelly Johnson (2013 stats (118 games): .235/.305/.410, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 7 SB, 101 wRC+, 1.2 WAR)
Johnson quietly put up a solid season in 2013, hitting 16 home runs in 407 plate appearances. Unfortunately for the Yankees, he strikes out almost as much as Soriano (24.3% of the time). His power has been consistent over the years, but in every season since 2011 he has put up an average below .236. His 101 wRC+ last year indicates that he can probably be at least an okay contributor for the Yankees. He will likely start at third base and in the 7 spot in the order.
8. Brian Roberts (2013 stats (77 games): .249/.312/.392, 8 HR, 39 RBI, 90 wRC+, 0.9 WAR)
One of the more questionable signings of the Yankees' offseason, the oft-injured Roberts actually found his way onto the field 77 times in 2013, his highest total since 2009. Translating his 2013 numbers over a full season, he would actually hit 16 home runs and drive in 82, which would be amazing considering the way he has played recently. His 0.9 WAR tells us that he is still above replacement level, and there are a few reasons to be optimistic about him in 2014. He projects to be the everyday second baseman while batting in the 8-hole.
9. Brett Gardner (2013 stats (145 games): .273/.344/.416, 8 HR, 52 RBI, 24 SB, 108 wRC+, 3.2 WAR)
Gardner played well in 2013, stealing 24 bases and hitting at a solid .273 clip. However, he might have gotten lucky in 2013, as evidenced by his lofty .342 BABIP. Even though he'll probably be batting at the bottom of the order in 2014, he'll get to be the table-setter for Jacoby Ellsbury and Derek Jeter. He posted a .344 OBP in 2013, which isn't half bad, and with a nice-looking 3.2 WAR in 2013, let's hope he can deliver a repeat performance this year.
Brendan Ryan (2013 stats (104 games): .197/.255/.273, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 44 wRC+, -0.6 WAR)
Ryan has always been known as a defensive replacement, and that's not very hard to believe based on his career offensive numbers (.237/.299/.320). Ryan should mainly relieve Derek Jeter at shortstop, but I wouldn't be surprised if he occasionally gives Kelly Johnson a breather at third base as well. I would use him sparingly, however, because he gets on base at an anemic .255 clip. On a day where Ryan subs for Jeter, he would probably bat in the 8 spot and Brian Roberts would be moved up to the 2 spot.
Eduardo Nunez (2013 stats (90 games): .260/.307/.372, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 10 SB, 83 wRC+, -1.4 WAR)
Nunez's 90 games played in 2013 were way too much. In 2014, he projects as a seldom-used reserve infielder. I can't believe he had 28 RBI's last year, as he seemed so useless. Despite the fact that he is one of the worst defensive players ever, his .260 average is better than Ryan's .197. On a day where Nunez subs for Jeter, he would likely hit in Jeter's 2-spot, which he did in 2013.
Ichiro Suzuki (2013 stats (150 games): .262/.297/.342, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 20 SB, 71 wRC+, 1.1 WAR)
Ichiro was actually one of the more useful and consistent players on the 2013 Yankees, which shows how bad the 2013 Yankees were. Amazingly, he only missed 12 games, functioning as the starting right fielder for the Yanks. He stole 20 bases, second on the team to Brett Gardner, and will hopefully be used as a fourth outfielder in 2014. He could be used as a pinch runner, defensive replacement, or simply as a substitute for Carlos Beltran in right field. His 1.1 WAR, while not very good, shows that he still deserves a spot on the 2014 bench.
Francisco Cervelli (2013 stats (17 games): .269/.377/.500, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 143 wRC+, 0.8 WAR)
Cervelli was surprisingly productive for the short time he played in 2013 before he got injured, but it wasn't much of a surprise anymore when he was outed in the Biogenesis scandal. He shouldn't be too bad in 2014, but the Yankees' expectations should be fairly low, especially because he will be off steroids now. It will be hard to predict hit statistics in 2014, but one thing that is fairly certain is that he will function as Brian McCann's backup.
Zoilo Almonte (2013 stats (34 games): .236/.274/.302, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 55 wRC+, -0.1 WAR)
Somehow, Almonte, a longtime farmhand, got into 34 games in the MLB last year. Unsurprisingly, he struggled, hitting just .236 and walking just 5.3% of the time. He doesn't seem to have a place on the team in 2014, with Ichiro Suzuki ready to fill the fourth-outfielder role. I don't see him on the Opening Day 25-man roster, but he could show up in some games next year if some injuries occur in the outfield. He turns 25 on June 10th, so he has plenty of room to grow.