After going on an enormous shopping spree the Yankees organization filled a variety of glaring needs, but at the same time still left holes all around the infield. At first base there is the hobbled Mark Teixeira who stated that he would probably feel stiffness in his wrist throughout the season, an elderly Derek Jeter at shortstop, and then Brian Roberts, Kelly Johnson (who isn't half bad) and utility players to round out the depth chart. But even so, as Michael Brown so eloquently put it--there are positives to be found. These players certainly do have the potential to put together seasons that go beyond what the projections are saying (which is that they're pretty bad). But let's play a game. Let's pretend that these players on the infield depth chart played exactly to their projections. To put it into perspective, how would this total infield fWAR rank historically amongst Yankee infields?
To figure this out, I tabulated the fWAR of each position in the infield for each year since 1920 and tallied up their total infield fWAR. The mean infield fWAR in this time period is 13.1 fWAR, with a standard deviation of 5.09 fWAR. I then ranked them from smallest to largest, obviously, to figure out how they would be ranked. You can take a look at the spreadsheet here. So, how would a projected 2014 infield rank? Not very well. The projected depth chart would combine for a whopping 7.4 fWAR, making them 84th out of 95th all time, which also puts them at 1.12 standard deviations below the mean. And for a point of reference, which historical Yankees do they most resemble? The 1961 Yankee team.
The 1961 Yankee team is sometimes regarded as one of the greatest teams in MLB history, but certainly not for its infield prowess. At first base they had Bill Skowron, who is actually an identical comparison to that of Mark Teixeira's projection at 2.6 fWAR. At second base, there was a black hole in Bobby Richardson. He played every game of the season and put up -1 fWAR, 69 wRC+, and only hit three home runs. At shortstop there was Tony Kubek whose excellent defense put him at 3.4 fWAR, and Clete Boyer rounded out the infield at third base with 3.7 fWAR. This infield combined for exactly the same total as the projected 2014 infield--7.4 fWAR.
There's only one small difference between the two, and it's that the 2014 Yankees are projected to win about 88 games, while the 1961 Yankees won 109 games. The 1961 Yankees showed that it was certainly possible to get by with a well below average infield, when the supporting cast is well above average to pick them up. That's certainly going to be a question going into 2014 for the Yankees--while it is possible that the infield will exceed projections, will the players around them be good enough to pick up the slack? It's definitely a possibility, but that'll be difficult without having Mickey Mantle or Roger Maris on this team.