One of my favorite pages for projections is FanGraphs' depth charts page, which shows projections but adjusted for playing time as well. Regular Steamer projections are fun, but it's nice to know how the puzzle fits together. And that brings us to the Yankees' projections for their depth chart. Here's how they fit into the league, by cumulative WAR:
That is pretty much what one would expect. But an interesting note is how well the Red Sox are projected to do. Considering how far ahead they are, it kind of makes sense that the Yankees stay conservative spending-wise; even if they spend a ton of money to gain five wins, it doesn't increase their odds of winning the division by enough to justify the marginal added value. But anyway, they're in the mix. And when a team is within that range, anything can really happen, even despite the mediocrity. In the new age of the second wild card, that's not unreasonable. And now, on to the depth chart itself:
To no one's surprise, the infield is an obvious question mark. Brian McCann is projected to rebound from his poor 2014, and that makes sense. Last season seems like an anomaly more than anything else, so it is reasonable to expect a more normal production from him. Mark Teixeira looks to be pretty similar, but at least a semi-competent Garrett Jones will grab some plate appearances; that will provide a similar bat when needed.
And up the middle, there are problems. Gregorius does not have the most optimistic projection, and that really centers around the concerns regarding his bat. But even with a poor bat, he's still a significant upgrade over last year's Derek Jeter. That's a positive, I suppose. Stephen Drew looks to get the bulk of playing time at second base, and he looks to get a similar performance as at shortstop. I wouldn't be devastated by 1.5 WAR, but here's to hoping that a Rob Refsnyder at .255/.320/.385 gets more time to play.
Here lie the best position player performances for the team (except for Brian McCann). Chase Headley is projected to be the best position player on the team at a whopping 3.9 WAR, followed by both Jacoby Ellsbury (3.5) and Brett Gardner (3.0) who are staples of the team. If there is one area of the team that I am not concerned about, it is third base, left field, and center field. Those will do just fine.
These are interesting. The projections believe that Chris Young will be decent as a fourth outfielder, and Carlos Beltran will be mediocre between right field and DH. But what's really funny is that Alex Rodriguez, the player penciled into the DH role, is projected to be replacement level. If he is that bad, then I would send him packing. But you never know with A-Rod, so I'll look at that with some skepticism. But overall, the position players on this team are mediocre at best. There is no bona fide star, but there are no absolute black holes either. There's a decent amount of depth, and that's pretty much why they sit at 16th overall in the projections for position players. Now, on to the pitchers.
Starting pitching could make or break this team. The position players make this team absolutely average, but a healthy rotation could give them a chance at contention. According to these projections--which take into account the probability that a player will be injured and bakes it into their innings pitched total--the Yankees have an excellent starting rotation. Their projected 10.2 WAR, just for the starters, is higher than the total pitching WAR for 11 teams. There is the obvious risk of Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, and Masahiro Tanaka missing significant playing time, but this could prove to be a formidable rotation. There is the obvious "could" qualifier, but there isn't much the team can do about that. We take what we can from these projections, and that is that this is one of the best true talent rotations in baseball.
At a projected 3.5 WAR and 3.59 ERA/3.78 FIP, this is a very good bullpen. I think the Dellin Betances projection has to be mentally accounted for, because it still weighs in past performance that frankly isn't relevant anymore; I doubt his walk rate would be that high, in my opinion. But other than that, this is what we expected: a shutdown bullpen. Andrew Miller will provide another knockout punch, and the cast of characters around them, like Adam Warren and Justin Wilson, are decent enough to fill the middle innings. (Also keep in mind that recently-acquired relievers David Carpenter, Chasen Shreve, and Chris Martin have not yet been added to the FanGraphs depth chart.)
As has been oft-mentioned, projections are not the same as predictions, just to clarify. They show the median value of a player's performance, so it is a guess at a player's true talent level. By guess, I don't mean that it is a blindfolded guess--it is backed up by the same statistical practices that one would see in a mathematics field, so to regard it with a flippant nature is not to be advised. But with that being said, we all take these with a grain of salt. We have qualitative data that projection systems do not know, so that is to consider, and because they represent the median, there is a good chance that the actual values will be decently above or below. It is the best we have to make a guess, and this shows that the Yankees are mediocre, but not in a terrible way. They are firmly in the playoff hunt, and it is only January. If they can manage to find a few wins off of the scrap heap, then there is no doubt in my mind that they will be competitive.