It happens every year. Players coming off a season in which they struggled rebound to get their career back on track while others coming off a strong year put up a dud and disappoint. A couple weeks ago Matt examined the bounceback candidates, so let's take a look at the flip side of the coin. These players were largely responsible for keeping the Yankees competitive in 2014. However, be it through a high injury risk or simple regression to the mean, they're likely to falter to some degree this season.
Headley came to the Yankees near the trade deadline last year and in just over two months became one of the most valuable players on the team. Based on that audition he was rewarded with a four-year contract to be a central figure in the Yankees' lineup going forward. Things weren't so rosy for Headley before then though. After a career year in 2012 he had worn out his welcome in San Diego because of his deteriorating offensive output. Since that season his walk rate and slash stats have steadily dropped while his strikeout rate has increased. Was a change of scenery all he needed or will he revert back to the 2013 and early 2014 versions of himself this summer?
Through 20 starts last season Tanaka was nothing short of brilliant. His baseball card numbers were flashy, he was selected as an All-Star, and his peripheral numbers suggest that it was no fluke. His potential bust status has nothing to do with ability and everything to do with health. Tanaka's decision to forgo surgery to repair the partially torn UCL he suffered last year means that the Yankees will be holding their breath every time he winds and delivers. If he re-injures that UCL, it will likely mean Tommy John surgery and a full season and then some without Tanaka Time.
Ellsbury didn't exactly amaze Yankee fans with his play in the field after signing a monster seven-year contract last year but you could make the case that he was the team's MVP. The concern about Ellsbury is that he's now on the wrong side of 30 and entering his decline phase. His batting average and on-base percentage in 2014 dropped significantly compared to his 2013 numbers with the World Champion Red Sox. He doesn't seem to be a threat to steal 50 bases a year anymore after swiping just 39 in a full season last year. Furthermore, after missing nearly all of the 2010 and 2012 seasons due to injury, there's always a better than average chance he'll return to the DL.
After failing as a starter in the minor leagues Betances reinvented himself as a reliever. He took the major leagues by storm in 2014, striking out everybody in his path and having possibly the greatest season ever by a rookie relief pitcher. All signs point to him taking over the closer reigns from David Robertson this year and he may very well thrive in that role. The thing about relievers, though, is that unless your name is Mariano Rivera, you're likely in for a rude awakening sooner or later. The expectations for Betances may be so high at this point that even an average season could mean disappointment for Yankee fans.
Everything said about Jacoby Ellsbury above could probably be applied to his partner in crime in left field. The power surge that Gardner has experienced in recent years has been counterbalanced by a decline in other phases of his game that usually come with age. If his speed and ability to get on base continue to erode he could very well become a liability at the top of the lineup in 2015. Plus there's always his surgically repaired elbow to worry about which cost him the entire 2012 season.