The Yankees will need to maintain their focus if they plan on beating out the Boston Red Sox for the American League East in 2011. A lot of folks are already giving Boston the division, considering their off-season moves.
But excluding starting pitching, Boston and New York seem to be somewhat even.
1st Base: Mark Teixeira vs. Adrian Gonzalez
Mark Teixeira’s batting average dipped to .256 in 2010, but he still managed to hit 33 home runs (to lead the Yankee team) and he knocked in 108 runs while scoring 113. He is a proven hitter and doesn’t need to be sold on, by any means. Everyone knows what a dominant hitter Teixeira can be, not to mention his defense at first is Gold Glove caliber and second-to-none.
Adrian Gonzalez will be playing his first season in 2011 as a member of the Red Sox and hasn’t played in the A.L. since 2005 (with Texas). He will have to adjust back to the pitching in the American League, but expect to see him do some damage; his swing is tailor-made for Fenway Park. Last year he hit 31 homers for San Diego, batted in 101 runs, and scored 87 times.
2nd base: Robinson Cano vs. Dustin Pedroia
The Yankees’ second baseman had arguably the best season of his career in 2010, setting career-highs in home runs (29) and RBIs (109). Robinson Cano came in third in the A.L. MVP voting and played in 160 games, showcasing his durability.
It’s safe to say Cano’s New York star is shining and he will continue to come into his own as a hitter this year. In 2010 on defense, he only committed three errors on the way to his first career Gold Glove.
Just as Cano was setting the Bronx on fire last season, Dustin Pedroia was igniting Beantown. That is until he fouled a ball off his left instep and was sent to the disabled list, ultimately ending his season. The night before he was injured, he went 5-for-5 and hit three home runs off the Colorado Rockies.
Pedroia ended the season with 75 games played, 12 homers, 41 RBIs, and an average of .288. He is bound to come back in the same form this year. On defense, Pedroia is one of the more solid second basemen in the A.L. He is always in the running for the Gold Glove Award and he already has captured one (in 2008).
In what could be a mini-storyline during the season, Pedroia made a recent comment about Cano, saying something along the lines of, “He’s become a (expletive) ballplayer.”
Cano should take that as a compliment. I would.
Shortstop: Derek Jeter vs. Marco Scutaro/Jed Lowrie
Ever since Nomar Garciaparra left Boston, it doesn’t seem as though the Red Sox have ever fully recovered at the shortstop position. They have had a parade of shortstops come in and out while none of them have really been mainstays. From Orlando Cabrera to Julio Lugo; now to Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie.
Combined last year, Scutaro and Lowrie hit 19 home runs and knocked in 80 runs. It’s possible they might be solution to Boston’s shortstop dilemma in recent years, at least in terms of their offense.
Their defense, however, is nowhere near perfect.
From the shortstop position last year, Scutaro and Lowrie combined for 19 errors, which by my math are 13 more than Derek Jeter, who only committed six errors last season en route to a Gold Glove.
Jeter’s offense last season wasn’t the best, though, as he hit a career-low .270 with 10 homers and 67 RBIs. He is hoping to return back to his normal BA of above .300. The Yankee Captain will also, in all likelihood, get his 3,000th career hit this year, as he is 74 base hits away from the milestone.
3rd Base: Alex Rodriguez vs. Kevin Youkilis
In 2004 Alex Rodriguez came to New York and was forced to make the transition from shortstop to third base. Under the tutelage of former Yankee third baseman Graig Nettles, Rodriguez has become one of the better third basemen in the A.L., although he has never won a Gold Glove.
Kevin Youkilis has played a total of 219 career games at third base, so he may not have to adjust to the position as A-Rod did. Simply put, he has been there before. However, Youkilis only played two games at third in 2010, which may or may not have an affect on him.
As far as offense goes both players are established hitters, although some critics contend that Rodriguez is on the “down-side” of his career. If 30 home runs and 125 RBIs (Rodriguez’s offensive numbers in 2010) is a “down year,” I’m sure A-Rod will take it.
Youkilis hit 19 home runs in 2010 with an average of .307 and 62 RBIs.
Catcher: Russell Martin/Jorge Posada/Jesus Montero/Austin Romine/Francisco Cervelli vs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia/Jason Varitek
I have heard it said that a catcher that can hit is a bonus.
Right now, it’s unknown who exactly will be the everyday catcher for the Yankees, but each of the candidates, whether they are on the MLB level or not, have proven that they can hit to some capacity.
Jorge Posada was named the everyday Designated Hitter, but there’s no doubt he will see some time behind the plate in what will most likely be his final year in pinstripes. Last season however, he showed that his defense is declining, as he only threw out 15 percent of base runners, allowing 72 stolen bases.
On offense last year Posada belted 18 homers and recorded 57 RBIs. His batting average was only .248, however.
A few weeks back Russell Martin admitted he “wasn’t 100 percent” but will be by the time camp breaks. Last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Martin hit five home runs with 26 RBIs. His batting average matched Posada’s, .248.
According to Hitting Coach Kevin Long, Jesus Montero is ready for the major leagues. Last season in Scranton-Wilkes Barre, Montero smacked 21 home runs and had 75 RBIs. Austin Romine is almost right behind Montero, as he blasted 10 minor league homers last years and knocked in 69 runs.
These two young studs are likely going to duke it out for a spot on the roster during Spring Training, so it’s anyone’s spot to win.
Francisco Cervelli is basically the odd man out here. Last year he showed inefficiency behind and at the plate. In addition to allowing 55 steals from the catcher position, he didn’t hit any home runs and drove in only 38 runs with a .271 batting average in 93 games.
As of press time, the Yankee catching job is not yet locked down.
For the Red Sox, it looks as though Jarrod Saltalamacchia will be their everyday backstop, with Captain Jason Varitek behind him. Saltalamacchia hasn’t really had the chance to prove his worth yet, as he only played in 10 games for the Red Sox last season with not many stats to look at.
Varitek only batted .232 last year in just 39 games with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. Clearly, he is nearing the end of his career. But much like Jeter, he is a born leader and he brings experience and veteran know-how to the clubhouse. This spring he will most likely be teaching the Red Sox catching prospects a thing or two about calling a ballgame behind the plate.