Opening Day is just 2 weeks away and the questions the Yankees had to answer this Spring Training seem to be taking shape.
Can AJ Burnett be a serviceable pitcher in 2011? AJ has tweaked his mechanics and seems to have figured it out this spring. He has pitched real well so far. IN 3 starts he has an ERA of 2.00 and looks to continue the good spring with a start against Toronto this afternoon. My only warning about Burnett...last year he started out 4-0 with a 1.99 ERA. He only picked 6 more wins the entire rest of the season.
Who will fill the #4 and #5 spots in the rotation? After this weeks 6 no hit innings over the much improved Orioles line up, Nova seems like a lock for one of those spots with Freddy Garcia taking the last spot. An injury to Mitre has definitely closed his bid for a rotation spot though he pitched really well up til then. Colon is the "X" factor here. He has pitched really well and the Yankees may choose the veteran presence over youth to begin the season.
How good will the bullpen be? Mo,Soriano, and Feliciano have been spot on in their limited work so far. Joba was pitching well until the oblique strain. If that doesn't have a lasting impact this bullpen is solid in 7-8-9. Robertson has struggled a bit. But the Yankees may have suitable in house backup options with guys like Brackman waiting in the minors.
Will the young kids impress? I think the answer here is a resounding yes! The talk of spring has been about the Killer B's or the Bronx B's; Banuelos, Betances, and Brackman. Baneulos will be great, he will start at AA, most likely move to AAA by May or June and could get a cup of coffee in September if he performs at those levels. Betances will join him at AA Trenton. He needs to work on his command and refining his mechanics but when he's right he looks overpowering. Brackman is a lot smoother in his delivery than Bentances and has shown nice progress since coming back from his groin injury. He may start the season at AAA and may be the first call up if there is an injury (unless Nova gets sent down). I think Montero has been not quite as impressive offensively, but has shown improvement in defense, calling games, and receiving. With the injury to Cervelli, Montero seems the odds on favorite to make the club as the backup catcher. The Yankees will need to get him AB's though even as a backup. I'm guessing somewhere around 300 ABs would be necessary.
Will Jeter bounce back or will Nunez be called upon this season? The answer to both questions seem to be Yes. jeter has tweaked his batting stance and is hitting over .300 for the spring. Nunez could have been mentioned above with the other youngsters but he has flat out impressed the Yankees this spring. He can play 2nd, SS or the OF and he is hitting. He makes the team as the utility player with Pena wither being sent down or released.
Which of the veteran players that the Yankees signed in the offseason will actually make the club? We already mentioned Garcia and Colon they have impressed and both could make the starting rotation. Eric Chevez seems to have a lock on the other bench spot and will be the corner infielder reserve. He could get as many as 400 ABs and provide some nice offense for the club. While Andruw Jones has not impressed anyone. He's sitting at .200 for the spring and his defense has lost another step. If he was a lock for the 4th OF spot, the Yankees wouldn't be trying out Nunez there. Unfortunately Jones may be the best option as the #4 OF.