|Fantasy Take: The 2006 New York Yankees|
Written by Daniel Paulling (Contact & Archive) on March 20, 2006
No one can match the Yankees in raw number of superstars, but the Bombers have a lot of older players, as well as some up and coming guys, who could play a major role on your fantasy team. Yankee pitchers, even bad ones, probably need to be moved up a notch or two on your draft list because of the amount of run support the offense will provide.
The Top Tier
Alex Rodriguez (3B): Last year’s AL MVP is probably the very best player in all of baseball. He’ll contribute in all five categories and probably will be the first overall pick in 90% of serpentine drafts, as well as go for top dollar in auction style drafts. The only downside I can see to Alex at this point, besides the price you’d have to pay is the fact he’s crossed the magic 30 line, which means a lot less than it used to.
Mariano Riviera (CL): Well, Mariano sure shrugged off any concerns fantasy owners had about his elbow last year, putting together one of the best seasons in his career. Yankee fans love to hear the strains of “Enter Sandman” in the top of the ninth; fantasy owners do to. This is the guy who defines the word elite.
Randy Johnson (SP): Johnson is still one of the best pitchers in the game, but he’s not same pitcher he was just a few years ago. Age and declining skills are taking their toll. He still is a lot better than 95% of the pitchers out there, but any 42 year old pitcher is an incredible risk. There are safer choices.
Derek Jeter (SS): A couple of years ago, Jeter was one of the big three shortstops in the game. Since then, Nomar has dropped out of sight and A-Rod has evolved into the best third baseman out there. That makes Jeter and his ability to reach for a .300-20-20 season one of the best shortstops available, along with Jhonny Peralta and Michael Young.
The Second Tier
Johnny Damon (OF): Damon’s an elite leadoff hitter, and he’ll score a lot of runs, steal bases, hit for average and power, and even drive in more RBIs than he did the last few years. Batting with Jeter, A-Rod and Sheffield behind him should be even better than having Manny and Ortiz just steps behind. The only concern that fantasy owners should have is that he’s at the age where he’ll start running less, or that Joe Torre will put the brakes on.
Hideki Matsui (OF): Those who expected Matsui to be a MVP candidate last year got a dose of reality. Matsui is a very good, maybe even an excellent ballplayer, but he’s not an elite player. He has some upside left, but last year’s numbers (.305/23/116) are probably going to be more realistic.
Jason Giambi (1B): Jason found his home run stroke again the second half of last season, but that doesn’t mean that he’s out of the woods as far as steroid concerns go, or that he’s returned to being a great baseball player. It’s been suggested that Jason juiced the second half of last season before his sudden rebirth; no one but Jason knows if it’s true. If it is, baseball’s new steroid policy could chase him off the stuff again. That could be a bitter pill to swallow if he can’t be had for a discount.
Mike Mussina (SP): Moose is getting up there into dangerous territory as far as age goes, and he’s begun that inevitable slide of diminishing ability and skills. He’s still a very good pitcher, but he can’t be counted on to be the workhorse he’s been in his heyday. He’s likely to see a decline in innings pitched and a slight drop off in other numbers.
Jorge Posada (C): The Yankees backstop is another guy who makes you swear you can hear the bones creaking. Posada is an older ballplayer playing the most demanding position in the game. His healing time is longer, his aches are more severe, but his bat is still one of the top 5 for catchers in the American League. Even if he only plays 110 games he’ll out produce most catchers, but odds are he’ll play in 120 plus.
The Third Tier
Robinson Cano (2B): It’s hard not to like what Cano did in his first major league season -- .297/14/63 in only 132 games. Being a Yankee means you get lots of good pitches and that you’ll get driven in a lot. He might struggle at times, but he sure looks like a solid option at the second base position although more for his power than for speed.
The Question Marks
Aaron Small (SP): It’s highly improbable that Aaron Small will be as good as he was last year. He certainly benefited from the Yankee offense and racked up some good wins; that’s not all that likely to change. However, he’s no longer going to be a mystery to American League hitter, and he’s likely to find the second time around a little rougher going. Young pitchers who surprise everyone don’t always continue their success, but the Yankee offense will tilt the odds in his favor. That’s if manager Joe Torre gives him a rotation spot.
Jaret Wright (SP): Just what is Wright going to do for the Bombers this year? That’s anyone’s guess. The Yankees should be able to score runs for him and get him some wins, but can he pitch well enough to be more than a 5.00 ERA pitcher? It’s a question everyone wants an answer to and we don’t know. He’ll be cheap in drafts, and could pay off handsomely if he regains effectiveness, but the smart money is probably against him.
Bernie Williams (DH/OF): Bernie’s old and no longer the player he was especially in the field. However, he’s still a decent hitter and has a place on fantasy rosters because of the rest of the Yankee order, who’ll provide him opportunities to score and drive in runs. There are better choices, but as the pickings get slim, old reliable Bernie will produce – at least somewhat, because he can still hit twenty homers, given a full season’s worth of ABs.
Shawn Chacon (SP): A perfect Cinderella story from last year. The right hander escaped the clutches of Coors Field to join the New York Yankees, and he found himself pitching in a pennant chase. Not only that, but he was doing a darn good job at it. Over 12 starts (and 14 games), Chacon put up a 2.85 ERA. The only question is whether or not he’ll continue having success with a horrible strikeout/walk ratio. We’ll know the answer soon.
Chien-Ming Wang (SP): Another out of nowhere pitcher who had a solid season before developing elbow problems. He’s not a proven commodity; elbow issues are a concern, but the Yankees will be relying on him from day one (or day four, which will be his spot in the rotation). Count on the wins, and watch him continue to develop.
Kyle Farnsworth: (RP): Next in line for the closer’s gig and worth a pick as a back up to Rivera who at some point must break down or need a rest. Farnsworth isn’t proven as a closer and his reputation suggests he’s vulnerable to the long ball because he lays it right down the center of the plate, so he’s far from a sure thing.