A year after missing the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years, the Yankees went all out to see to it that they enter 2009 with the chance of not repeating that again. After spending $400 million dollars on free agents, New York has addressed some of their glaring weaknesses, namely their starting pitching and getting tremendously younger at first base by pulling off the coup of signing Mark Texeira. The Yankees will always be a fantasy baseball juggernaut, so picking the five best players isn’t about who gets on the list, but who gets left off of it.
#1 Overall New York Yankees: Alex Rodriguez (3B) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 Stats: .302 BA, 35 HR, 33 2B, 103 RBI, 104 RS
Rodriguez played in his fewest amount of games since 1999, missing 24 games in 2008, yet he still put up numbers that were above average for a third baseman, tallying 30 home runs and 100 RBI for the eleventh straight season. Hitting in the middle of the Yankee line-up, with table setters in front of him and heavy bats behind him means that Rodriguez will continue to put up big numbers. With 600 home runs reasonably within reach in 2009, expect a batting line of .310, 44 home runs, and 130 RBI.
#2 Overall New York Yankees: Mark Texeira (1B) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 Stats: .308 BA, 33 HR, 41 2B, 121 RBI, 2 SB, 102 RS
There are a few folks around the web who are touting Mark Texeira as the best Yankee fantasy player. There’s no doubt that he’ll go early, and he’ll produce in the Yankee line-up, but to put him above A-Rod is short sighted at best. Texeira put up solid numbers across the board in 2008, while spending time in Atlanta and Los Angeles, but to get into the elite status of Rodriguez and Pujols, ne needs to return to the player he was in 2005 (.301,43 HR, 144 RBI). With a firm contract in possession, expect him to focus and improve on 2008, with a line of .310, 38 home runs, 120 RBI, and 100 runs scored.
#3 Overall New York Yankees: C.C. Sabathia (SP) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 stats: 17 Wins and 10 Losses, 2.70 ERA, 1.115 WHIP, 251 SO
While Texeira may rank above him here, Sabathia was the true jewel in the Yankees’ off-season crown. After faltering out of the gate in 2008, Sabathia regained composure and put together a solid season, which had him in discussions for the National League Cy Young after his trade to Milwaukee, where he was an absolute monster on the mound. A return to the American League may have a small impact on his fantasy stats in 2009, especially with pitching in the AL East, but he’ll still likely approach his 2007 Cy Young season totals of 19 wins, 3.21 ERA, and 200 strikeouts. Grab hold and pray the mileage on his arm doesn’t catch up.
#4 Overall New York Yankees: Mariano Rivera (RP) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 stats: 6 Wins and 5 Losses, 39 Saves 1.40 ERA, .665 WHIP, 77 SO
Everyone keeps expecting him to fall, but Rivera comes in every year and does his job, probably more consistently than any other closer in baseball. 2008 saw him post a miniscule .665 WHIP, which is almost unheard of, showing just how untouchable he was during the season. If the Yankees had had more success, he would have likely posted a higher save total than 39, but that too was respectable. I can’t see any reason why not to expect more of the same from Rivera in 2009, with a season of 40 saves, 2.00 ERA, and 70 strikeouts within reason.
#5 Overall New York Yankees: Chien-Ming Wang (SP) – Fantasy Baseball 2009
2008 stats: 8 Wins and 2 Losses, 4.07 ERA, 1.316 WHIP, 54 SO
Wow, here’s the real shocker of this list. Most people are expecting A.J. Burnett to land on this list, but I’m not buying into the Burnett hype. Injuries limited Wang to just 15 starts in 2008 and he wasn’t himself even when he was on the mound. He’s not going to wow you with peripheral stats like strikeouts, but Wang gives you innings, and pitching deep into games on a team like the Yankees means lots of wins, as evidenced by his 19 wins in 2006 and 2007. If he bounces back in 2009, his value will certainly be higher than that of Burnett, somewhere in the range of 15-17 wins and an ERA of 3.50.
MLB Standings, MLB.com
MLB Team Stats, Hitting, MLB.com
MLB Team Stats, Pitching, MLB.com
Alex Rodriguez, Baseball-Reference.com
Mark Texeira, Baseball-Reference.com
C.C. Sabathia, Baseball-Reference.com
Mariano Rivera, Baseball-Reference.com
Chien-Ming Wang, Baseball-Reference.com