In 2014, the Yankees managed the magic trick of finishing with a winning record (84-78, 2nd place in the AL East, 1 game ahead of the Blue Jays) despite allowing more runs (4.1/game) than they scored (3.9/game). I don't know how they were able to do that, maybe by disrupting their opponents planning by making them find parting gifts for Derek Jeter.
They did have their share of injuries, with CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Mark Teixeira, Michael Pineda, Brian Roberts and others missing significant time, but then, when your team has as that many players in their mid to late 30's, you should expect some downtime.
Their team MVP, by WAR, was Jacoby Ellsbury with a 3.9 fWAR and their top pitcher was Hiroki Kuroda with a 3.4 WAR (too bad for the Yankees that he decided to return to Japan). On the negative side, Carlos Beltran and Brendan Ryan tied for worst WAR on the team with a -0.7.
The most notable thing about their 2014 season was the seemingly unending retirement party for Mr. Jeter. All teams were required to give him presents and make a generally fuse about the guy, which, for Buck and Pat, was business as usual. I will not miss their slobbering over the guy. Yeah, he was a good player, shut up about it already.
Nathan Eovaldi (RHP), Garrett Jones (1B), Didi Gregorius (SS), Andrew Miller (LHP), David Carpenter (RHP), Justin Wilson (LHP), Alex Rodriguez (SOB).
Derek Jeter, Martin Prado, David Phelps, Shane Greene, David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, Ichiro Suzuki, Brandon McCarthy, Francisco Cervelli, Hiroki Kuroda.
Catcher: Brian McCann
Last year's big free agent catcher signing. He didn't quite live up to expectations, hitting .232/.286/.406 with 23 home runs for a 2.3 fWAR. He's 31 now. The Yankees are hoping for a bit of a bounce back year with the bat. He has a good reputation behind the plate. He threw out 37% of base stealers.
First Base: Mark Teixeira
A lot of the Yankees' hopes rest on Tiexeira's wrist, which was wasn't 100% in 2014. Last year, he hit just .216/.313/.398 with 22 home runs, in 123 games for a 0.9 WAR. Even worse, he finished the season with a .179/.271/.302 line in the second half of the season. The Yankees need better from him. He isn't having the best of springs, hitting .229/.270/.371.
Second Base: Stephen Drew
Drew got some bad advice from Scott Boras in the off-season before the 2014 and didn't sign until May 20th, with the Red Sox finally deciding to give him a contract In July he was traded to the Yankees for Kelly Johnson. He didn't hit for either team, putting up a .162/.237/.299 combined line. He'll have to do better to keep his job this year.
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
It is the first time the Yankees go into a season with a regular shortstop not named Derek Jeter this Millennium. They have had Jeter at short since 1996. Didi (how does a grown man live with a name like DiDi?) hit .226/.290/.363 for the Diamondbacks in 2014. But, the sad news for those of us that enjoyed watching ground balls roll into left field, Didi is a much better defensive SS than Jeter. He's the only guy in the projected batting order under the age of 30.
Third Base: Chase Headley
Last year, when I was wishing the Jays would trade for Headley, the Yankees picked him up instead. Now that we have Josh Donaldson, I'm not pining over Headley anymore. Chase hit .262/.371/.398 in 58 games in pinstripes, after hitting .229/.296/.355 in 77 games with the Padres. If healthy, he's a very good player.
Left Field: Brett Gardner
Brett hit .256/.327/.422 with 17 home runs and 21 steals. The home runs came our of no where. Perhaps he felt that, as a corner outfielder, he had to swing the fences more. I think the Yankees would like him to worry about getting on base more.
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury
Jacoby had a pretty good 2014 season, hitting .271/.328/.419, with 16 home runs and 39 stolen bases. A pretty good season, but the Yankees didn't sign him to a 7-year contract at just over $21 million a year for a pretty good season. I'm thinking that he isn't likely to do much better than that this year.
Right Field: Carlos Beltran
After hitting .233/.301/.402 with 15 home runs, in 109 games last year, paired with a pretty lousy glove in the outfield, Carlos needs a bounce back season to keep his job. Since he is 37 now, I'm not sure how much bounce back he can have in him. Chris Young and Garrett Jones are likely to see time in right.
DH: Alex Rodriguez
Suspended (unfortunately not by his ankles) for all of 2014, it is anyone's guess what the Yankees will get out of Alex this year. He has had a pretty good spring, hitting .269/.367/.538. The Yankees will be paying him through the 2017 season.
The Yankees rotation is made up of three guys that missed a some of 2015 with fairly major injuries (Tanaka, Pineda and Sabathia) one that was injured last week (Capuano) and someone named Nathan Eovaldi (he pitched for the Marlins, going 6-14 with a 4.37).
Sabathia hasn't looked good this spring. 4.2 innings, 9 hits, 6 earned, 3 home runs, 6 strikeouts. He got beat up by the Mets yesterday. Pineda and Tanaka have been much better.
Capuano suffered a 'strained quad', in a spring game, and is likely to miss at least the first couple of weeks of the season, meaning Adam Warren or Esmil Rogers could start the year in the rotation.
Even with David Robertson leaving as a free agent, the Yankees bullpen looks to be the strongest part of the team. Miller and Betances make an end of the bullpen duo that's likely has good as any in baseball.
Even in a weak AL East, a lot of things would have to go right for the Yankees to contend for a playoff spot. Vegas betting line has the Yankee 33/1 to win the World Series. I won't be putting money down on that.
For them to beat the odds, a number of often injured players would have to make it through the season healthy. Guys like ARod, Texiera, Beltran, Sabathia, Headley, McCann would have to play like it was 2008. Their lineup does read like an All-Star team from the mid-00's. If Alex hit anywhere from 0 for 30 home runs, it wouldn't surprise me. I have no idea what to expect from him. There is a good contest, guess the number of home runs Rodriguez hits? Or how many games before he is suspended again.
The Yankees were near the bottom of the league in runs scored last year, and it is hard to see where their offense has improved. Minus Jeter, they are running out about the same starting 9 (at least until injuries set in).
The rotation looks thin (well, other than CC). The odds that CC, Tanaka and Pineda call all make 32 start must be a lot longer than 33 to 1. The bullpen, that looks so good, could end up being over worked.
They do have some very good prospects. Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and Greg Bird are numbers 30, 50 and 58 on John Sickels 'Top 175 prospects list', so there is the possibility that they could have some players younger than 30 on their roster in the next season or two.
I never count out the Yankees, but I'll be very sad if they finish with a better record than the Jays. My prediction is that they will finish 4th in the AL East with about 76 wins.