It’s time for our Depth Chart Discussions to begin. In an effort to suss out every team, we’ve divided them into four parts (infield, outfield, bullpen, and rotation) and will begin breaking them down for you over the next few weeks. You can find them gathered here.
I wrote about the New York Yankees starting rotation last week and — seeing as I’ve already spent plenty of quality time with their depth chart — I decided to tackle their infield as well. (I will not be including a separate designated-hitter portion of this piece; I think that position will be a revolving door of several guys who I’ll already be covering positionally.)
I’ll get this out of the way right now: I’m not expecting any Yankee infielders to be valuable mixed-league fantasy assets. The only exception is behind the dish, as Brian McCann suffered through one of the worst offensive seasons of his career in 2014, yet still managed to finish the year as the No. 9 fantasy catcher.
McCann is possibly the most predictable power hitter in the history of baseball. Since 2006, the 31-year-old backstop has averaged 21.6 homers per year — never dipping below 18 dingers, and never exceeding 24. Last year, his value was held down by his .232 batting average, partially due to seeing an ever-increasing number of right-field shifts. Additionally, McCann saw his walk rate drop to a career-low 5.9%, and his resulting on-base percentage was just .286 — a far cry from his career .343 mark.
Whether he can overcome the shifts or not, it’s pretty much unthinkable in my opinion that McCann will put up another .286 OBP season in 2015. Steamer has him projected for .251/.317/.445, and I really like that projection. I’d be comfortable putting him in the No. 6-8 range for fantasy catchers — somewhere mixed in with guys like Yadier Molina and Matt Wieters in that middle tier of mixed-league backstops.
If McCann gets hurt, JR Murphy could be a look in AL-only leagues. Murphy doesn’t really excel in any one area, but he’s a decent hitter with some pop. Austin Romine may be the more likely choice to start the year on the 25-man roster, seeing as he’s out of options, but the Yanks have had Romine in their system for eight full years, and I highly doubt he’ll ever see significant major-league playing time. Gary Sanchez is still hanging around too, but his prospect status has faded considerably, and he’s unlikely to stick behind the plate.
Is there anyone still out there who views Mark Teixeira as a viable mixed-league fantasy first-base option? Okay, good. If he stays healthy, he’ll likely hit 20+ home runs. Still, first base is so deep in fantasy that Teixeira is unlikely to provide much for fantasy owners in his age-35 season — especially with the erosion of his ability to consistently make solid contact.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’m all that much more confident in Teixeira’s abilities than I am in his new teammate, Garrett Jones. Jones will see some time at first, DH and in the outfield, and he could make for a nice platoon option for those of you in AL-only leagues. Kind of like Teixeira, just with a less-clear path to regular playing time.
In all likelihood, Stephen Drew will be the Yankees’ starting second baseman on Opening Day. He will be completely irrelevant. However, I’d be shocked if Rob Refsnyder doesn’t snag the job from him sooner rather than later.
Drew is made of glass, will be 32 years old by Opening Day, and hit .162/.237/.299 last year — including a downright hilarious .150/.219/.271 line in his 46 games with the Yanks. Drew is a considerably more reliable defender than Refsnyder — and the latter isn’t on the 40-man — so he’ll probably be the starter for a couple months.
Refsnyder’s ceiling is likely that of a second-division regular, as he possesses a solid hit tool with enough pop to avoid being just an empty batting average. Entering his age-24 season, Refsnyder has solid plate discipline and a little bit of speed — low double-digit homers and steals in a full major-league season wouldn’t be surprising.
Keep an eye on the Yanks over the next several weeks. If they find a way to work Refsnyder onto the 40-man, he could be worth a long look in AL-only leagues.
Didi Gregorius will get the lion’s share of playing time at shortstop, where he is a whiz with the glove. However, through 191 major-league games, his weighted offense is 16% below league-average, with a paltry .243/.313/.366 slash line. He doesn’t steal bases, and he has just 13 homers in his 724 plate appearances. He’s on the fringe of viable shortstop options in AL-only leagues.
Brendan Ryan? No.
I think we all know by now that Chase Headley’s 31-homer season in 2012 was about as flukey as flukes get. After all, he hit exactly one-third of his career homers that year, in just 17.7% of his career plate appearances. In the two years since, he’s managed just 26 homers combined.
After being traded to the Bronx last year, the 30-year-old hit a healthy .262/.371/.398, but the big question remains: Can he hit for enough power to be fantasy-relevant in mixed leagues? 36 of his 50 hits as a Yankee were singles, and third base is looking like a very deep position this year.
Furthermore, the specter of Alex Rodriguez looms. I don’t expect A-Rod to get much playing time at third base — and neither do our projections — but with Headley already looking like a borderline option, the mere presence of A-Rod could very likely Ralph Nader him out of fantasy relevance.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.