Baseball preview: New York Yankees

Although the New York Yankees have made 13 consecutive playoff appearances, it's been a long time since they've tasted victory in the World Series. Seven seasons have passed since the Yankees defeated the New York Mets in the Subway Series in 2000.

Perhaps the ownership has realized that it needs to take a different approach in order to find postseason success. Instead of spending millions of dollars to bring in the top free agents as they have in previous years, the Yankees spent millions of dollars to make sure that they didn't lose their own top free agents.


Closer Mariano Rivera signed a three-year deal worth $45 million and catcher Jorge Posada received a four-year deal worth $52.4 million. But the biggest move of the offseason is the one that could guarantee that the Yankees make their 14th consecutive playoff appearance in 2008. After it looked like third baseman Alex Rodriguez could be playing elsewhere this season, the team signed him for 10 years and $275 million.

While the Yankees realized it was important to keep their star players in pinstripes, the team couldn't do the same thing with their manager. Joe Torre headed to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the offseason and the Yankees will now rely on former catcher Joe Girardi to lead them back to the postseason in 2008.


New York Yankees

2007 record: 94-68 (2nd in AL East)

Key additions: RHP LaTroy Hawkins

Key losses: RHP Roger Clemens, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, RHP Luis Vizcaino

Most valuable fantasy performers:

1. Alex Rodriguez, 3B – You only need to worry about Rodriguez if you have the top pick in your league's draft. There's something wrong if he isn't picked first. He only needs 82 home runs for 600 in his career and it may happen this season. OK, so I'm exaggerating, but Rodriguez will hit .310 with 45-50 home runs and 140-150 RBIs.

2. Derek Jeter, SS – Although he is getting older, Jeter is still one of the five best shortstops available. He won't be among the league leaders in home runs or RBIs, but he'll score a lot of runs and steal a lot of bases. Jeter has a .317 career batting average, so you'll be near the top of the league in that category with him on your team. He should be drafted between the second and fourth rounds of your draft.

3. Robinson Cano, 2B – In 160 games last season, Cano hit .306 with 19 home runs and 97 RBIs. He's improved in each of his three seasons in the majors, so he could surpass those numbers in 2008. Cano should be selected in the fifth or sixth round and hopefully he'll give you 20-25 home runs and 95-105 RBIs. He'll still be worth the pick if he falls just shy of those numbers because he's one of the best second basemen available.


4. Bobby Abreu, RF – Abreu isn't known for hitting home runs anymore, but he'll still give you between 100-110 RBIs in 2008. He'll also score 100-110 runs and steal 25-30 bases, so he's one of the rare players that can help you in multiple categories. Abreu will likely hit 15-20 home runs, but has the ability to hit more. He should be selected around the same time as Cano, but could fall a couple rounds if the other owners in your league decide to draft younger players first.

5. Jorge Posada, C – I'll say it again – Posada will not hit .338 again this season. It's funny how people actually complained that I made that statement in January, even though he has never hit above .287 in any other season. Posada is still one of the best offensive catchers in the majors and will need to prove that he was worth the large contract he received in the offseason. He'll have around 20 home runs and 90 RBIs, so it'd be good to draft him around the 11th round of most standard leagues.

6. Hideki Matsui, OF/DH – There are a lot of players competing for playing time in the outfield and at designated hitter for the Yankees. However, Matsui will find a way to hit around .290 with 20-25 home runs and 95-105 RBIs in 2008. He'll give you a lot of offense and can probably be selected in the middle rounds of your draft.

7. Chien-Ming Wang, RHP – The pitching rotation has experienced veterans (Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina) and promising youngsters (Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy). Leading the way is Wang, who has won 19 games in each of the past two seasons. He's clearly the ace of the staff and will win 15-20 games again in 2008. Wang should be drafted in the 11th or 12th round, but could fall lower because most people don't realize how successful he has been in the past two seasons.

8. Mariano Rivera, RHP – Last year was the first time that Rivera's ERA has been above 3.00 since it was 5.51 in his rookie season. Still, it was only 3.15 and he picked up 30 saves for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons. He's no longer the most dominant closer in the majors, but Rivera should still be selected in the 10th or 11th round.

Hidden gems:


1. Phil Hughes, RHP – Hughes was 5-3 with a 4.46 ERA in 13 starts as a rookie last season. The Yankees will be relying on him to take a more prominent role in the rotation in 2008. Hughes could become a valuable addition to your fantasy team if he's able to live up to the expectations. Take him in the later rounds of your draft and monitor his performance at the beginning of the season.

2. Joba Chamberlain, RHP – Last year, Chamberlain was virtually unhittable in 19 relief appearances during the regular season. In 24 innings, he allowed one earned run on 12 hits and struck out 34 hitters. He'll get a crack at the rotation this season and it'll be interesting to see if he can repeat his dominant performance. Chamberlain should be drafted in the middle to late rounds of your draft. He'll be one of the top fantasy pitchers for the foreseeable future if he's able to have similar success as a starter.

3. Melky Cabrera, CF – Cabrera doesn't seem like the type of player to hit a lot of home runs, but he's got the mentality to do a lot of the little things that equate to a successful baseball player. While he won't be among the leaders in any of the categories that will help your fantasy team, Cabrera could be headed for a breakout season. It's his third full season in the majors, so he's more familiar with the pitchers around the league. Call it a hunch, but I think Cabrera could hit .290 with 15-20 home runs and 80-90 RBIs in 2008. He'll have 15-20 stolen bases and could score 75-85 runs.