A rival scout sizes up the Yankees
The Yankees did a nice job addressing their rotation problems this winter.... Michael Pineda can throw 96 with a nasty breaking ball. He's imposing physically and has a really good arm. But his weight [260 pounds] is a concern. His delivery fell apart at times this spring. His lower half looked heavier—which isn't a bad thing if it's strength, but it looked a little bit soft.... Stuffwise, Hiroki Kuroda is a hell of a bargain at $10 million. This spring he's sitting 92, 93 mph, and he's thrown some really good hard cutters. His split is a strikeout pitch, he doesn't have a bad curveball and he also has a slider. Sometimes I think he throws too many pitches. Maybe if he only had three really good ones, he'd command those a little easier.... This time last year Phil Hughes was throwing 84 to 86 mph. This year he's 91 to 93, and his changeup was good. He looks healthy.... I've been very impressed with Alex Rodriguez. His body looks good and his lower half looks really strong. Being strong on his lower half is a big part of his success.... Derek Jeter is running as well as he did as a kid. I saw him get to first base in 4.2 seconds, above-average major league speed. We looked at our stopwatches and went, Wow.... I'd bet Mark Teixeira will bounce back and be O.K. this year. His body is in good shape, he's smart, and defensively he's still good at first base. Just watching him in BP, he looks like he's swinging well.... Robinson Cano is one of the best hitters in the game. He makes everything he does look easy, whether it's turning a double play, hitting a home run or hitting a gapper on a nasty pitch away.
With 2011 Statistics
MANAGER JOE GIRARDI
5th season with Yankees
Grand slams hit by the Yankees over the past two seasons, twice as many as any other team. (Robinson Cano has five in that span, the most in baseball.) The slew of slams is no surprise: The Yankees have baseball's top OBP since the start of 2010, more plate appearances with the bases loaded than anyone else and the second-most home runs overall.
The Yankees have a terrific offense: They were second in the AL in runs last year, led the league in homers and walks, finished second in OBP and third in slugging. And yet there are steps they could take to be even better. One would be to remove Derek Jeter from the leadoff spot against righthanders, off whom he had a .329 OBP last year. That probably won't happen, but manager Joe Girardi can do something else: Stop bunting. The Yankees laid down 36 sacrifice bunts last year, 29 by position players—a tactic they should almost literally never employ. Sacrifice bunting is a tool to be used by teams that can't get a runner home from first and need to hit singles to score runs. Well, almost the entire Yankees lineup can get the runner home from first, and the Yankees don't hit singles as well as you'd think: They had the eighth most in the AL. There is no reason for Girardi to be playing smallball with the best collection of power bats in the AL. Bunting should be reserved for late-game situations and even then only when the Yankees who do hit singles—Jeter and Brett Gardner—are coming to the plate.
CHUCK SOLOMON (KURODA)
CJ GUNTHER/EPA (JETER)