So a group of us from Fake Teams just finished a super-early "experts" mock draft with some of the guys from Fantasy Assembly, and my first takeaway is that it's hilarious that I have to write that I'm an expert at anything other than procrastinating (I've known that I'm writing this piece for a week and a half, and it's midnight on Wednesday right now).
My second takeaway, with the knowledge that I would be writing about the top five fantasy Yankees, was that this is not the core-four Yankees we grew used to over the years. With Alex Rodriguez likely out for all of 2014, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and CC Sabathia shadows (of varying degrees of darkness) of their former selves, and Mariano Rivera not around, the Yankees aren't the fantasy juggernaut they have been in the past.
Basically, these aren't your grandfather's Yankees. Well, your grandfather's Yankees are all old and dead now, but you get my point.
In fact, check out this table. It lists the round in which each team had its fifth player go off the board in our mock, a 12-teamer:
|8th||Red Sox||Shane Victorino|
|14th||Blue Jays||Casey Janssen|
|17th||White Sox||Alejandro De Aza|
|Only four players taken||Marlins||:(|
So the Yankees didn't have their fifth player go off the board until the 14th round; only ten teams were worse off. The Yankees had an obvious first-rounder in Robinson Cano, but only had one other player go off the board in the first ten rounds, and that was Alfonso Soriano, meaning the Yankees' second pick didn't start 2013 in New York, and their first pick might not start 2014 there.
Anyway, this is the fourth entry in our offseason Top Five project, looking at the five best fantasy players on each roster. If you're new, the Red Sox, Rays, and Orioles have been completed so far, and the other 30 teams are on their way.
But this is the Yankees. It's not as exciting as it once was:
1. Robinson Cano, 2B
This is the easy, obvious choice. Cano was fifth in all of baseball in WAR in 2013, at 7.6. He's been at or above that number in three of the last four years, and, at 31 for 2014, he's unlikely to hit any steep decline for that first year of his undoubtedly huge coming contract. And all that is before we consider the fact that, as a second baseman, Cano is probably the single player in all of baseball with the biggest lead over No. 2 at his position. He's one of five names (along with Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Paul Goldschmidt, and Andrew McCutchen, in some order) that will go off the board first in most 2014 drafts, regardless of where he's playing next year.
2. David Robertson, RP
Though Soriano went higher in our early mock, Robertson, to me, stands to have more 2014 value. He's the odds-on favorite to inherit the newly vacated closer role from the outgoing Sandman. Robertson has been a regular Yankees reliever for five seasons, amassing a 2.50 ERA and a 172 ERA+ in that time, with 11.8 K/9. No, he's not going to be Mariano Rivera, because that's not a thing anyone is going to be, but in the stats that matter to fantasy - saves, strikeouts, that sort of thing - Robertson stands to stand alongside guys like Craig Kimbrel, Kenley Jansen, and Aroldis Chapman. And he might be a bit under the radar come draft time, considering he enters 2014 with eight career saves. I tend to be a draft-closers-as-late-as-possible type, so I won't end up with those other big names, and I would be more than happy ending up with Robertson as the consolation prize.
3. Curtis Granderson, OF
I'm just writing 2013 off for Granderson. He got only 61 games in, because his bones wouldn't stop breaking. Maybe he needs more calcium or something. But his 2012 season, with a 115 OPS+, is right around his career 117, and I think it's safer to say that's his baseline. Even considering some deterioration due to age (and maybe a little more, if he signs somewhere that isn't New York), Granderson can still be reasonably trusted to hit 30 home runs at worst. His upside could be his 2011 season, when he led the American League in both runs and RBI. Granderson is one of only a handful of outfielders likely to go in the tenth round or around it who could return second- or third-round value. Sorry about 2013, Curtis. 2014 will be better.
4. Alfonso Soriano, OF
Yeah, a player who enters 2014 at age 38, with a .308 on-base percentage since 2009, who was traded for little more than an open roster space, also enters the season as the Yankees' third-best fantasy option, and it's easier to argue he should be higher on this list than lower. After joining the Yankees in late July, Soriano hit 17 home runs in 243 plate appearances, good for a home run every 14.3 times up. That's not a number he's likely to sustain, but the relative bandbox that is the new Yankee Stadium, his home-run rate could stay decent. I bet good money I'll end up with Soriano on exactly zero of my teams, as someone will jump on him earlier than I will (evidenced by the fact that he was the second Yankee off the board in our mock, and I have him here), but that doesn't negate the fact that he could be a source of power without destroying any other categories.
5. Screw it.
I agonized over this. Will CC Sabathia bounce back from his near-5 ERA in 2013? Can a 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda maintain his success? Will Mark Teixeira and/or Derek Jeter make it back to relevance? Can Alex Rodriguez get his suspension overturned? (I took him in the last round of our mock on the off chance this happens, though I don't expect it.) Or will Brett Gardner continue being an unspectacular player that is the only consistent player in the Yankees lineup? Ivan Nova? Vernon Wells? Michael Pineda? I seriously changed my mind on No. 5 half a dozen times before realizing that, if it's this hard for me to decide on one guy, I don't really care to. I just won't bother with them in 2014, and I encourage you to avoid them as well. It might not be an elegant No. 5, but it's effective.