Everyday until spring training begins the "Respect Jeter's Gangster" blog will review one player from the Yankees roster. We will review a total of 25 players, the 25 we believe will be on the active roster after spring training. Our reviews are all edited by Carl Pavano himself to insure they're up to the stringent "Pavano Tough" standards.
The news that came out this weekend has derailed our player profiles, but its about time we get back on track. Here's for lost time. Despite all that's happening, Spring Training starts in just 4 days, the Yankees have a new stadium, and have brought in two star pitchers and a phenomenal first baseman. So here's our continuation of our player reviews: Brett Gardner, Alfredo Aceves, and Mariano Rivera.
Gardner made his big league debut last season, and impressed many with his one discernable baseball talent: speed. Gardner stole 13 bases in limited action last season, and many saw him as the replacement of Melky Cabrera. However, this was more reactionary than anything else. Gardner hit just .228 last season, with a .299 slugging percentage. Everyone gave up on Melky when he hit .248 with a .341 slugging percentage. That being said, this was Gardners first big league cup of tea, and it was exciting. He had a couple walk off hits, and his defense was great. He does not have much power, but with the speed potential to turn singles into doubles, who really cares? He does need to work on his hitting, since speed means nothing if you cannot get on base. He swings with his upper body, and I'm sure it makes Kevin Long cringe.
My Fearless Prediction:
Gardner will be used mainly as a bench player/defensive replacement. He'll trade time with Melky but largely be seen as a 4th (5th?) outfielder. Gardner will likely improve his batting average, but not substantially. Maybe a .250 average, with 20+ stolen bases.
Little Known Gardner Fact:
Gardner once out ran a rabid horse that was chasing him through the mountains of South Carolina. The horse was eventually captured and punched in the face by Hank Steinbrenner.
Aceves impressed many last season when he stepped into the big league rotation, and gave 4 quality starts seemingly out of no where. His 2.40 ERA was a boost for the club, but unfortunately it was too little too late. The team already sucked. His last outing of the season was against the Red Sox and he went 4 innings allowing 4 runs. The question going into next season will be if Aceves' run at success was just beginner's luck ala Ian Kennedy in 2007, or if his many years in the Mexican League have created a gritty veteran who will be effective against major league hitters.
My Fearless Prediction:
Aceves will be the long reliever/spot starter of the group, and will likely succeed at it. He doesn't have the best stuff in the world, but he has the know how, and will likely be effective against big league hitters. Apart from an occasional shelling, he'll be a very effective reliever next season. I would think at least 5 wins with an ERA in the mid 3's.
Little Known Aceves Fact:
Alfredo Aceves has a PhD in Mathematics and once discovered and solved an equation that would allow teleportation. He lost the equation however when Hank Steinbrenner's rabid horse broke into his lab and started a chemical fire that took 3 days to put out.
One of the saddest things about last season was how the terrible performance of the team over shadowed the amazing performance by its closer, Mariano Rivera. After accepting a record breaking 3 year $45 million deal, many were curious how Rivera would perform. In 2007, he had one of the toughest seasons in recent memory with a 3.15 ERA, and seemingly losing the edge on his cutter. But 2008 proved that the cutter is as sharp as ever. Rivera posted a 1.40 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 70.2 innings. He saved 39 games out of 40 opportunities. He only walked 6 batters all season. Will Rivera enter the decline that all players eventually do? I thought he would after 2007, but 2008 gave me pause. The big question with Rivera is how he will respond to the shoulder surgery he had in the off season. Will this be an issue down the stretch? Will our precious closer see the DL next season? Obviously, these questions will have a huge impact on how the season goes.
My Fearless Prediction:
I don't think the shoulder will be a problem. With the exception of maybe Girardi not using him as much to protect him, I don't think we'll be seeing much of an impact from the surgery. He may have a hard time early on, but his cutter will be there, and it will have bite. I suggest 63 innings and a 2.40 ERA with about 40 saves.
Little Known Rivera Fact:
Mariano Rivera opened a steak house in New Rochelle called Mo's. At their grand opening, ninja's attacked the restaurant, and Rivera fought them off for three hours with a steak knife, until Hank Steinbrenner's rabid horse came rampaging through the kitchen, effectively violating about a dozen health codes, and shut them down for the next month. The ninja's were pleased.