Now that the Yankees have re-signed Andruw Jones, its looking like the 2012 Yankees are more or less set, and they look an awful lot like the 2011 Yankees, just one year older. Some might be concerned that this team isn't a world series team, but they base that mainly on the fact that this very team didn't make it out of the first round of the playoffs last year. But there are a few factors that could really change this:
1. A-Rod staying healthy. A healthy A-Rod is good for 30 homeruns easily and could crack 40 in an especially focused year. At this stage I would rate the chances of A-Rod staying healthy for the entire season very slim, but even a healthy A-Rod for 130 games and a healthy A-Rod in the playoffs would change the way this team looks quite a bit. Last year in the playoffs, A-Rod wasn't the power threat he typically is, and thats a big void in the middle of your lineup.
2. AJ Burnett gaining some consistancy. I think the hopes of AJ becoming a solid number 2 are pretty much out the window. At this point I'm not looking for a lights out Burnett, just a consistant Burnett. If he can avoid the implode inning, and string together some quality starts, I'd be happy with that. All things considered, a Burnett that can give us 6 innings and 3 runs is better than the 4 inning 7 run version we would see all too often last year.
3. Phil Hughes learning how to pitch. The truth is, Hughes isn't an overpowering pitcher. Last year, they acted like his fastball sitting at 89mph was the cause for all his performance woes. But even at full strength he sits at 92-93mph. Big league hitters can hit that. He needs to learn how to pitch. If I learned anything from Mike Mussina its that you can have a lot of success with decreased velocity if you know how to pitch. The problem with Hughes is that he's like AJ in that he really only has two-pitches: a fastball and curveball (they both throw an underdeveloped changeup). The only problem is that in his prime, AJ could hit 98mph with that fastball, and Hughes cannot. He needs to develop his secondary pitches.
4. Having one of the babies emerge as a leader. Betances, Banuelos, or even Noesi need to step up and lock down one of those starting spots. If they can do that we'll be in good position for a playoff push.
5. Everything else stay the same. Our 2012 success hinges on our ability to get more out of the players we didn't get much from last year, and the same from the players who were exceptional. Though the chances of this happening aren't great, you never know what surprises may come. Maybe Jeter has an MVP year, or Martin hits 30 homeruns, or Gardner steals 100 bases. Its a new year!