The 2009 New York Yankees won a total of 113 games last season, claiming their 27th world championship. The Yankees mixed a consistent balance of pitching, defense, and timely hitting on their way to the World Series. The 2010 version of the Yankees mixes a group of savvy veterans with a cast of new faces. This Yankee team will not feature prominent sluggers, Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui, and scrappy outfielder, Melky Cabrera. Instead, the Yankees will feature slugging center fielder Curtis Granderson and On-Base Specialist/Ex-Yankee Nick Johnson. The Yankees also brought another ex-Yankee back in the form of Starting Pitcher, Javier Vazquez.

Curtis Granderson was acquired in a trade during the off-season. Blue clip out field prospect Austin Jackson, lefty bullpen specialist Phil Coke, and other non-notable minor leaguers were traded to Detroit for Granderson. Last season, Granderson hit .249 with 30 HRs and 71 RBIs in the leadoff hole for the Detroit Tigers. Granderson plays superb defense with an above average arm. Granderson also features a lefty bat with a lot of pop that has the tools to excel in Yankee Stadium. Many regard Tigers’ home field, Commerica Park, a spacious pitchers park, while Yankee Stadium yielded the most home runs in baseball last season. Granderson figures to hit in the middle of the Yankee lineup.

Nick Johnson was an ex-Yankee farm hand that left the team in 2000. Johnson has made a career out of playing superb defense at 1st base and working pitch counts at the plate. Johnson has a career .402 On-Base Percentage. This statistic makes him a valuable asset which earned him a 1 year salary of 5.5 million with a mutual option for 2011. While Johnson does not have great power at the plate(9 HRs in 133 games last year), other prominent Yankee power hitters will fill this void. Johnson figures to hit in the prized #2 hole in the Yankee order. Yankee fans will enjoy watching Johnson frustrate opposing pitchers and score many runs.

Javier Vazquez’s last Yankee memory was in 2004 when he gave up a grand slam to Johnny Damon of the Boston Red Sox in the Game 7 of the ALCS. Hopefully his 2nd tour with the Yankees goes much more smoothly. Vazquez was acquired from the Braves in January for Melky Cabrera and 2 other minor league prospects. Vazquez is in the final year of his contract. Last season in Atlanta, Vazquez posted a 15-10 record, 2.87 ERA with 234 strikeouts over 249 innings. Vazquez finished 4th in NL Cy-Young voting. Vazquez is extremely durable, logging at least 198 innings per season since 2000. Vazquez also has 2253 strikeouts over 2490 innings in his career, making him a proven strikeout pitcher. The Yankees projected him as #3 or #4 in their rotation, in the mix with CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Andy Pettitte. If Vazquez can give the Yankees 200 innings, with an ERA around 4, barring injury, he will definitely be the best #4 starter in baseball.

With Johnny Damon not in the Yankees plans, Brett Gardner figures to assume duties in the outfield. While we will dissect whether Gardner should play left or center field at a later time, it is worth noting that Gardner plays above average defense. Gardner split time last season in center field with Melky Cabrera. Now that Melky is in Atlanta, nothing stands in Gardners way of a full time job in the outfield. With 248 at bats last season, Gardner posted a .270 batting average, .345 on-base percentage, and 26 stolen bases. If the Yankees give Gardner 500 at bats, he has the potential to steal 45-50 bases. Gardner is a cheap speed asset on a team that doesn’t feature many burners.

The additions of Vazquez, Johnson, and Granderson prove to make the Yankees an even more formittable force in 2010. The emergence of Brett Gardner will hopefully give the Yankee order even more excitement. The loss of familiar faces in Matsui and Damon may be tough to swallow, but the Yankees got younger, cheaper, and better defensively this off-season. Keeping a roster fresh is a proven strategy of winning ball clubs.

Projections:

Curtis Granderson: .270, 28 HRs, 85 RBIs, 90 Runs, 21 SBs.

Nick Johnson: .280, 15 HRs, 75 RBIs, 105 Runs, 2 SBs, .415 OBP

Javier Vazquez: 15 Wins, 4.15 ERA, 195 K’s

Brett Gardner: 515 ABs, .265, 5 HRs, 49 SBs.