The Top Storylines of 2011

Spring Training Game Thread: A Look At A.J.
The RAB Radio Show: March 2, 2011

Every season has storylines, some happier than others. Last year we got to watch Robbie Cano take his game to another level and become an MVP candidate while Phil Hughes came into his own as a starter. That all happened while the Javy Vazquez redux was a spectacular flop and Derek Jeter suddenly looked mortal. The upcoming season will be no different, so let’s look at a few of the bigger storylines…

Jesus is coming. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Jesus Montero‘s Inevitable Arrival

At some point this season, whether it be Opening Day or May 15th or August 1st, arguably the best offensive prospect in the minors will join the Yankees. In what capacity? I don’t know, could be anything from backup catcher to part-time DH to starting catcher to righty bat off the bench, but I do know he’ll be in the Bronx before long. Montero’s bat is ready for the show right now, but the Yankees have some depth behind the plate and no real reason to take him north if they don’t think he’s ready. His arrival will be highly anticipated, and that’s putting it lightly.

Hughes’ Continued Development

Last year, in his first full season as a starter in the AL East, Hughes put up solid totals of a 4.19 ERA, 4.25 FIP, and 7.45 K/9 in 176.1 IP. He did stumble down the stretch and in two of his three playoffs starts, but at age 24 there’s still plenty of room for improvement. Free from innings limitations and aware of his changeup problem, Hughes is poised to continue his ascent. The Yankees are counting on the right-hander to be one of their top three starters in 2011 as opposed to the interesting fifth starter he was at this time last year, so the pressure’s on.

Uh, David. Whatever you do, do not turn around. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The Mother of All Bullpens

There seems to be a wide range of opinions on the Rafael Soriano signing, but everyone agrees that he improves the team’s late-game pitching situation significantly. He also pushes Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson into traditional middle relief/fireman roles, which isn’t all that bad when all three guys have one of the 22 best strikeout rates in the game over the last three seasons. Pedro Feliciano adds a veteran, workhorse lefty specialist to join the hard-throwing Boone Logan. And then you have Mariano Rivera to cap it all off. Joe Girardi has a ton of relief options this year, most of them high strikeout players that can get out of jams without the help of their defense.

Cano’s MVP Push, Part Deux

The Yankees second baseman went from complementary player to centerpiece in 2010, hitting .319/.381/.534 (.389 wOBA) and finishing sixth in the league with 6.4 fWAR. Still just 28 years old, Cano is in the prime of his career and capable of making another run at the MVP crown, which would go a long way towards helping the Yankees secure a playoff berth and maybe even the AL East crown.

Jeter’s Pursuit of 3,000

In the long and glorious history of the New York Yankees, no player has ever recorded 3,000 career hits. Lou Gehrig was the franchise hit leader for the better part of a century with 2,721 knocks, but Jeter surpassed him in 2009 and is within shouting distance of the hallowed milestone. The Cap’n will start the season just 74 hits away from 3,000, so he’ll get there in 2011 barring a major injury. Jeter picked up his 74th hit last year on June 6th, the team’s 57th game of the season, so the first few months of the season will feature some pretty awesome history.

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Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing what Hughes has in store for an encore, even more than I’m looking forward to Montero’s arrival. Jeter’s chase will probably be a million times more hyped than his pursuit of Gehrig’s record, and that’s fine by me, it was definitely a lot of fun (lame Michael Kay calls aside). And, of course, who doesn’t like watching Cano do his thing or a bullpen full of hard-throwing strikeout fiends?

What 2011 storyline are you most looking forward to?
View Results
Spring Training Game Thread: A Look At A.J.
The RAB Radio Show: March 2, 2011
  • awy

    i’ll go out on a limb here and assume all of those who voted for jeter are being ironic.

    • Josh

      not surprised by montero’s dominance here. i voted jeter because he was my first real baseball idol. but montero is definitely second after jeter for me.

    • Nobody f*cks with the Jesus.

      Why would voting for Jeter be ironic. No one will contest that he is showing signs of aging and is perhaps not the player he once was, but it will be a pleasure to watch him collect hit number 3000. He is a franchise player. I don’t know why everyone shits on Jeter. Maybe envy of his abilities, fame, money, or all the hotties he’s bagged. Which is it for you, awy?

      • MannyGee

        everyone shits on Jeter because Jeter is better than them. and pulls better tail… and his house is roughly the size of a Target (the one with the supermarket and Starbucks in it, too)… and he has just stooooopid money, like Gatorade money…

        but seriously, FCK Jeter’s 3000 hits.

      • Big Apple

        here here! it used to be the haters that are crapping on jeter…now its yankee writers and fans. makes me sick.

  • Mike HC

    Agreed about Hughes. I love watching him pitch and am looking forward to him taking another step this year.

    • Nemesis

      Dont’t like how Hughes decided to get fat over the offseason…

      • Mike Axisa


      • MannyGee

        ummm, that was actually Colon standing behind him….

  • Greg G.

    Love the caption on the D-Rob photo.

  • Tom Zig

    I think we should start calling it the Rise of Jesus.

    • johnny

      Post headline, June 1st:

      Jesus has risen

      Montero smacks two homers in yanks debut.

  • Tom Zig

    Also can we steal the nickname from the 1990 Reds Bullpen? Or do we have to come up with our own?

    • 24fan

      How about the filthy few?

      • johnny

        Like it

  • RL

    While the Jeter push (huge Jeter fan since he came up) and the Rise of Jesus will be significant events, Jeter’s 3000th will come too early in the season to carry me through the year and who knows hwo Jesus will play? I’m most interested in watching Robbie do his thing and coninue on his journey to become the next franchise players for the Yankees. I’m hoping for another 2-3 years in a row of MVP-caliber play from him.

    • RL

      God I need a spell check AND an edit button!

  • The Constant Gardner

    Hype? Expectation? Balls in the dirt? That don’t matter to the Jesus.

  • Big Apple

    I voted for Jeter b/c he (and Mo) have always been my favorites. And I’m still amazed that he will be the first yankee to amass 3,000 hits.

    second place – Jesus…I’m stopping all of my sinful behavnior as our saviour has arrived….

  • FIPster Doofus

    Montero and then Hughes for me.

  • W.W.J.M.D.

    So I can’t vote for all of them?

  • Joseph Cecala

    Who would pick the bullpen?

  • NJ_Andy

    Hughes. The rest interest me, but Phil is basically my favorite ballplayer going and I look forward to seeing him improve and then stick with the Yanks for a long career.

    • Big Apple

      when phil goes for his 300th win will you just forget about him b/c he’s not as good?

  • Monteroisdinero

    We don’t get to vote on the new and improved Sterling/Waldman combo with their new contracts?

  • MannyGee

    I would like to write in the 5th starter trade market. this will intrigue me all season long. until we pay waaaaay too much for a guy who sorta sucks.

  • Big Apple

    IMO…if you’re a yankee fan and you don’t pick jeter’s chase for 3k hits then you have issues. how do you live with yourself?

  • fire levine

    What amazes me is that at41 mariano isn’t even mentiones in this piece. Tells you a lot about the guy that everyone is just expecting a sub-2 era with 30-40 saves and the occasional 2 inning shutdown. Thank mo.

  • NC Saint

    “There seems to be a wide range of opinions on the Rafael Soriano signing…”

    Some of us are unhappy about it. Others of us are Hank Steinbrenner.