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March 19, 2009

Team Health Reports

New York Yankees

by Brad Wochomurka

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Team Health Reports

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Head Trainer: Gene Monahan
Player Days Lost: 1,460
Total Dollars Lost: $31 million
Injury Cost: $40.2 million

Trend: Negative. Monahan has seen plenty of highs and lows during his 36 years as the Yankees' head trainer, so a slight downward trend over the past three years is by no means a crisis. That said, the Yankees did have their issues in 2008, issues that, for the most part, they'll have to deal with again in '09. Alex Rodriguez hit the DL last year for the first time since joining the Yankees, and he'll start out there this season. Fairly or not, Monahan and his staff will likely be evaluated on how well the game's most talked about player comes back from a procedure in which there are really no accurate comps. Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui will have to be watched closely after last year's lost seasons. Johnny Damon and Derek Jeter will try to stave off nagging injuries while keeping their declines as gradual as possible. Can Mariano Rivera do what he does for another year? Plus, a player who is the definition of risk, A.J. Burnett, is now in the mix. Monahan and his staff will have their hands full with all those veterans, and yet their biggest and most important task may be keeping 23-year-old Joba Chamberlain healthy. The team's brand new facilities will be a nice boost for a training staff with a very full plate, and hey, at least there's no more Carl Pavano.

The Shape of the Season:

graph

The Big Question: Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News asks, "Can Joba Chamberlain stay healthy enough to pitch 150-plus innings this season?"

The Yankees are still in the process of stretching Chamberlain out to a starter's workload, so there will be limits on his usage, with 150 innings as his probable goal for '09. The thing is, he has to get there while staying healthy. As Feinsand points out, the Yankees can't afford to have Chamberlain throw just 100-120 innings if they're going to stick to their schedule of turning him into a 200-inning starter within two years. The difference in '09 will be an offseason and spring spent preparing, both physically and mentally, for the role change, and knowing that his role is defined should help Chamberlain. Having CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Chien-Ming Wang ahead of him in the rotation also takes some of the pressure off of him and the team as a whole. Remember, none of those guys were there in the second half last year when the Yankees were fighting for a playoff spot, and that was when it came time for Chamberlain to become a regular starter, so it should be easier this time around for the team to pace him throughout the year.

Fantasy Tip: Everyone has a different theory of how to treat Alex Rodriguez. I say you treat him like the star he is. It's probably not a great idea to use a top five pick on him, but if it's getting into the mid-to-late second round of your draft, I'd be thinking about grabbing him. So what if you have to use Melvin Mora or Adrian Beltre for a month or two? Eric Karabell of ESPN.com will share some insight regarding A-Rod on this week's "Fantasy Friday" edition of BP Radio, so if you're wondering what to do about Rodriguez, make sure you give tomorrow's podcast a listen this weekend. Quick thoughts on some other Yankees: I think Hideki Matsui is being undervalued in drafts. If all he has to do is hit, I like it. I think Robinson Cano's price will reflect his '08 performance, while the numbers he gives you will be closer to '06 and '07. I'm still buying Mariano Rivera. And finally, I hate Chien-Ming Wang; by all accounts he's a nice guy, and I think he'll be healthy, but I don't go after pitchers who give up a lot of hits and don't strike anyone out. Follow the strikeouts, and good things will come, my friends.

C Jorge Posada: Red light No surprise here. Even without the major shoulder surgery Posada underwent last year, most 37-year-old catchers are going to carry heavy risk. With three years left on the big contract he signed last year, the Yanks really had no choice but to shut him down so the rotator cuff and labrum damage in his shoulder could be fixed. He can hit, but can he throw? Posada just started catching Grapefruit League games; keep an eye on how his arm responds heading into April.

LF Johnny Damon: Red light First of all, it's only fair to recognize Damon for being one of the game's true iron men over the last decade. That said, once this type of player starts hitting the DL, they usually don't stop, so Damon's various ailments in recent seasons raise a red flag. He was able to adjust well last year, and he seems comfortable at the 130-140 game level. Losing time at DH will hurt him, but expect the Yankees to find creative ways to give him extra rest during the season.

DH Hideki Matsui: Red light He's 35 and had two of his last three seasons wrecked by injuries, but at least he can take over as the team's full-time DH, right? This is another example of what I mentioned above with Damon. Matsui played in almost 1,800 consecutive games between Japan and the US before his broken wrist in 2006. Since then it's been one injury after another, including operations on both knees. I mentioned earlier that he may be slightly undervalued, but we're talking about a guy whose knees may not allow him to play in the field again, so make sure you understand the risks.

SP A.J. Burnett: Red light Burnett is risk-defined. He's yet to put together back-to-back healthy seasons, though he does seem to have learned how to work around his injuries, as he came back from multiple ailments and pitched well during his time in Toronto. He'll have to do that and then some to justify his new contract in New York.

SP Andy Pettitte: Red light He admitted that he should have gone on the DL at the end of last season due to soreness in his throwing shoulder. In a year where he came clean on HGH use, perhaps he was trying to prove that he could make it through the season on his own. You do have to take his use into account when assessing his risk-especially if his past elbow problems flare back up and HGH is no longer an option.

CL Mariano Rivera: Red light It's the same story with Rivera. Every year, he's rated red, has a few weeks where he gets sore and needs time off, and then comes back and dominates. He did it last year despite pain in his shoulder, and once again, he did it very well.

SS Derek Jeter: Yellow light Age is definitely catching up with the Captain. Most notably, it's affecting his ability to heal, as a few small injuries lingered longer than normal last year. He'll turn 35 in June, and the fact that he isn't red speaks to his durability, but his numbers and at-bats in '08 were as low as they've been since his injury-plagued 2003 season.

RF Xavier Nady: Yellow light Here's a case where doing the noble thing may not always be the right thing. Nady's been plagued by minor injuries throughout his career, and he's shown a tendency to play through them. That's great, but unfortunately those injuries have really affected his performance and led to stretches of sub-replacement-level play. Part of that stemmed from his constant fight for regular playing time earlier in his career. With the likes of Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner on the roster in New York, he'll be able to get days off if he needs them.

SP Chien-Ming Wang: Yellow light As they did with Matsui, the Yankees made the right call by not rushing Wang back into action last year. As a result, he's had plenty of time to rehab his foot, and he looks fine so far this spring. There's always the risk of recurrence with a serious injury like this, and that's what makes him yellow for now, but more and more athletes are making successful returns from this type of injury.

SP Joba Chamberlain: Yellow light See today's Big Question.

RP Damaso Marte: Yellow light Age, an accumulation of minor injuries, and a heavy workload combine to make Marte a bit of a risk. He's already dealt with tight hamstrings, and now has some inflammation in his left shoulder and the left side of his chest this spring.

1B Mark Teixeira Green light

2B Robinson Cano: Green light He underwent an MRI on his (right) throwing shoulder earlier this week after being diagnosed with tendonitis, but the imaging looked fine. Since the hamstring injury in '06, he's been a very durable player. He's hoping that a more rigorous off-season program will help him to rebound from a disappointing '08 during which his desire and conditioning were both called into question by Joe Girardi.

3B Alex Rodriguez: Green light Injuries can happen to even the least risky of players. The hip problem was undervalued by the system since he played through it, leaving him green when we ran the rankings in late January. He's had the 'hybrid' surgery now, and while he'll miss some time at the beginning of the season, there are no comps at all for how he'll come back, or even when. The prognosis is solid, and don't worry-UTK will be full of Rodriguez news until he returns to action. The interesting thing here is that PECOTA catches a comparison of Rodriguez and Henry Aaron, who had a "down" season at a similar age. (Anyone remember why?) One last thing to keep in mind, since we've discussed it already, is the "iron man syndrome" we hinted at with Damon and Matsui; Rodriguez hit the DL last year with a bad quad, and now he'll begin this season on the DL with the hip. Will this be the new norm for him? We'll learn a lot in '09.

CF Melky Cabrera Green light

SP CC Sabathia: Green light Yeah, there's still the same old concern over his immense workload and his equally immense size, but there's been no evidence that either has been slowing him down. Until that happens, he stays green.

Brad Wochomurka is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Brad's other articles. You can contact Brad by clicking here

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