Last year, the New York Yankees fell short in the playoffs, losing to the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship. With a new season approaching and a couple new players to the team, who needs to have a good season for the Yankees to see success?
1. CC Sabathia: With the losses of Andy Pettitte and Javier Vasquez from the Yankees' starting rotation, a strong starter at the front-end of a shaky rotation is important. The Yankees will need a very strong year from Sabathia in order to make the playoffs. Sabathia will be followed in the rotation by an inconsistant AJ Burnett, still unproven Phil Hughes, an young Ivan Nova and an aging Freddy Garcia. A win at the top of the rotation is important.
Yankees fans shouldn't worry though, because Sabathia is a proven number one starter. Sabathia has put together 19 and 21 win seasons since coming to the Yankees, including a career best 21-7 last season.
2. Joba Chamberlain: While a good season by Sabathia is needed, the Yankees will need support from the bullpen to help out the young and shaky starters. That's where Joba Chamberlain comes in. Joba had a rough 2010 season and it didn't get much better when he came to training camp packing on more pounds. The Yankees are rolling out one of the top bullpens in the major leagues this season, but Joba will be the head of the middle relief guys inbetween the starters who get the ball to Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera.
If you just look at his last two seasons there isn't a ton of hope for Joba Chamberlain. Yankees fans remember the Joba of 2007 though, and if that Joba shows up, or one who is better than last year, the Yankees' bullpen will be in good shape.
3. Mariano Rivera: While Yankees fans won't sweat at all over this one, Mariano Rivera can't blow many saves this season. The AL East should be a very close race at the top between the Yankees and the Red Sox, with the Rays coming up behind them. Even with five blown saves last season, there's no need for most to worry about the seemingly never aging closer who hasn't declined much over his career. Nevertheless, a good year by Mariano is important for the Yankees.
4. The outfield: The number four important player to success isn't just one player, but in particular three. Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher. Gardner, who got his first taste of serious action last year will now be the leadoff man as Derek Jeter moves down to second. The speedy outfielder will need to get on base which will lead to him stealing bases and more runs for the Yankees. Granderson, who had a down season last year will look for a rebound while Nick Swisher is coming off one of the best years of his career. Along with batting, all three of these men are good outfielders. It will be important for at least one of these men to have a good season.
5: Derek Jeter: Coming off one of his worst seasons, many say that Derek Jeter is done and while many may think with all the hitting the Yankees have that one player in the lineup won't make a difference. Jeter though, is important as Gardner is at the top of the lineup. It will also be important for Jeter to still be able to play at shortstop efficiently as he ages.
While I don't think that his excellent fielding will ever be back, I do think that his hitting will improve significantly this season.
Baseball is a team sport, but these five individuals are essential for a return to the playoffs for the New York Yankees.