As we count down to Opening Day, Wallace Matthews and Andrew Marchand will answer 14 for '14 -- the top 14 questions facing the 2014 New York Yankees. The series will run until the eve of the first pitch between the Yankees and Astros on Tuesday, April 1, and will end with both Matthews and Marchand making their predictions for the season.
Question: How much production will the Yankees receive from Kelly Johnson, etc.?
Andrew Marchand: The Yankees believe Johnson's lefty stroke is perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium. Johnson has been a 20-plus home run guy twice, most recently in 2011.
If he is healthy and some of the fly ball outs in other ballparks turn into long balls in the Bronx, then Johnson may be able to hit 25-plus homers. In 2013, he had 16 in 418 at-bats. So to think he could be a 25-homer guy in 2014 seems pretty reasonable.
Johnson is a .253 career hitter. If he can stay healthy, a .253 season with 25 homers and 75 RBIs seems possible. His defense is not expected to be great, considering he never played third base in the majors before his 16 games in 2013 for the Rays. But really, the man whose name shall not be spoken will turn 39 and has been injury-prone in recent years.
If Alex Rodriguez (OK, so we said it) were not suspended for the entire season, how much better would he be than Johnson? Probably not much, since Rodriguez has been hurt each of the past three years as his production declined.
Wallace Matthews: The answer, of course, is you don't replace A-Rod, because he really is one of a kind, and I'm not sure you even want to. As Andrew points out, Johnson is capable of matching Alex's recent numbers with the help of the short Yankee Stadium right-field porch, and with the upgrades to the offense the Yankees made in the offseason, his bat may not be missed all that much.
But where the Yankees will miss A-Rod is on the field. His range may not have been great anymore, but he was a sure-handed third baseman with a rifle for an arm. Johnson was a pretty capable second baseman, but at third, he is certainly a work in progress. His two errors Tuesday night, especially the second on a routine grounder that went between his legs, are something we may see a lot more of this season than we did during the A-Rod era. And his backup? Eduardo Nunez.
This is one area that still may be attended to, either by a trade or the signing of some player released at the end of training camp, a la Lyle Overbay last season.