Restoring the rosters: No. 5 – New York Yankees

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This is part of a series of articles examining what every team’s roster would look like if given only the players it originally signed. I’m compiling the rosters, ranking them and presenting them in a countdown from Nos. 30 to 1.
No. 30 – Cincinnati
No. 29 – Kansas City
No. 28 – San Diego
No. 27 – Milwaukee
No. 26 – Baltimore
No. 25 – Chicago (AL)
No. 24 – Chicago (NL)
No. 23 – Pittsburgh
No. 22 – Detroit
No. 21 – Tampa Bay
No. 20 – New York (NL)
No. 19 – Houston
No. 18 – Oakland
No. 17 – St. Louis
No. 16 – Florida
No. 15 – San Francisco
No. 14 – Texas
No. 13 – Cleveland
No. 12 – Minnesota
No. 11 – Arizona
No. 10 – Los Angeles (AL)
No. 9 – Toronto
No. 8 – Boston
No. 7 – Colorado
No. 6 – Montreal/Washington
Things couldn’t have gone any differently for the franchises over the last 15 years, but in these rankings, the Yankees follow the Nationals and come in at No. 5.
Rotation
Andy Pettitte
Joba Chamberlain
Phil Hughes
Chien-Ming Wang
Jose Contreras
Bullpen
Mariano Rivera
Russ Springer
Phil Coke
Tyler Clippard
Manny Acosta
David Robertson
Jeff Karstens
The staff definitely lacks depth, but there’s a reliable veteran to top the rotation, three very good arms behind him and then the greatest closer ever to finish it all off.
Of course, I am giving Chamberlain, Hughes and Wang quite a bit of credit here. Chamberlain and Hughes still haven’t proven much at all as starters, and Wang hasn’t resembled a major league pitcher since the first half of 2008. I’m pretty much rating them all as No. 3 starters for my purposes. Perhaps it’s a bit of reach, but the talent is obviously there for the youngsters to go beyond that and Wang may yet get back to that level.
If he doesn’t, well, there’s always Kei Igawa.
Lineup
SS Derek Jeter
1B Nick Johnson
C Jorge Posada
DH Hideki Matsui
LF Alfonso Soriano
2B Robinson Cano
RF Juan Rivera
3B Mike Lowell
CF Melky Cabrera
Bench
INF Cristian Guzman
OF Brett Gardner
OF Marcus Thames
C Dioner Navarro
Now that’s a whole lot better. It’s still not quite as potent as the current Yankee lineup, but it ranks right up there with the top lineups in these rankings. There are plenty of lineup options with such a group, but I’ve chosen to concentrate the OBP at the top of the order and the run producers at the bottom. Soriano is the wild card. Fifth would seem to be the right spot for him if he rebounded to his 2008 performance. With the way he’s played this year, he belongs in the eighth or ninth spot.
Summary
The Yankees’ lofty rating could be considered a testament to an organization that has had one top-20 draft pick since 1993 (C.J. Henry, No. 17 in 2005), but there’s also a lot that needs to be owed to luck. The 39-year-old Rivera, the 35-year-old Jeter and the 38-year-old Posada are freaks. They’re as good or better now than they were 10 years ago, and that simply wasn’t supposed to happen. With Lowell, Matsui and even Springer also playing key roles, the Yankees are getting more value here from old players than any other team.
In this case, that’s enough to overcome the team’s late-90s, early-2000s dry spell as far as producing talent, particularly through the draft. Recent years have seen the farm system become more productive, and the team currently boasts one of the game’s very best prospects in Jesus Montero.

Royals pay tribute to late Yordano Ventura during spring training opener

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 12: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game on August 12, 2016 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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The Royals honored former pitcher Yordano Ventura prior to their first Cactus League game against the Rangers on Saturday. Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic in late January.

Rangers’ third baseman Adrian Beltre and center fielder Carlos Gomez paid their respects to the pitcher with a floral arrangement that was laid on the mound. Both teams stood along the foul lines during a pregame video tribute that highlighted Ventura’s tenure with Kansas City. Following the game, Gomez spoke to the media about his relationship with Ventura, describing their frequent conversations during the season and commending the pitcher for having “the same passion that I had early in my career” (via WFAA.com’s Levi Weaver).

A plaque dedicated to the 25-year-old was also presented to club manager Ned Yost as a more permanent commemoration of Ventura’s contributions to the sport. Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star reports that the plaque will be mounted in the club’s spring training facilities alongside tributes to members of the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 playoff teams.

The full text of the plaque is below, via MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan:

A brother and a teammate, Yordano Ventura, passed away on the morning of January 22 in his native Dominican Republic, at the age of 25. He signed with the Royals as a 17-year-old, eventually making the big league team in 2013 as a 22-year-old. On most days, he could be found laughing and joking with his baseball family in the clubhouse. However, on days when he pitched, that smile was replaced by a quiet confidence and an intense fire, which he brought to the mound for every start. He had many highlights in his abbreviated career, not the least of which was throwing eight shutout innings in Game #6 of the 2014 World Series to force a Game #7 vs. San Francisco.

Gerrit Cole named Pirates’ Opening Day starter

BRADENTON, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Gerrit Cole #45 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a photograph during MLB spring training photo day on February 19, 2017 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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Right-hander Gerrit Cole is set to take the mound for the Pirates on Opening Day, according to a team announcement on Saturday. It’s a spot that was most recently occupied by former Pirate Francisco Liriano, who made three consecutive Opening Day starts for the club before getting dealt to the Blue Jays last August.

The 26-year-old produced career-worst numbers during his fourth run with the Pirates in 2016, due in large part to bouts of inflammation in his right elbow. He finished the year with a 3.88 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 7.6 SO/9 over 116 innings before getting shut down in September to avoid further injury to his elbow. When healthy, however, Cole has been lights-out for the Pirates. Prior to his injury-laden campaign last year, he touted a career 3.07 ERA, 2.2 BB/9, 8.5 SO/9 and cumulative 10.2 fWAR from 2013 through 2015.

Cole will go toe-to-toe with the Red Sox during Boston’s home opener on Monday, April 3. Right-hander Jameson Taillon is scheduled to make the second start of the year, while fellow righty Ivan Nova will cover the Pirates’ home opener against the Braves on April 7. The Pirates’ third and fifth starters have yet to be announced.