Even with all their "ducks in a row" for the moment, there are still questions surrounding the team. Many things will have to go right in order for the Yankees to have a succesful season. Post season play is no longer as sure a bet for this team as it has been in the past; with the new wildcard rule in place, the Yankees, like any other team, can easily find themselves being eliminated after only one game in the playoffs. So securing the AL East is essential. In order for that to happen, here are five things that the Yankees should look for this year:
A Healthy A-Rod - It was said many times this offseason, but is still worth mentioning: A-Rod must have a stellar 2012 season. Meaning, he has to be available for at least 130 games (by my estimate), and he needs to be hitting in the ballpark of .285 or better. His SLG numbers have continuously dropped since the .645 in 2007; he's normally teetered between .550 and .600 for his career, and if he truly is healthy, I'd expect him to slug around that mark again. What I noticed during Spring Training was A-Rod's ability to make full turns with his swing, which he had not been able to do very well since the hip surgery in '09. With that improved, he should be able to increase the number of hits on balls pitched inside.
Increased Numbers for Gardy - With the stellar numbers Brett Gardner put up in 2010 (.277/.345/.369), it is now expected of him to take those numbers to the next level. Adding the bunt to compliment his speed should allow Gardy hit above his watermark of .277, and increase his on-base numbers as well. If he can get on base more and raise his stolen base numbers, runs scored for the team overall could improve by a number serviceable enough to put the Yankees in a position to win more games.
A Full Season in the Rotation for Hughes - Phil Hughes needs to pitch well enough to remain in the rotation for a full season. It's that simple. He looked great this Spring and has improved not only the speed on his fastball, but the movement on his changeup. Health has been the biggest issue for Hughes thus far, so like A-Rod, he must do whatever he has to to keep himself from any stints on the disabled list. If he can do that, he can give the Yankees at least 18 wins again this year.
Follow Rasheeda Cooper on twitter: @ra_cooper