Yankees 2004 Outlook, Part 2

With the offseason well under way, some changes are likely going to be made to the Yankees in the next few months. While the 2003 season is a nice memory, it's time to start looking forward to next season. With that, I bring you the Yankees 2004 Outlook. Part two will deal with the outfielders.

David Dellucci:
The outfielder isn't under contract for next season, but he has stated his desire to come back to the Yankees. Dellucci isn't a starter by anyone's definition, but he could fill the role of defensive replacement/pinch runner quite well with his speed. If the Yankees want, they could bring Dellucci back in the same capacity that Charles Gipson and Chris Latham attempted to fill earlier in 2003.
Projected Stats:* .240, 3 HR, 10 RBI, 20 R, 10 SB

Karim Garcia:
Garcia is also not under contract with anyone for the 2004 season. As a free agent, he offers a cheap left-handed bat that could be an everyday outfielder for some clubs. Chances are that he won't re-sign with the Yankees after all of the incidents with Boston during the playoffs. Additionally, the Yanks are expected to sign a big free-agent bat to play right field, and with Rivera in the mix, Garcia would be a fifth outfielder. It's very unlikely he'll be back in pinstripes in 2004.
Projected Stats:* .265, 20 HR, 80 RBI, 80 R, 2 SB

Hideki Matsui:
Matsui's overall numbers should improve in 2004 as he gets more used to American baseball. He made the transition well this season, but his power numbers weren't at all close to what they were in Japan. A slight increase in his doubles and/or homeruns is expected as he gets more comfortable with his surroundings and opposing pitchers. Matsui also might be forced to change positions next season to either centerfield or left. The interesting thing is that Matsui hit .347 and his slugging percentage jumped 170 points while playing center instead of left. Matsui was a centerfielder in Japan, and his defense is more than adequate to play there. With Bernie aging slightly less than gracefully, Matsui in center is a good possibility.
Projected Stats: .300, 25 HR, 115 RBI, 100 R, 4 SB

Juan Rivera:
With the Yankees expected to sign a big free agent outfielder (such as Gary Sheffield or Vladimir Guerrero), Rivera will probably be the odd man out again. As a fourth outfielder Rivera would be very useful, as he has posted decent power numbers in his limited at bats. But Rivera is more likely to be traded to a team in need of a starting outfielder. In the hectic world of the Yankees, there unfortunately isn't time to bring along slowly developing prospects like Rivera. The outfielder still has a bright career ahead of him, but it doesn't look like it will be as a Yankee.
Projected Stats:* .260, 12 HR, 40 RBI, 46 R, 5 SB

Ruben Sierra:
Sierra is also without a contract for 2004, but could return to the Yankees in the same role that he fulfilled so well this season. It was no secret that Joe Torre enjoyed having the switch-hitter as a weapon off the bench. Sierra had 28 pinch-hit appearances in 2003, with seven hits and two walks while striking out just twice. If the Yankees can sign him cheap and make it clear what his role will be, Sierra could be just as good for them next season.
Projected Stats:* .270, 10 HR, 40 RBI, 35 R, 0 SB

Bernie Williams: Bernie's 2004 will depend almost entirely upon his health. If he somehow returns to full health, a return to his normal numbers can be expected. But unfortunately, this can't be counted on. It's more likely that Bernie's knee will become a chronic problem, limiting his range in the field (more than likely pushing him to left field), his speed on the bases and his power at the plate. If the Yankees overhaul their lineup (like they should), Bernie could be dropped lower than his usual third or fourth slot so that Matsui and Jorge Posada can occupy the cleanup and/or fifth slots.
Projected Stats:* .295, 19 HR, 90 RBI, 100 R, 5 SB

*- Projected Stats assume they return to the Yankees

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