The New York Yankees’ pitching situation in 2017 is complicated by their failure to sign a new starting pitcher in the off-season.
Last year, they had Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova to add to their supposedly “big three” of Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda. Now Eovaldi is injured and has signed for Tampa should he return to the Major League level and Nova was given away very cheaply to Pittsburgh (where he has performed well). Of the three write-ins, Sabathia is stumbling towards the end of his career and Pineda was hideously inconsistent last season. Tanaka, if he can stay free of injury, is a true ace but this only points up what is the real weakness of the Yankees’ roster.
So if we were Joe Girardi or Brian Cashman what would we do now that the chance to add an experienced arm to the rotation has seemingly passed? Well, I guess pretty the same as they are trying to do – get someone who is a better fit for the bullpen to convince them that they can carry the bigger weight.
The obvious choice is Luis Severino who was horrible as a starter last year but an accomplished reliever. His problem is finding a third pitch which will baffle the hitters at a major league level for more than one or two innings. On the evidence of Spring Training, can he turn the trend around? Frankly, I don’t think so.
Next, consideration must be given to Adam Warren in his second stint in the pinstripes. Warren is a very good pitcher who will give a good number of innings but I don’t seem him being more than a number five starter. Frankly, he is better suited to long relief.
Bryan Mitchell was going to break camp in the rotation last year and then injured himself and missed most of the season. Given the lack of options, I think he could be one of the Yankees most-likely-to-succeeds but it does seem that confidence in him amongst the staff has diminished since this time last year.
Two other contenders, Luis Cessa and Chad Green have not fared well in the Spring games and look destined to start the season at Triple-A Scranton. This might not be disastrous for them as the Yankees don’t need a fifth starter until the 16th of April at the end of their series against the Cardinals. A good start at the Railriders could change a whole lot before then.
The Yankees are likely to carry 11 or 12 pitchers to start the season. if we assume 11, with a 5th starter to join the team later then we can start to join the dots by looking at the bullpen. Three members of the bullpen are definitely going to be there: Aroldis Chapman; Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard.
That leaves us looking for four – two of which may come from the potential starters. There is a range of possibles:
- Ben Heller
- Jonathan Holder
- Tommy Layne
- Chasen Shreve
look like the major candidates – two lefties, two righties. Chasen Shreve has been the most inconsistent of the four but is also one of the left-handers.
If I had my selection, I would go for Mitchell (a left-hander) as the fourth starter and give Adam Warren the long relief role. The question is whether the Yankees are determined to make a starter of Severino. If so, as it appears, I would let him take the first days at Triple-A and get some more pitching under his belt and then let him come up as the fifth starter in time to face the Cardinals. This would mean that the Yankees would retain Heller, Holder and Layne with Shreve being available to call up at a later date.
The Yankees in Spring Training have impressed me but they desperately need to settle the question marks over their rotation if they want to build on that success.