Let’s take a look ahead at the New York Yankees 2017 starting rotation going into Spring Training (44 days until pitchers and catcher report!). The Yanks did very little during the Winter Meetings in December. They brought back Aroldis Chapman and signed former Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday to be the team’s primary DH.
Brian Cashman hasn’t added any starting pitchers as of this writing, although there has been much noise about the potential of trading for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox (NO THANK YOU).
Let’s take a look at who the Yankees currently have (in no particular order):
– CC Sabathia – Don’t let CC’s win-loss record of 9-12 fool you. Sabathia had a better year than most anyone would have predicted, posting a respectable ERA of 3.91 and K’ed 152 in 179.2 innings. Sure, he had a few clunkers like any 36 year old starter does, but his overall stuff was crisper, and his change-up has become one of his best out-pitches. It’s hard to tell what to expect from CC in 2017, but the Yankees would gladly take a repeat of his 2016 season.
– Masahiro Tanaka – Like Sabathia, the 2017 Yankees would be happy with a repeat of Tanaka’s 2016 season. He finished with a record of 14-4, an ERA of 3.07 and a WHIP of 1.07. Sounds good, right? It is good, but Tanaka is pretty streaky. He allowed 2 earned runs or less in his first six starts. In his 2 starts following, his ERA shot up from 2.29 to 3.51. He pitched very well down the stretch in September, helping a much younger 2nd half Yankees team stay in the playoff hunt for the Wild Card. Tanaka can opt-out of his contract after the 2017 season. It will be interesting to see whether he will end up being traded by the July 31st trade-deadline if it appears he will exercise this opt-out clause.
– Micheal Pineda – Enigma. That’s the best way to describe Pineda. He has probably the best stuff in the Yankees current rotation, yet he still hasn’t found a way to be consistent with it. At the end of May, his record and ERA stood at 2-6, 6.92. He finished out the season 6-12 and “improved” the ERA to 4.82. His stuff has always been there, and he struck-out 207 in only 175.2 innings. He seems to lose concentration after getting 2 outs and that’s where a lot of the damage happened in 2016. 2017 will be a make or break season for Pineda.
– Luis Severino – After debuting in ’15 and seemingly setting Yankees Universe on fire, Severino began 2016 with a thud. In mid-May, his record sat at 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA when Brian Cashman mercifully sent him down to Triple-A Scranton. He regained his stuff and confidence and was recalled at the end of July, after Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman were traded. Severino made three relief appearances and dominated until he made 2 starts in August because injuries necessitated. He got lit up in those two starts and went back to the pen for the rest of ’16, save two more starts in the last week of the season. Sevy may be best suited for the bullpen, with his high-octane heat and nasty slider. He won’t make it as a starter with just two good pitches and a very mediocre change that he continually shakes off when his catcher calls for it.
– Luis Cessa – The 24 year old rookie from Mexico made his major league debut with the Yankees in April and shuttled back and forth between New York and Triple-A Scranton a few times until he was called up in August to stay for the remainder of the 2016 season. He went into the starting rotation in mid-August and made nine starts, with mixed results. Cessa won his first two starts in August and lost his final four decisions in September. I’m sure he will get a chance to make manager Joe Girardi’s starting rotation right out of spring training.
– Bryan Mitchell – Mitchell had been slated to make the Yankees team out of spring training in 2016 before suffering a grade three turf toe and fractured sesamoid bone in his foot at the tail end of the Grapefruit League. After he recovered, Mitchell returned to make five starts in September with uneven results. Over his last two starts of 2016, he allowed only 1 earned run over 13 innings. Like Cessa, Mitchell will get a crack at making the Yankees opening day roster as a starter.
– Adam Warren – Warren came back to the Yankees just before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline after he was jettisoned to the Cubs over the previous winter in the Starlin Castro deal. Adam didn’t have the easiest time in the Windy City, but in fairness to him, Joe Maddon couldn’t seem to settle on how to use him. In mid-June, Warren was sent to the Cubs’ Triple-A team in Iowa to get stretched out to be a starter only to return and make one start and then went back to the pen where hitters teed-off on him. After Adam was traded back to New York, he almost immediately returned to his usual reliable self. There’s no place like home. It was like he never left. Warren may get an opportunity to make the rotation, but he seems to do well in his place in the Yankees bullpen.