The Yankee rotation has surprised early, but what lies on the horizon?

Well before the start of the 2017 season, the New York Yankees had many questions about their roster. Last season, a major strength of the Yankees was their bullpen. After some late season acquisitions (getting Adam Warren back, and trading for Tyler Clippard) the bullpen seemed to be rounding into form. After winning a World Series with the Cubs, Aroldis Chapman got his wish and resigned with the Yankees. The strength of this team remains the same, if a starter can get to the sixth or better yet the seventh inning, the game should be over. What about the rest of the team? The Yankees this season have a great mix of veteran talent, and youth. Unlike the last couple of seasons which have been tough to watch, through 13 games this team has a different buzz. Veterans such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Holliday and CC Sabathia are showing the kids what it takes to be in the majors, but you have to believe the kids are teaching the vets how to have fun and enjoy the game again. This is only a game, one ball, 25 men striving towards a common goal. What do you get with this combination? A team that is not just going through the motions, not content with anything less than 100%, this team never quits and constantly picks each other up.
Photo Credit: Paul J. Bereswill

Coming out of the gate the Yankees started 1-4. Experts were lauding, “the rotation is a mess,” and “the kids are not ready.”After the sluggish start to the season the Yankees have been able to rip off eight wins in a row. Granted, their schedule has not been that tedious, but this is the majors and a win is a win. The huge surprise thus far has been the play of the starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka has been up and down so far after a stellar spring training. Tanaka gave up seven runs in the season opener in just two and a two thirds innings. This had many fans screaming “tell him it is still spring training!” Since that awful opening start, Tanaka had a mediocre start in Baltimore giving up three runs in five innings but walking four batters. However, in his last start against a dangerous Cardinals lineup Tanaka gave up three runs in just over six innings, he gets his next chance to lower is 8.36 ERA on Wednesday against the White Sox.

The wildcard this season is Michael Pineda. The 28-year-old is in a contract year and is known for being inconsistent. After looking like a solid player in the trade from Seattle, Pineda impressed for 13 games with the Yankees back in 2014. Pineda went 5-5 with a 1.89 ERA. Since that time, Pineda has struggled to find the medium between his filthy pitches and staying out of trouble. In four seasons with the Yankees Pineda has a below average 25-28 record with a 4.07 ERA. Do not get me wrong, at times Pineda looks dominate. Against the Tampa Bay Rays, Pineda was flirting with one the game’s biggest feats, a perfect game. Usually after a solid outing Pineda will come out and give up some runs showing the inconsistency we have all come to expect, however this season Pineda has a 2-1 record so far with a 3.44 ERA. If Pineda can somehow just keep the ball in the park, and continue pounding the zone, he could be in for a stellar season when he needs it most.
Photo Credit: Bill Kostroun

At any rate let’s get to the big fella. CC Sabathia had an up and down 2016 season. After a 9-12 record with a 3.91 ERA, it looked as if Sabathia was at the end of his great career. Coming into this season, the last time that Sabathia was above .500 for the season was 2013. Having reinvented himself, and learning to pitch more to location and not just blowing past guys, Sabathia has enjoyed a 2-0 record with a 1.47 ERA. Truly, Sabathia has looked like the ace of the staff, and him being able to be in the ear of young, talented pitchers such as Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery has already made dividends. 

Montgomery has enjoyed a solid start to his career so far. The 6’6" 24-year-old is known as having a calm demeanor, and being cool under pressure. Being wise beyond his years has led Montgomery to a 1- 0 record with 4.22 ERA, but the location and control he has had over two games has the team and MLB opening their eyes. Severino is cut from the same cloth. A young 23-year-old Severino has all of the pitches needed to be a solid starter in the league. The beneficiary of solid offense has Severino sitting with a 1-0 record, and improving each day. Sometimes the young kids will need the offense to step up as they endure growing pains throughout the season.

What does this all mean? The Yankees have two vets that have the talent and are coming into form, and pitcher in his prime striving for consistency and two young kids just trying to survive. The real answer lies on how healthy this rotation can stay, and if the youngsters can continue to grow without hitting that wall, or struggling to the point where they need to be sent back down. The baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint, and if the Yankees are to survive they will need each player to step up and whether that means returning to form, or growing into something bigger, these Yankees have the ability to push the envelope and perhaps be a year or two ahead of schedule in terms of wins.

For the first time since the late 90's, the Yankees farm system is deep. Loaded with young talent many have wondered, should the Yankees deal some of this youth for an ace? The last ace to be dealt was Chris Sale, but there are a few potential options the Yankees will have available if the price is right, and if they are willing to part with some young talent. Not all of these names are aces, but are proven pitchers in their own right.

Lance Lynn, St Louis Cardinals: Lynn is coming off Tommy John surgery, but the Cardinals have started slow this season. If they find themselves looking up in the division they could be looking to deal the 29-year-old. In his last healthy season, Lynn pitched to 12 wins and a 3.03 ERA over 175 innings.
Photo Credit: Jeff Curry

Jeremy Hellickson, Philadelphia Phillies: A wildcard at 30, but with the Phillies most likely out of the race by the summer, Hellickson and his lifetime 3.86 ERA could be an asset in terms of eating innings should the Yankees need someone to do so. Hellickson has started strong this season posting a 2-0 record with a 1.59 ERA

Tyler Chatwood, Colorado Rockies: At 27 years, old Chatwood is an interesting idea. Having pitched in Colorado, his ERA might be somewhat inflated, and he has had two Tommy John surgeries, but he is in that resign/trade spot in his career. The Rockies have some young talent coming up, so this could be a player to keep an eye on.

Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox: Quintana is a player that the Yankees have been rumored around for some period of time now. Quintans is still under contract for three more seasons after this one, and at 28 he has yet to have any major injuries. The price has been known to be high for Quintana, and although he has struggled out of the gate this season with an 0-3 start, dare the Yankees trade a prized prospect for Quintana? Time will tell.
Photo Credit: AP
As always, the question if the Yankees decide to be sellers or buyers hinges on of they are healthy and in contention, or if the young kids hit a wall and the vets sustain injuries. There is plenty of talent out there and perhaps some pitching candidates that might surprisingly pop up. An Alex Cobb, Zach Grienke, or Justin Verlander even. But this time the Yankees are different. They have seen that you do not need to buy rings anymore, you don’t have to overpay everyone to get the best players, and then be stuck with those huge contracts while that player is on the decline. Young teams, with solid pitching and depth are winning. Having the right mix of youth and veteran leadership is key, as is getting hot at the ample time. The Yankees are most likely not looking for an over 30 pitcher to lead them to the playoffs, they are willing to be patient and so are the fans. Does that mean the Yankees will not jump if they think they can win a ring now? Perhaps not, but one thing is for sure: Great times are coming for the Yankees, and we all get to sit back and watch them grow.

Article by: Randy Hancock


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