Last time, we took a look at the Yankees on offense. This time, we’re going to look at the guys that everyone says actually win the championships; the pitchers. I’ll break down the rotation and bullpen probables and analyze how good, or bad, I think the Yankees can be on the hill.
Who Are the Fab Five?
Despite what some bloggers and media people are saying, I don’t think the Yankees should go with a six man rotation. I think they should stick to the traditional five guys, and use a couple of the extra pieces as bullpen or AAA rotation depth. We know who the first four guys will be in the rotation anyway, so let’s go over those guys first.
The new kid in town is Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka, whom the Yankees signed to a seven year $155MM deal last month. Tanaka is being touted in Spring Training as the real deal, with one of the nastier splitters a lot of these guys have seen. That being said, it’s Spring Training, so let’s relax. I think Tanaka will definitely go through an adjustment period. He’ll be a solid number 2 or 3 for the Yankees, but I think he’ll do his real damage in years 2-7 of the deal. He’s only 25 years old, and I hope the Yankees keep him around for a long time.
We are all very familiar with the other three guys that are etched into the rotation. CC Sabathia came to camp having lost a significant amount of weight and feeling healthy and strong (seriously, have you seen him?). I hope that this new found strength and conditioning translate to a big bounce back year for the lefty. While he might never be the CC from 2009 again, I think there’s plenty of reason to have hope that he’ll be a much better pitcher than he was in 2013, when everyone pretty much gave up on him. It’s going to come down to velocity, and if he has it or can adjust to pitch without it, so we’ll be watching CC very closely this spring.
Hiroki Kuroda is next. Kuroda returns for his third season in pinstripes (and road grays too), and his first two have, thus far, been spectacular. Unfortunately for him, he has run out of gas towards the end of the season, so the Yankees might want to try limit his workloads early on in the year. Maybe if they can skip him a start or two, or limit him to six innings when they can, his 39 year old body will hold up better. I don’t think his advanced age makes him an injury risk, but definitely a risk to be fatigued. Last year, he was the only guy pitching well at times, so the Yankees really had to lean on him. Hopefully they can afford to keep him a little more rested in 2014.
Ivan Nova steps in as the fourth starter, and the question mark he brings to the table is that you really don’t know how he’s going to be from year to year. In 2011, he was one of the better young pitchers in the league, specially in the second half. In 2012, he was terrible, and in 2013 he rebounded from first half troubles to post the lowest ERA on the team (3.10). Is he going to finally put it all together and be that dominant young stud in 2014, or is he going to fart away yet another opportunity with a terrible first half? I legitimately do not know, but he has the talent and skill set to do the job, so here’s hoping he does.
We covered the fifth starter role earlier this week. I think everyone in the Yankees organization is hoping that Pineda finally steps up and they get that dominant top of the rotation talent they’ve been waiting for for two years, which is why they gave him the job. Since Jesus Montero showed up to camp 40 lbs overweight a, the Yankees still have a legitimate chance to win this trade! Come on Michael!
I’ll be a little more brief with the bullpen preview, but mostly because nobody knows who is actually going to be in the bullpen this year. We know who won’t be there. Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain have followed the money to Colorado and Detroit, respectively. Most importantly, the Yankees will be without the best closer in the history of the game for the first time in almost 20 years. That can be scary, but I think David Robertson can step right in and get the job done. He learned under the best possible teacher for the last six years, so here’s hoping he picked up a thing or two. The other known pieces of the bullpen are Matt Thornton, whom they Yankees signed to be the new LOOGY, and Shawn Kelley, who came almost out of nowhere to put up impressive strikeout numbers (12 K/9) last year.
The rest is kind of up for grabs. You have to imagine that David Phelps and Adam Warren will make the bullpen if they don’t win the fifth starter job (Joe Girardi has basically said as much anyway), but nobody knows exactly in what role. Warren was the long man last year, and Phelps has pitched everywhere from the rotation to the middle innings. That probably leaves two open spots in the bullpen. Do the Yankees go with Cesar Cabral as a second lefty? Did Preston Claiborne do enough in the first half of his rookie year to make the Yankees forget his awful second half (and spring training)? Can a guy like Jose Ramirez come out of nowhere to make the team? What about Dellin Betances? He dominated out of the bullpen last year after finally failing out of the rotation. Could he step up to a late inning role? How about a non-roster invitee like Yoshinori Tateyama? Could he make the team? The answer to all of these questions is yes. The Yankees bullpen is pretty wide open, and anything could happen. There might be some growing pains in April, but I think the talent is there to eventually form a solid pen.
At the end of the day, pitching wins championships. While the Yankees have a lot of question marks, the talent level of the pitchers they have ready to go in 2014 cannot be denied. Some guys have to bounce back, others have to step up, and Masahiro Tanaka has to show us all that he can adjust to life in the big leagues, but I’m pretty excited to watch it all come together.
You can’t go wrong with Kuroda or Tanaka, even if the latter hasn’t thrown a major league pitch yet. Sabathia and Nova are wild cards. Sabathia has been throwing in the high 80s this Spring, but everyone seems to think he can be good anyway. He’s also in the best shape of his life, which helps. Nova, meanwhile, has been among the best pitchers in the division at times, and among the worst at others. He’s worth a later round pick, but don’t be shocked if he falters. Actually, don’t be surprised if he wins the Cy Young either. I have no idea what he’ll do. David Robertson is also a must have, at least until the pressure gets to him and he blows everything (as many would have you believe will happen). There might be some other sleepers in there though…
Featured image courtesy of: Fansided
- http://thebiglead.com/2014/02/21/fat-jesus-montero-says-after-winter-ball-all-i-did-was-eat/ (back)
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