With Pitchers and Catchers reporting February 13 and Position players reporting February 18, spring training for the New York Yankees is right around the corner. With this young roster, there are plenty of questions for this team as we approach the season.
Clearly, the Yankees have a lot of question marks in the rotation heading into the season. With Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia being the only locks for the rotation, what two other pitchers are going to step up and take a hold of those fourth and fifth spots. As of now, the other five pitchers that will be battling for those two spots are Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino, Adam Warren and Chad Green.
In my opinion, the two that should be favorites heading into spring training are Severino and Cessa.
Severino was very good in 2015 after he was called up in August and went on to a 5-3 record with a 2.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 56 strikeouts in 11 starts and 62.1 innings pitched, and he was slated to be a solid rotation piece for the Yankees going forward. Going into 2016, people expected a big jump from Severino but his first start was shaky and it did not get any better from there, in his seventh start, with a 7.46 ERA in 35 innings, Severino pointed to his elbow as Yankees trainer Steve Donohue came out for a visit. Injury or no injury, Severino took a big step back from his promising 2015 season and was likely to be sent down to AAA or the bullpen even if he didn’t get injured. After returning from a triceps injury, Severino made 10 starts in the minors, and was above average. Severino was called back up to join the bullpen and was electric, and the Yankees gave him another chance, which did not go well at all, and he was once again sent down to AAA. After another stint as a reliever, the season came to an end, and coming into this year, I believe Severino should be a favorite for one of the open rotation spots after an offseason working with Pedro Martinez on his mechanics.
As for the other rotation spot, I believe Luis Cessa should be in that spot. Cessa was the best of the bunch in 2016, and owns a 3.80 ERA in 34 innings as a starter. He doesn’t strike many batters out, but he flashes a solid four pitch mix that is headlined by a mid-to-upper 90s fastball, and his secondary pitches complement his fastball very well. I believe Cessa has shown enough as a starter to win the fifth spot in the rotation heading into 2017.
Heading into 2017, it was pretty set that the Yankees were going to start the year with Greg Bird at first, with Tyler Austin and Matt Holliday being sprinkled in when Bird needed a day off. Then the Yankees signed Chris Carter to a one-year, $3 mil contract and that may very well change a lot of things. Carter led the NL last season with 41 HRs, but also bat .222, and struck out 206 times. I don’t believe the Yankees signed Carter to be the everyday first baseman, but I believe he was signed just in case Bird cannot return to his 2015 form, and Tyler Austin is ineffective. They are unable to rely too heavily on 37 year old Matt Holliday as more than a DH and an occasionally playing the field. Also with the signing of Carter, it gives the Yankees some flexibility with DH, both Carter and Holiday will play DH this season and this signing gives the Yankees plenty of puzzle pieces to move around to assure that all the players stay rested and healthy.
The Young Guys
The Yankees went through a “Youth Movement” last season after trading Andrew Miller to the Indians for OF Clint Frazier, LHP Justus Sheffield, and RHPs Ben Heller and J.P Feyereisen. Also, the Yankees traded Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for RHP Adam Warren, OFs Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford and current top prospect shortstop Gleyber Torres. After trading those 2 stud relief pitchers for a group of possible young future good players, the Yankees turned from a team with a subpar farm system and a lot of veterans to a very young team with a very promising future. Coming into 2017, the Yankees have 5 starters that are under age 27 in Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Starlin Castro, Didi Gregorius, and Aaron Judge.
The Yankees could go through some growing pains while all these young guys learn what it is to play in the majors but with guys this young, with this much talent, the future is looking very bright for the Yankees.