Yanks Need to Address Pitching
Pitching will need to be addresed through a very thin market for impact performers on the mound. Addressing the team's 2 through 5 positions on the mound is a task still needing to be completed. The pitching staff is the greatest obstacle for the Yankees heading into 2017. And it’s a problem from the top to the back half of the starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka will take the number one spot but he also has an opt-out after this season; potentially setting up a 2018 search for an ace starting pitcher.
Who's after the ace?
Behind Tanaka, a toss-up between the aging CC Sabathia and the unpredictable Michael Pineda will need to be sorted out. When the Yankees acquired the 6’7’’ Pineda from the Mariners four years ago, he was coming off a very good rookie season, but at 22 lacked experience and a dependable changeup. Injuries kept him from throwing a big league pitch between 2011 and 2014. When he came back, Pineda made an effort to improve the changeup. He threw it just 256 times in 2016 making him more of a two pitch starter.
That second pitch showed to be a middle-middle fastball. In hitter friendly Yankee Stadium, that ball gets crushed. Pineda had an E.R.A. of 21.60 in first innings at home last season. He ended up allowing at least one homerun per inning pitched. There are flashes of hope with Pineda. He led the American League with 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings while only waking 53 batters along the way.
Given the lingering upside of Pineda a serviceable CC Sabathia could end up with the ball in the number three position by the end of the season. At 36, he’s the oldest player and in the final year of his contract. No one will be surprised if this is Sabathia's last year in New York, or in the majors for that matter. He did manage to go 9-12 with a 3.91 ERA in 30 starts this past season. It was the lefthander’s lowest ERA since 2012. Sabathia's experience is important to this very young team. Even when he's not on the mound, vetran leadership is slim, making him a valuable piece to the 2017 puzzle.
Rounding out the Starters
The pressure will be on young right hander Luis Severino. In 2016 he went 0-8 with an 8.50 ERA in 11 starts. Brian Cashman has officially said that it’s rotation or Triple-A for the soon to be 23-year-old.
“If you evaluate his entire pro career, last year is the abnormality,” the GM said. “If you turn the clock back and don’t include those last six months, then he was one of the high-end projected starters in the game, with production to boot, in a pennant race."
If Luis Cessa doesn’t get elevated as the 5th starter, some combination of Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, and possibly Warren will fill out the back of the rotation. Cashman has said he'd like to upgrade the rotation, but given how much he values this group of prospects and how light the market is, the Yankees are going to have to rely on their internal candidates for at least through spring training.
Do the Yankees have the starting pitchers to make the 2017 playoffs? Let us know what you think in the comments!