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State of the organization: Rotation

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Jan 21, 2013 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Brian Cashman made his offseason priority crystal clear from the very beginning: Get the rotation under control. Cashman was aiming for short-term contracts, and so a couple of familiar faces fit nicely. Andy Pettitte re-signed, so did Hiroki Kuroda, and just like that the Yankees had a temporary rotation pieced together. But with Pettitte, Kuroda and Phil Hughes each approaching free agency, it’s anyone’s guess what the rotation might look like in 2014 and beyond. The answer might very well depend on the surgery recovery of two highly rated young pitchers.

CC Sabathia (signed through 2016)
Ivan Nova, David Phelps (arbitration eligible in 2014, 2016)
Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte (signed through 2013)
There’s a lot to like about this rotation. A lot to worry about too. What’s to like is, I think, fairly obvious. Sabathia is still in his early 30s, finished top five in Cy Young voting three of the past four years, and seems to have come through offseason surgery with no problem. Kuroda and Pettitte are each coming off strong seasons, Hughes is coming off a strong second half, and both Nova and Phelps — the fifth starter candidates — have shown spurts of being good big league starters. Of course, what’s to worry about is also fairly obvious. The long-term concerns are for another day — and, really, for other sections of this post — but the immediate concerns are about whether this group is reliable enough for a full season. Sabathia has built his reputation on durability and dependability, but he was on the disabled list twice last season, and despite another sub-3.40 ERA and another 200 innings, there were times when he was decidedly beatable last year. Kuroda is about to turn 38 and just pitched the most innings of his career, while Pettitte is about to turn 41 and hasn’t reached 130 innings since 2009. Hughes is still searching for consistency, and neither Nova nor Phelps is a sure thing.

On the verge
The rotation wild card is Michael Pineda. How’s the shoulder? How soon can he be back? And how fast is his fastball? There’s a reason the Yankees gave up Jesus Montero for this guy. Pineda had a strong rookie season in Seattle, and the Yankees believed there was room to grow. They were swapping prospect for prospect, and they got the prospect who got hurt. If Pineda can overcome a serious shoulder injury — not all pitchers can do that — there will be plenty of time to salvage value and add long-term rotation depth. In other words, a healthy Pineda would be huge in the Yankees attempt to cut payroll in 2014. For now, the depth comes largely from the duo of Nova and Phelps. One is likely to be the fifth starter and the other likely to be either a long man or a de facto sixth starter. The Triple-A rotation will feature Adam Warren (coming off a strong second half) and Brett Marshall (terrific sinker, strong Double-A season), either of whom could step into a big league role at any time. Vidal Nuno and Shaffer Hall might be in Triple-A too, but the additional wild card is Dellin Betances. Can he keep his mechanics and his location under control, or is he another Andrew Brackman?

Deeper in the system
Pineda, and Manny Banuelos were hurt, Betances was terrible, and just like that, the Yankees touted pitching depth vanished last season.  But there is still high-end talent in the system, it’s just — you guessed it — in the lower levels and a long way from being big league ready. Here are five names to know: Jose Campos never had surgery on his elbow and remains a significant prospect despite a lost year; Rafael DePaula is finally ready to pitch in the U.S. and has huge potential; Jose Ramirez’s big fastball finally produced big results in last year’s second half; first-round pick Ty Hensley has a high ceiling but only a high school track record; and Bryan Mitchell still wows scouts despite so-so Low-A numbers. Those five offer significant potential, but not much polish, and while it’s hard to believe all five will achieve a best-case scenario, they do give the Yankees some risk-reward depth. Recent 40-man addition Nik Turley might be a safer bet. The big lefty had a 2.89 ERA in in Tampa last year — and a 2.51 in Charleston the year before — and seems ticketed for Double-A. It’s also worth mentioning guys like Matt Tracy, Zach Nuding, Evan Rutckyj and Jordan Cote (and Gabe Encinas, and Corey Black, and Jairo Heredia, and… ) but it’s hard to dig too deep into everyone. There’s enough potential to wonder whether the Yankees minor league pitch depth might look significantly better at this time next year.

On the move
Several years ago, the Yankees moved lefty Mike Dunn out of the outfield and onto the mound where he developed into a big league reliever. But it’s extremely rare for a position player to suddenly become a starting pitcher. It’s also rare for a minor league reliever to suddenly convert to being a starter. The potential for a player to suddenly shift into a starting role is slim. The most significant change in the Yankees organizational rotation depth will likely come from Banuelos who is going to miss all of this season while he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. If he recovers quickly and fully, Banuelos could instantly resume his position as the Yankees pitching prospect best poised to make a quick impact at the big league level. Opening Day 2014 might be ambitious, but mid-season 2014 isn’t necessarily out of the question.

What to watch
Who gets the fifth starter spot should get the most immediate attention, along with a quick check of Sabathia’s elbow. The aging process of Kuroda and Pettitte will also get a lot of short-term attention. For both short-term and long-term impact, Hughes is fascinating. His performance this year might determine whether the Yankees want to bring him back, and how much they’ll have to pay to do so. In the bigger picture, the Yankees system is full of young starters who could develop toward one extreme or another. There’s a lot of high-end potential, but all of it comes with high risk and a long road of development. There’s plenty to watch.

Associated Press photo; headshots of Sabathia, Hughes, Pineda, Marshall, Campos, Ramirez and Banuelos





43 Responses to “State of the organization: Rotation”

  1. jacksquat January 21st, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    YF, I already stated that WAR is flawed. But no, I’m not going down the cherry picking road.

    randy l. January 21st, 2013 at 2:58 pm
    “The Orioles had a crazy good record in one run games, implying they had a lot of luck.”

    or they could get one run or prevent one run better than other teams do.

    all runs are not equal.

    Ask JF if you don’t believe me, but statistics do not support any bullpen or any factor of a team reliably producing a one run won/loss record like the O’s had. It was luck.

  2. Jerkface January 21st, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Orioles were extremely lucky for sure. And there are always exceptions to anything.

  3. austinmac January 21st, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    The lucky O’s sure gave my team everything it could handle.

  4. randy l. January 21st, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    one possibility is that the orioles were lucky.

    another possibility is that all runs are not equal and showalter could create one run or prevent one run better that say girardi.

    texas and baltimore had the same won loss record , but the rangers had a team WAR of 26.5 with the orioles having a team WAR of 15.3

    so is this the exception to the rule or did showalter have something to do with it ?

  5. randy l. January 21st, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    team WAR;players=0

  6. Jerkface January 21st, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    another possibility is that all runs are not equal and showalter could create one run or prevent one run better that say girardi.

    Well 1. he wasn’t able to perform the same feat of skill in other years, 2. it remains to be seen if that happens again (likely wont) 3. You are looking at offensive WAR only

  7. jacksquat January 21st, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I’d say managers and bullpens and possibly some other factors like ability to play “small ball” could all be factors, but not to the extent we saw with the O’s last year. It was an outlier year.

  8. RadioKev January 21st, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I wouldn’t say the Orioles were “lucky.” Their team got the job done and their bullpen was outstanding. It’s just extremely unlikely they do that again. Those arms will be burned out come the new season.

  9. randy l. January 21st, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    one of the criticisms of the yankee 2012 offense was it created a lot of random runs. they came when they came.

    some teams surely can be better at creating one run than others.

    a run at the right time is worth more than a run in a blow out.

  10. Jerkface January 21st, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I wouldn’t say the Orioles were “lucky.” Their team got the job done and their bullpen was outstanding. It’s just extremely unlikely they do that again. Those arms will be burned out come the new season.

    Record in extra-innings & 1 run games isnt something that stays steady year to year. You can have a good bullpen, but to have most of its success clustered around these very specific scenarios that disproportionately contribute to your wins is luck.

  11. blake January 21st, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I like the rotation this year and I like some of the long term potential they have as well……I still believe in Banuelos and also love the upside of Campos and Depaula…..the issue as with the offense might be bridging the now to the future.

    How well they are able to do that will depend on Pineda….and if they can keep Hughes…..also on Nova and Phelps to a lesser extent IMO

  12. RadioKev January 21st, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Record in extra-innings & 1 run games isnt something that stays steady year to year. You can have a good bullpen, but to have most of its success clustered around these very specific scenarios that disproportionately contribute to your wins is luck.

    I mean, it’s luck if you’re just looking at numbers throughout baseball history and you expect outcomes to be determined by that history, but in the moment during those games, I’m sure it was mostly skill based. Their bullpen locked down 1 run games way too often to be considered a fluke, in my opinion.

    I would say that it’s highly unrepeatable by any team, never mind those same pitchers.

    Sometimes sports isn’t just rolling the dice. Jeter hitting a home run on his 3,000 hit wasn’t simply “luck,” in my opinion.

  13. blake January 21st, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    The orioles were extremely lucky….they played over heir heads all season and continually came out ahead in close games.

    I expect them to fall back a bit this year

  14. RadioKev January 21st, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I mean, is Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak just luck? How likely is it that someone ever matches that again? Sure, you could make the argument that luck had a lot to do with it, but skill had a lot to do with it too.

  15. blake January 21st, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    “I mean, is Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak just luck? How likely is it that someone ever matches that again? Sure, you could make the argument that luck had a lot to do with it, but skill had a lot to do with it too.”

    Some of it I’m sure…..but that’s a bit different than a whole team where several guys had career years and they basically never lost a close game

  16. trisha - true pinstriped blue January 21st, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    Cool game on MLB right now- called Baseball IQ. Two contestants go head to head.

    Neat for anyone who knows baseball history.

    Current Question – name players who played most games at shortstop in 2011. Top 14.

    Questions go quickly though.

    Turn it on if you like this kind of stuff – and you’re near a television! Question before this one had to do with naming pitchers who got their most career wins under any Joe Torre-managed team. I think it said there were 20.



  17. Against All Odds January 21st, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    I’ve seen that show a couple of times….it’s pretty good.

  18. randy l. January 21st, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    in the early 70′s, i was watching a touch football game with university of denver law school students.

    one team was killing the other. a guy got hurt and they saw me and asked me to fill in. i said ok as long as we start 0-0. the winning team was pretty stacked and pretty arrogant. the team i was wth had no quarterback i could throw the ball better than anyone else so i became quarterback.

    we had no chance personnel wise against this other team, but they had a three complete passes for a first down rule. we got the ball first and i had a a couple of guys who could catch do 5 yard button hooks and come back three yards as i rolled right and hit one of them for a whopping two yard gain.

    we did this for about a half hour as we got our first touch down. then they got the ball and immediately scored. this pattern of us controlling the ball and scoring and them scoring back right away went on for a while.

    the other team was pissed and getting really bored. they called me some bad names for wrecking their game. hey, rules are rules. not my fault three completions was a first down. anyway it came down to a few minutes left to play. we had the ball with about 80 yards to score.

    no time to march the field two yards at a time. but they were just going through the motions tagging the receivers when we completed the button hooks. i had been floating further and further outside as the day went on after i threw the ball.

    they stopped paying any attention to me doing it. no one was covering me. so it was just a matter of having the receiver lateral the ball outside to me going at full speed 5 yards outside him.

    game over.

    strategy matters.

    i do not think the yankees all or nothing offense is very clever. it’s just smash mouth baseball. kind of like the stacked touch football opponent.

  19. tomingeorgia January 21st, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    I have a question for any computer/security geeks out there: I got a call from a credit card company, inquiring about some questionable charges made to my account, none of which I initiated. I told them so, and canceled the card. What’s funny is that a day or so later I started getting packages via UPS and FedEx. I’ve received a nice pair of shoes (wrong size) and a guitar case (and i don’t own a guitar!) from companies I’ve never traded with. The billing address on the invoices was incorrect for that card, too. What’s going on?

    Why would somebody charge something to me, and then have it delivered to me? The retailers involved, reputable companies all, are as mystified as I am, but acted swiftly to cancel the sham accounts in my name, and sent postage-paid return labels. The orders were apparently placed from somewhere in Florida. What’s up with this?

    Sorry to interrupt the dolor, but this has me stumped.

  20. Tar January 21st, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    The O’s were both extremely lucky, and a much improved good team last year.

    I would bet the farm that there is no way they maintain that lucky streak. So to maintain their good standing, they have to hope that have improved even more from last year. I’m picking them for 3rd behind the Jays and the Yankees.

  21. blake January 21st, 2013 at 4:31 pm

    @DCameronFG: Darwin Barney’s K% and Josh Hamilton’s ISO. RT @fangraphs FanGraphs: Translating Stan Musial’s Numbers into 2012 Norms

  22. Tar January 21st, 2013 at 4:33 pm


    The only thing I can come up with is a lot of companies won’t ship to a different mailing address than whats on the card. It’s possible that when whoever ordered the items the company just shipped them to the CC mailing address. Probably not it, but all I can come up with.

  23. G. Love January 21st, 2013 at 4:37 pm


    First instinct was maybe it’s a neighbor who thought they could intercept the packages if they left them on your porch?

    We had a neighbor in my area who had a kid who watched for UPS to leave boxes in front of people’s houses and would steal them. I actually opened the door while she was trying to take a box off my porch. When I told her parents and our other neighbors, everyone had said they were missing UPS packages for the past month.

    That said, it’s bizarre for someone to take your number and deliver stuff to you.

  24. Shame Spencer January 21st, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Tom – That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. If I had to guess, I’d say the person got your credit card info by hacking an online account (say Amazon or somewhere else online you’ve ordered from). It could be they were just really dumb and forgot to change the shipping address. If you have an account for some of those sites already, and only have one address entered, it uses it as a default and might not ask you where you want it shipped.

  25. Shame Spencer January 21st, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I’d also add if they were that stupid they might also have been dumb enough not to protect or block their IP from being traced. Sounds amateurish though.

  26. tomingeorgia January 21st, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Shame, etal,
    There are pros looking into it, but the billing address was wrong, too, and the charges still went through. I take credit cards by telephone and internet all the time, but if the address is wrong, it just doesn’t go through. But why send the goods to me?

    G Love, I thought of that, but it’s highly unlikely. And I’ve told the package men not to leave anything outside. Hell, ring the bell, I’m here all the time, or my wife is.

  27. tomingeorgia January 21st, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    They’ve got an email address (not mine), so that’s a clue.

  28. Tar January 21st, 2013 at 5:16 pm


    Found a good link for you to read.

  29. blake January 21st, 2013 at 5:22 pm


    Have you made sure your wife didnt join a rock band?

  30. blake January 21st, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    Fangraphs article suggests the braves offer Simmons and Teheran and prospects for Upton and Gregorious. Makes some sense

  31. tomingeorgia January 21st, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    Thanks for that. It may be what’s happening, but I still can’t figure out how the wrong address in the “bill to” box went through.

    blake, she would if she could!

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