ūüďĆ Join the BPCrew Chapter in your city and meet up with more Yankees fans! ūüĎČ CLICK HERE

A look at the Yankees 2017 starting rotation

Spring Training Overview

As we move closer to Yankees spring training, with pitchers and catchers reporting on Feb. 13th, there is a fair amount of speculation — and maybe anxiety — around the starting rotation.

It’s a well-documented fact that the Yankees have been looking to strengthen their rotation after a less-than-stellar 2016 season from Luis Severino (0-8, 8.50) and Michael Pineda (6-12, 4.82). The Yankees have struggled with finding consistency and have relied perhaps a bit too heavily on their bullpen to get things done.

After the winter-long saga of Will the Yankees trade for Jose Quintana?, Brian Cashman has decided to hold on to his long list of prospects for the time being.

It might come as a surprise that, despite their efforts, the Yankees somehow managed a 4.16 ERA last season — fifth-best in the American League. Even though Pineda and Severino struggled, ace Masahiro Tanaka and the Yankees’ talented bullpen were able to carry the weight.

Tanaka, Pineda, and CC Sabathia are all but guaranteed a spot on the mound this season, which means there are two other spots¬†in the rotation up for grabs. Joe Girardi¬†is evidently holding an “open competition,” and it sounds like those who don’t get a spot will move into bullpen roles.

Let’s take a look at the top three spots in the rotation.

Masahiro Tanaka

Tanaka ended the 2016 season with a 3.07 ERA (1.08 WHIP / 199.2 IP). He threw the ball 2,935 times in 31 games. The 28-year-old right-hander led the Yankees in wins (14), and despite concerns about his health at the beginning of the 2016 season, had an impressive season.

Tanaka opted not to pitch for Team Japan in the World Baseball Classic for the first time this year, leading to a sigh of relief from fans who want to see their star pitcher healthy and at the top of his game when the Yankees leave Tampa.

A major storyline sure to follow Tanaka all year will be his opt-out clause, which he can exercise following the 2017 season. Because of that, the Yankees may expect a strong, full-season showing from the right-hander.

CC Sabathia

The Yankees are also looking forward to another strong showing from Sabathia, who is entering his ninth season in pinstripes. He finished the 2016 season with a 3.91 ERA (1.32 WHIP / 179.2 IP). The big southpaw threw 2,910 pitches in 30 games but ended the season with only 9 wins and 12 losses, a record not indicative of how well he pitched. Overall, Sabathia posted his best stats since 2012.

Sabathia has struggled with knee problems and the effects of his lowered velocity are noticeable. This is true for any veteran who has made as many appearances as Sabathia, but there is still plenty of fuel in the tank for the 36-year-old. Sabathia is a pillar of the Yankees organization and can serve as a seasoned guide for those who are new to the Bronx.

While 2017¬†is likely CC’s last in pinstripes, nothing can be ruled-out considering the starting rotation currently has many question-marks.

Michael Pineda

Let’s face it: Pineda had a disappointing and confusing season in 2016. He posted a 4.82 ERA (1.3 WHIP / 175.2 IP) and set a career-high 207 strikeouts. He also allowed 27 home runs and suffered 12 losses. Pineda tossed 3,017 pitches in 32 games as a starter.

General Manager Brian Cashman’s comments on Pineda’s season sum it up well: “If you do a fly-by looking at his strikeouts-to-walk ratio, it’s ridiculous. You’d be looking at, in theory, maybe at one of the better starting pitchers in the American League. But the home runs that he gave up and how he got victimized when he was ahead in the count — pitchers’ counts — was pretty impossible to comprehend.”

In a WFAN appearance on Thursday, Cashman also talked about Pineda’s limited pitch repertoire possibly being a reason for his struggles.

Despite Pineda’s showing, most still consider him a lock for a spot in the starting rotation. He has shown his potential to be an AL leader (many will remember his dominant 16-strikeout performance against Baltimore on Mother’s¬†Day 2015) if¬†he can limit the blow-up innings that seemed to plague his 2016 season.

Other Spots in the Rotation

There are five other pitchers vying for two spots in the rotation: Luis Cessa, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino, Chad Green and Adam Warren.

Cessa was added¬†to the roster in 2016 — along with Chad Green — in an attempt to add some much-needed starting pitching depth. He posted a 4.35 ERA (1.11 WHIP / 70.1 IP) and a 4-4 record in 2016, his first big league¬†season, so he¬†will likely have more¬†to prove going into spring training. His future as a starter for the Yankees is questionable, but he will undoubtedly be value-add to the Yankees if given more time to develop.

Former top prospect Bryan Mitchell seemed to be off to a running start in 2016 — until he suffered a fractured big toe that required surgery during the final week of spring training. There has been a lot of speculation about how the Yankees would have fared with Mitchell healthy, so¬†fans and the organization are interested to see how Mitchell fares in Girardi’s contest.

Severino, perhaps the biggest disappointment last year, will have to prove his value to the team after posting a 5.83 ERA (1.45 WHIP / 71 IP) and a 3-8 record. He has been working on his changeup to add to his arsenal that includes a solid fastball. With an average pitch speed of 96.7 MPH, Severino has a lot to offer if he can work on his strike-to-walk ratio.

Green is a big right-hander with a great sinker that lands him a lot of strikes. He posted 52 strikeouts in 12 games last season and managed an ERA of 4.73 (1.40 WHIP / 45.2 IP). The Yankees utilized Green in a limited capacity last season after a respectable 2015 season playing Double-A ball. While not necessarily considered hot, Green could prove to be a steady, consistent addition to the roster.

Adam Warren ended the season with just one start as a Cub before being traded to the Yankees as part of a deal for Aroldis Chapman. Warren is now back on the roster and also has something to prove after putting up a 5.91 ERA (1.43 WHIP / 35 IP) while in Chicago.

If you haven’t noticed, there is a common theme among many of these pitchers: they all have something to prove. Spring training will be their first opportunity to do so.

In addition to the above-mentioned pitchers, there are a few exciting up-and-coming prospects, like Justus Sheffield and Chance Adams, who may be able to add some much-needed pitching depth if they end up donning the pinstripes.

The Yankees are a team in flux. It’s widely acknowledged that the next couple seasons will be devoted to building a solid core with new faces and talent. The starting rotation will be integral to making this happen, and the pitchers who make the cut will be under scrutiny by Girardi and management. It’s an exciting time to be a Yankees fan, and there is a lot of potential for greatness as we head into a new season.