Coming into Spring Training, I think we can all feel pretty confident with the Yankees. The lineup is frankly pretty damn good, even with Brett Gardner in left field; the rotation contains at least two guys who could top a rotation, and the fifth starter will be one of two incredibly talented young stars. While people may have questions about the bullpen, it’s not changed much from 2009′s bullpen and a Robertson/Marte set-up combination should be just fine.
There is, however, one area that concerns me a bit, and that’s the starting pitching depth. One through four, the Yankees are just as good as any team in baseball. At number five, they’ve got “ridiculous upside”. After that, it could get a bit dicey.
If I have my way, the “loser” of the Chamberlain/Hughes battle will be the sixth starter, stashed away in Scranton. In terms of depth, this would be great for the Yankees. Most GM’s would kill to have a sixth starter with the talent of Hughes or Chamberlain. But, if the battle’s loser is put in the bullpen, the Yankees’ starting depth could take a hit. After them, the depth is a little bit shallow.
After Jophil Chamberhughes, there’s a few guys we could see get starts for the Yankees: Sergio Mitre, Chad Gaudin, Alfredo Aceves, and Ivan Nova.
Sergio Mitre could step forward this year, as he gets farther and farther away from his Tommy John Surgery. However, the results in 2009 were not pretty. His ERA pushed seven, his WHIP was 1.63, and struck out fewer than six batters per nine. And, despite walking only 2.26 per nine, his FIP was 5.30 and his tRA (FanGraphs version) was 5.85. I’m really not too high on Mitre. The low walk total is definitely encouraging, but it just seems that Mitre gives up way too much hard contact to ever really be effective.
Next, there’s mid-season acquisition Chad Gaudin. He pitched to a 3.43 ERA last season, despite a middling 1.452 WHIP in his time with the Bombers. The 7.3 K/9 was nice, but the 4.3 BB/9 is a tad bit high. His FIP with the Yankees was 4.16 and his tRA was 4.51. He pitched a little above his head ERA wise, but even a “market correction” should bring him up to only the low or mid fours. Gaudin is also pretty young, as he won’t turn 27 until mid-March. There could still be a bit of upside left for Gaudin.
Again, swingman Alfredo Aceves could see some starts. He only got one last year, and it did not go well, but there’s still always a possibility. His good control is definitely desirable out of any pitcher, especially one who could get an occasional spot-start. However, I don’t see “Ace” getting many–if any–starts in 2010. While he pitches well out of the bullpen, it seems that he doesn’t have the pure stuff to get through a lineup more than one time.
Ivan Nova is quite a long shot, but in terms of minor leaguers, he’s probably the closest to being able to get a start. He is, however, a long shot. Other long shots include Wilkin De La Rosa, Hector Noesi, and Andrew Brackman. I only mention these four because they are all on the 40-Man Roster. if Zach McAllister absolutely crushes AAA, I could see him being placed on the 40-Man mid-season, and perhaps getting a “show me” start in September.
All in all, I’m not super-confident in the Yankees’ pitching depth. Regardless, it’s unlikely that the Yankees will get starts from more than seven or eight guys. If they have to go farther, chances are the season may be in trouble. And while after the sixth or seventh guys the Yankees aren’t too strong, how many teams really are?
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