With less than a month until pitchers and catchers report, predicting how the 2015 Yankees will fare is an extremely difficult endeavor. The roster that GM Brian Cashman has assembled includes very few sure things. This feeling of uncertainty is most pronounced in the starting rotation.
Cashman chose not to throw money at the problem via free agency. He watched last season’s surprise savior Brandon McCarthy sign with the Dodgers for $48 million. New York never seemed to be real players for Max Scherzer or John Lester, who received massive contracts from the Nationals and Cubs respectively. As a result, the Yankee rotation is filled with nothing but question marks.
It is a hard to remember a Yankee rotation that was more of a boom or bust proposition. If everything breaks right, the Bomber have the potential for a terrific staff. If everything breaks wrong it could be a complete disaster. I will proceed to break down the boom and bust scenarios for each of the expected starters.
Boom- Until he hurt his elbow in July, Tanaka was as good any pitcher in the American League. He was a legitimate Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award contender. The poised and competitive right hander lived up to the tremendous hype that followed him from Japan. If Tanaka’s elbow holds up, one would expect him to perform as a staff ace.
Bust- The obvious fact that Tanaka has a slight tear in his elbow cannot be ignored. Yankee fans will hold their collective breath every time he takes the mound, hoping against hope that Tanaka’s next pitch is the not one that sends him under Dr. James Andrews’ knife. This Yankee team cannot afford to lose its ace to Tommy John surgery.
Boom- In the 13 starts he made for the Yankees last year Michael Pineda was mostly dominate. He pitched to a 1.89 ERA with 59 strikeouts and only 7 walks in 76.1 innings. New York finally saw a glimpse of the elite talent that he flashed as a rookie in Seattle. In the starting rotation of Brian Cashman's dreams Tanaka and Pineda are a young and healthy one/two punch.
Bust- In the three seasons since being acquired by the Yankees, Pineda has only made those 13 starts. Until he pitches a full season and proves that the injury woes are behind him, Pineda is impossible to count on.
Boom- Throughout the first 12 years of his career CC was the definition of an innings-eating ace. The hefty lefty earned a World Series ring, a Cy Young Award and was well on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Even the most optimistic Yankee fan wouldn't expect CC is magically rediscover his 98 MPH fastball and top form in 2015. Despite his $20+ million salary, manager Joe Girardi would likely sign for a healthy CC making 30 starts and providing a solid veteran presence in the middle of the rotation.
Bust- In 2013 Sabathia pitched to a pedestrian 4.78 ERA. In 2014 that ERA rose to 5.28 in only 8 starts before his season was ended prematurely by knee surgery. If Yankees can't manage to get any real production out of the highly paid 6 time All Star, it could be a long year in the Bronx.
Boom- The former Miami Marlin is only 24 years old and throws 97 MPH. In 2014 he proved to be durable, making 33 starts over 199.2 innings. The Yankees are hoping that Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothchild can help the power-armed youngster maximize his considerable talent.
Bust- Eovaldi pitched to a 6-14 record with a 4.28 ERA in 2014 while surrendering the most hits in the National League. If he put up such unimpressive numbers in the light hitting NL East, how will he preform against the deeper line-ups and in the smaller ballparks of the AL's East division? If Eovaldi can't turn it around in pinstripes Cashman will regret giving up the versatile Martin Prado in the trade to acquire him.
Boom- Veteran journeyman Chris Capuano will likely have the inside track to start the season as the fifth starter as Ivan Nova works his way back to from Tommy John surgery. Nova has had impressive stretches in his career where it looked like he would become a fixture in the rotation. The Yankees would love to see the 28-year-old Nova find the consistency post-surgery that his early career lacked.
Bust- If Ivan Nova struggles to regain his form the burden will fall to Capuano who at this point of his career is nothing more than a replacement level, back of the rotation starter. The Yankees could look to the minors for help, but their best pitching prospect Luis Severino has only made 6 starts at the AA level. He will need more time to develop before being ready to contribute.