The Yankees have seen a major hit to their starting pitching depth during the 2015 season. Last year, the system was filled with pitching and in order to improve the big league club elsewhere, that excess was traded off. David Phelps was moved in the Nathan Eovaldi trade, Manny Banuelos was sent out to improve the bullpen, and Shane Greene was swapped with Didi Gregorius. The problem with moving so much of one type of depth is that when unexpected things happen, they're even more devastating than they normally would be. Chase Whitley, Ty Hensley, and Domingo German–some of the system's top arms–all went down with Tommy John surgery, leaving the overall depth looking pretty bare.
Right now the Yankees have Bryan Mitchell as their only major league-ready prospect in Triple-A. Mitchell has never been very reliable, often showing he has the stuff to succeed, but never seeming to put it all together over any long period of time. He's been solid in Scranton so far, but high velocity and little control over where the ball is going could ultimately land him in the bullpen before he's considered a reliable MLB starter. That would mean that no. 1 prospect Luis Severino could be the team's only hope of finding an internal long-term piece for the rotation over the next few years. The organization's lack of depth could give Severino a chance at the major league level sometime this year, but he's still in Double-A and the risk of injury could lead the Yankees to play it slow with him.
Aside from these two, the Yankees essentially have another two, maybe three, pitchers above A-ball who could maybe offer something to the big league club one day. Jaron Long had a meteoric rise through the system over the last two years, but he's struggled mightily in Triple-A at just 23 years old. Miguel Sulbaran, the pitcher the Yankees got back from the Twins for Eduardo Nunez, has been surprisingly effective and was just moved up to Scranton at 21. Despite his success, many scouts see him as more of an organizational arm, Videl Nuno-type, than a legitimate major league piece.
The under-appreciated, yet promising, Brady Lail has reached Double-A this year as a 21-year-old and could position himself as a top prospect if he continues to perform in the upper minors. Then there's also Eric Ruth to at least keep in mind. After signing as an un-drafted free agent in 2013, Ruth has moved up, down, and around the system, but has now been converted into a starter with some decent results so far.
The Yankees have a plethora of promising starting options in A-ball, but they're mostly considered so far away that it's hard to really count on them to any degree. At the High-A level, 2011 draft pick Rookie Davis is finally showing some hope this year and Gabe Encinas has been effective since coming back from Tommy John surgery. Up and coming Dominican pitching prospect Domingo Acevedo could be among the next wave of big pitching prospects with his ability to throw 100 mph. The Yankees have also gotten quick returns on some of their 2014 draft picks as Just Kamplain, Jordan Montgomery, and Jordan Foley have all been effective in the early goings of their professional careers. On top of that, Jonathan Holder seems to be adjusting well to the role of a starting pitcher and the young Austin DeCarr will have a chance to impress later this season.
The system has names to look out for–basically Severino–but none are anything close to a guarantee and many could end up falling away before they're ever considered close to major league ready. After an impressive first full season for Ian Clarkin, the former first-round pick has been dealing with an elbow injury that reminds us all how fragile pitching prospects really are. If Clarkin ends up joining the ranks of Hensley and German, then the Yankees could be in trouble when it comes to game-changing pitchers coming through the pipeline. Either way, they could use some more seasoned pitching like they added in 2014 to move through the system quickly and sprinkle some advanced talent into the mix. If injuries continue to take their toll, the Yankees are going to need all the depth they can get.