Considering the pitching injuries that have plagued the Yankees in the past, it’s pretty surprising that the Yankees have gotten 101 starts from Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi. This doesn’t mean the pitching staff has been great—only Tanaka and Sabathia have above-average ERAs—but it does mean that the Yankees haven’t had to rely on the likes of Chris Capuano, Chase Whitley, Esmil Rogers, and Vidal Nuno. Innings, even if they aren’t exceptional, can bee valuable in sheer quantity.
This year the reliance on depth arms hasn’t been as great, but with Eovaldi and Chad Green out for the foreseeable future, it’s fair to ask whether the Yankees have the depth to maintain a full staff for the last month of the season, and into next year. Joe Girardi mentioned yesterday that the starter for Wednesday could be a bullpen day. This is troubling, especially with the team theoretically in a Wild Card race.
For this year at least, help probably isn’t on the way. It has been reported that Brian Cashman has been active on the waiver wire, but I can’t imagine they get anything more than a relief arm or a disposable starter. The concern, really, is whether the team can piece together a rotation in 2017.
Beyond Masahiro Tanaka, there isn’t one reliable starter. Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia are likely to be on staff no matter what, so three spots are in theory filled come opening day. Beyond the atrocious free agent options, there are a few internal ones.
The first option, one that could be available as soon as this month, is Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery, 23, has basically forced the Yankees to consider him as an option, as he’s pitched to a 2.13 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A this year over 139.1 innings. The velocity has bumped up, too, and he’s now sitting at 91-94 mph instead of 88-92 mph. He already had decent command and a few good offspeed pitches, so there is now a chance he sits at the back-end of the rotation. That could be huge for next year and beyond.
Then there’s Chance Adams, who made massive strides this year after being drafted in the 5th round of the 2015 draft. Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America, who saw him last month, had the following to say:
#Yankees RHP Chance Adams: FB 95-97, hard vertical SL 85-87, feel for CH at 87-89, CB 80. Stocky build. Short arm action. Very interesting..— Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky) August 19, 2016
Looks the the #Yankees stole Chance Adams in 5th round last year. Four pitches for strikes, pitchability. Very impressive so far tonight.— Hudson Belinsky (@hudsonbelinsky) August 19, 2016
He stills needs to show he can pitch at Triple-A, but he could very well get the call next season.
Jonathan Holder also made his big league debut just a few days ago, and the Yankees also expect big things out of him as well. On the promotion, Brian Cashman said, “I wrestled back and forth with it, but the bottom line is we are 2½ out with a month to go and [Holder] is better than some guys we have already promoted...” I’ve said a million times that those comments speak volumes, and this one does. The fact that the Yankees feel he is higher on the talent pecking order than many of the other pitchers he’s promoted means that he is in their long-term plans.
The rest of the options aren’t as ready or as high-profile as the former, but they could still be factors at the end of 2017 or in the middle of 2018. Brady Lail had a great 2015 season at Double-A but has yet to prove himself at Triple-A. His stuff is pretty pedestrian so he’s not a priority, but he’s still depth.
Justus Sheffield is definitely high-profile, but he may not be ready next season. Sheffield was in the Andrew Miller deal with Clint Frazier, and Sheffield is a bit further behind on the development path than Frazier. He’s only 20 years-old and he was just promoted to Double-A this past week, so there’s plenty of time. He currently sports a low-to-mid-90’s fastball with movement and two average offspeed pitches, and he’s still working on the command. But, he has the stuff to cut it in a rotation, so if all pans out, he could be ready by the spring of 2018.
With Montgomery, Adams, Lail, and Sheffield all in the mix for the near future, some of the depth issues could get resolved internally. Instead of having to rely on organizational depth that merely allows the team to tread water, the Yankees very well could thrive if they somehow supplement this newfound talent with smart free agent acquisitions and trades. That, combined with this recent youth resurgence, could vault the team to the top of division power rankings in the seasons to come.