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A breakdown of the Yankees fringe pitchers: Fifth starter or bullpen?

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The Yankees will have a lot of pitching depth in 2020. Outside of solidified starters and relievers, where do the rest fit in?

MLB: ALCS-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After adding another powerful starter to their rotation in Gerrit Cole, the Yankees have not only established their rotation as one of the best in baseball, but they have also established an extremely deep pitching staff. Not only does that include all pitchers on the 25-man roster, but young players and prospects that will most certainly be called up during the season.

At this point, it seems pretty clear which pitchers are our main starters and which guys are our elite relievers. However, there are some pitchers that are teetering on the edge and don’t necessarily have a solidified spot. Here’s who they are and what you should expect their role to be:

J.A. Happ

Happ is going into his age-37 season and his second full season with the Yankees. So far as a Yankee Happ has pitched to a 4.28 ERA, a 4.94 FIP, 8.1 K/9, and 203 strikeouts over 225 innings pitched. Happ has not been the best pitcher since joining the Yankees back in 2018, in fact, he has provided the Yankees with a very inconsistent or up and down performance while in pinstripes. Happ is not a bad pitcher, though, given the pitchers the Yankees have at their disposal, it might be best that he makes fewer starts over the next season. When in a similar situation, CC Sabathia mentioned he enjoyed coming out of the bullpen towards the end of 2019. While Happ is a great guy to eat innings as a starter, giving him action as a reliever could be an effective move given that the Yankees lost Dellin Betances to free agency.

Jordan Montgomery

At the end of 2018, Jordan Montgomery was moved to the 60-day IL while he recovered from Tommy John surgery that kept him out for all of 2019 as well. Now, Montgomery is healthy again and ready to pitch in the Bronx. Out of all pitchers without a solidified spot, it seems to make the most sense to give Montgomery the most innings as the fifth starter. Montgomery pitched to an impressive 3.88 ERA over 155.1 innings in his rookie year of 2017. Montgomery is not a strikeout machine but more of a finesse pitcher with a good curveball; sort of like C.C. at the end of his career but 27 years old and only getting better instead of 38 and depleting nearly every game.

Deivi Garcia

Garcia is currently the Yankees No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com. Garcia has been brought up through several levels of minor-league ball over the past three seasons. Last year, with the Single, Double, and Triple-A Yankees farm teams Garcia accumulated an ERA of 4.88. He struggled with the highest competition at Triple-A Scranton carrying an ERA of 5.40, but he is only 20-years old and has lots of room and time to improve. Garcia has lots of possibilities with the Yankees this year. He could stay in the minors all year and continue to get better, or he could make a few relief appearances or even starts to get his toes wet at the major league level. It’s really up to the Yankees and Brian Cashman. Unless the Yankees are down a starter for some reason, it would make the most sense to let him come in and give a few innings of relief as they did with Justice Sheffield a few years ago.

Michael King

King suffered from injuries last season and only made 11 starts across multiple teams in the Yankees organization. 2018 however, was a much different year for King. He had a tremendous season pitching his way up through the minor-leagues. King carried minuscule ERA’s at each level: 1.79 at Single-A Tampa, 2.09 at Double-A Trenton and 1.15 at Triple-A Scranton. Entering his age 24 season, King may be better suited to throw major league innings than Garcia who still has yet to make his major league debut. Therefore, besides Happ, King would be best suited to fill in as an insurance stater.

As you can see, the Yankees have lots of options when it comes to their pitchers in 2020. At this point, it’s up to Aaron Boone to figure out how to implement them.