The 2019 regular season forced the Yankees to repeatedly shuffle their active roster with injuries seemingly occurring each day. Quick roster adjustments brought forth surprise performances from unexpected players like Gio Urshela, Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman, and others, while introducing the organization and its fans to the use of the opener.
Because the Yankees didn’t have as much depth in the starting pitching department as they did in the outfield and corner infield, they needed to use Chad Green as an opener 15 times during the regular season and once in the postseason. However, come the 2020 regular season, the Yankees will be able to handle injuries to the rotation in a different manner because of the young starting pitching depth now available to them. Jordan Montgomery has returned from Tommy John surgery, Deivi Garcia was knocking on the door in September, Michael King made his short debut, and Domingo German will be on the roster after his suspension is up.
A plethora of injuries created opportunities for long relief pitchers Luis Cessa and Nestor Cortes Jr., landing in the top three for most relief innings pitched during the Yankees 2019 season. Considering the Bombers have one of the top bullpens in the league, both Cessa and Cortes were not expected to receive as much work as they did, and it showed by the end of September as they generated a fWAR of 0.1 and -0.3, respectively. Yes, the Yankees won most of the games Chad Green opened, but we see that the long relief pitchers could have been better. This isn’t to say Montgomery, Garcia, and King will produce better numbers than Cessa and Cortes, but it sets a low bar to surpass.
Gerrit Cole, Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, and J.A. Happ are the expected starters for the Yankees this coming season, but if any of them suffer any injuries, the Yankees will have reinforcements this time. Montgomery produced a 2.6 fWAR during his rookie season and is once again healthy, while Garcia and King are two of the top prospects currently in the Yankees’ organization. Garcia features a devastating curveball, combined with great speed on his fastball anywhere from 91-96 mph as stated by MLB Pipeline, finding ways to strike hitters out with great frequency. King, on the other hand, relies on control and command to work balls into the ground with his fastballs, possessing a slider and changeup as secondary pitchers.
The hype around Deivi Garcia and the work he was doing in the minors made many fans impatient for his major league appearance, but we can’t forget that in 2018 Michael King was able to shoot through the minor leagues just as fast Garcia. Both received two promotions in one season working their way up to Scranton. Although an injury isn’t the preferred choice to promote a pitcher into a major league rotation, it’s common to see this happen. Therefore, the much anticipated debuts of Garcia and King in the rotation could come this season if health becomes an issue on the Yankees roster once again.
During this offseason, the Yankees strengthened their rotation with the addition of Gerrit Cole, acquiring an ace pitcher who has thrown 200 innings or more for the past three consecutive seasons, while also keeping together a superb bullpen staff. The rotation is now the deepest it has been in recent years, but having protection behind them is just as important. If pieces fall off it’ll be great to see this trio of young pitchers compete, revealing the upside they can provide to the Yankees now and for the future. Whether you believe these pitchers will be starting their own games or coming in after Chad Green, the Yankees have raised the level of their fall-back options for 2020.