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Yankees Mailbag: Key pitching concerns, playing the kids, and Sonny Gray comparisons

The mailbag hits on all the main concerns with this roster in the moment and going forward.

New York Yankees v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time for another edition of the mailbag. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

MSP Giant asks: A postseason pitching opinion please. You only need 3/4 SPs in playoffs. Coles and Montes are a given. Thoughts on (health of) Cortes and Sev? In the bullpen Holmes and Loáisiga are key. Think they will pitch like Holmes early 2022 and Loáisiga 2021? Without superior performance from those four IMO Yanks are toast.

I don’t have many concerns with Nestor Cortes, given that his IL stint seems to be a true 15-day minor issue. This may in a roundabout way be a boon for him, as it gives him the bit of rest many were expecting given that Cortes is pushing well past his career innings mark already and should allow him to be fresh for the stretch run and postseason.

Luis Severino, on the other hand, finds himself once again looking to ramp up late in the year after a lengthy time on the shelf. This latest injury isn’t as severe as his previous ones, and since he has gotten to play a decent amount this year it’s not like he’s shaking off a year’s worth of rust again, but there will always be some concern in the back of my mind with that. The Yankees need him to be a starter this time around though, so hopefully he can get locked in with a few weeks to go. (He’ll make his first rehab appearance tonight in Low-A Tampa.)

As for Clay Holmes and Jonathan Loáisiga, I am much more confident than I was a few weeks ago about these two. Our own Andrés Chávez dove into how Loáisiga has rounded into form recently, and it seems like he’s pulled himself completely out of the tailspin he was in earlier in the year. Holmes has had promising outings since returning from the IL, and even though his injury doesn’t completely overlap with his collapse from the closer’s role earlier in the year, it appears as though he is back in command following the time off. That’s relative confidence for three of the four players outlined, so if Severino is able to impress there should be a strong boost to the pitching staff arriving again.

Yankeeinmass asks: Looking to the future, Oswaldo Cabrera looks like the real deal, and with Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe also looking almost ready for prime time, A) do you see them displacing certain underperforming players like IKF, Torres, and Donaldson next season and if so, B) who plays where? (The rumor is that Volpe’s arm is better suited to second base than shortstop.)

The original plan was supposedly to have Isiah Kiner-Falefa hold down the spot until these guys were ready, so metrics or not I believe that Peraza and eventually Volpe (now in Triple-A) will supplant him in the starting lineup. Josh Donaldson and Gleyber Torres are both players I could see getting moved in the offseason, since Donaldson’s final year of his contract seems to be more of a weight than a benefit to hold onto and Torres was already getting shopped at the deadline, so it’s only a matter of when we see the infield shaken up.

I can see Cabrera and Peraza both starting often for the remainder of this year, but going forward, once Volpe is in the majors I’m not sure if all three will be starters. Cabrera lacks the pedigree of the other two, though he made it to the majors first and has acquainted himself well so far. I could see him taking over Marwin Gonzalez’s role for next year and actually get decent production there, and if he’s with the organization for a while. he could slide into the super utility role that DJ LeMahieu has provided this year in the future, while Peraza and Volpe hold down the middle of the infield. LeMahieu isn’t going anywhere any time soon, so he could slide over to third base to accommodate all of this.

Grampa Fuzzball asks: Is Frankie Montas Sonny Gray?

I get the immediate jump to compare Montas to the last pitcher the Yankees swung a big deal for from Oakland. The parallels are immediately in place, but I want to hold off on this indictment for now. Montas has definitely not impressed in his first month in pinstripes, but the image most fans have of Sonny Gray in pinstripes is from 2018, where he was truly dreadful. During the 2017 season when they traded for him, despite the underlying stats (4.87 FIP) showing that he wasn’t looking as good as he was in Oakland, Gray actually held up his end of the bargain still.

The immediate area of concern, and a place where both of these pitchers struggled after swapping teams, is the home run rate. Gray’s skyrocketed from 0.74 HR/9 to 1.54 with New York that year, and Montas has elevated his from 1.03 to 1.75. Montas has a month left to get his under control, but if he can’t prevent the long ball from appearing in every start of his then he’s going to struggle regardless of what happens in the rest of his outings.

Erick S. asks: Can Judge get to 62 if he keeps getting the Barry Bonds treatment?

It’s certainly frustrating to see pitchers not even give him the chance in many at-bats (though it’s also certainly understandable for them to do so), but at his current pace, he can still reach the record. The thing with Barry Bonds was that even if you took away half of his at-bats with intentional or semi-intentional walks, he’d make them pay for just giving him one good look. The way that Judge has played this year, I’d argue he’s in that same mode right now — the Angels pitched him more carefully than anyone in recent memory, and he still got two blasts off of their staff in three games. When he’s on he’s undeniable at the plate, and it should be thrilling to watch him take his shot at Roger Maris’ mark.