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Yankees 2023 Season Preview: Luis Severino

Severino, the former prospect-turned-ace, enters what could be his final season in the Bronx

MLB: Spring Training-Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

A long, long time ago, Luis Severino was that rarest of diamonds: the homegrown starting pitching prospect who, after a bit of an adjustment at the big league level, turned into a bona fide ace. Between 2017 and 2018, the All-Star right-hander won 33 games while tossing over 380 innings. He whiffed 450 opposing batters, and racked up 11.0 fWAR. Then, the injuries struck.

From 2019 through 2021, Severino managed to toss a total of 18 innings for the Yankees. Hopes were high for him entering last season, although I doubt anyone was really confident they knew what the Yankees would get from Severino. I think we all knew we weren’t getting 190 innings from him. But he bounced back nicely while occasionally flashing brilliance, and enters 2023 as a critical part of the Yankees’ rotation.

2022 Statistics: 19 GS, 102 IP, 3.18 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 9.88 K/9, 1.4 fWAR

2023 ZiPS Projections: 20 GS, 104.1 IP, 3.54 ERA, 3.67 FIP, 9.32 K/9, 1.7 fWAR

ZiPS is by no means bullish on Severino’s upcoming campaign, but considering his recent injury history, that’s unsurprising. I suspect that 104 innings from Sevy is on the low end of what most fans would love to see from him, with the ideal number probably closer to 130 or so after he rebuilt his innings count last season.

What can we expect when Severino’s on the hill in 2023? Last season, he was primarily the three-pitch pitcher we’d come to know. Sevy offered a fastball, a slider, and a changeup, all with velocities above their respective major league averages, not to mention a cutter that he threw about six percent of the time.

Statcast paints an interesting picture. Severino allowed hard contact in 2022, with his average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage both well below the MLB average, in the 25th and 18th percentiles, respectively. Despite allowing hard contact though, Severino’s expected outcomes are universally in the upper echelon of big league hurlers, with percentile rankings in the 80s.

Luis Severino 2022 Statcast Data

Severino’s pitch data is also interesting. With each of his main four pitches, he held opposing batters to weighted on-base averages under .300, and opposing hitters struggled to even make contact with his slider and his cutter. Both pitches induced a whiff rate exceeding 40 percent. His fastball was actually his most hittable pitch. He allowed a slightly higher SLG on it than on any other offering, and it had the highest expected weighted on-base average of any of his pitches.

Sevy enters the 2022 campaign as the presumptive No. 2 starter behind Gerrit Cole, due to the injury to Carlos Rodón and Nestor Cortes’ recuperation from the injury that plagued him earlier this spring. Once Cortes is back up to speed and Rodón is back from the injury, Severino likely slots in as more of a mid-rotation arm, albeit one who can look downright nasty at his best.

Moreover, the club will almost certainly have to manage Severino’s innings again this year. There was drama last season when New York placed Severino on the 60-day IL with a lat injury, and the hurler didn’t seem best pleased with the decision (he knew he had to miss time, but not two months). He is almost certainly not coming anywhere close to doubling his regular season innings total from last year, and that means, to borrow a term from the NBA, that we’ll see some load management in 2023.

Severino’s free agency looms after this season. The club exercised its option on him to keep in pinstripes for 2023, but this could well be his last ride in the Bronx. If he has his way, however, he seems keen on remaining a Yankee. In February, Severino said:

“This is the only team, the only family that I know... Of course, I want to spend the rest of my life wearing this uniform. It’s going to be a negotiation; it’s going to be part of the game. You go to free agency, there’s going to be more teams [involved], but of course I want to finish my career here.”

For what it’s worth, Severino has always looked like he enjoys pitching in New York, bringing emotion and energy to the mound with him. And when he’s pitching at his best, he’s nigh-unhittable.

But Sevy’s free agency is a long way away. Of immediate concern is getting through the regular season healthy and at the top of his game as the Yankees chase their 28th World Series. Severino had gone through a rough spring training prior to Tuesday, with opposing clubs knocking him around a bit. But his most recent start was encouraging, with Severino whiffing nine Detroit Tigers in his four innings of work, and there’s reason to believe that he was just working on specific things all camp long anyway.

Severino will be ready for Opening Day, and with it, at least one more reason to stand out for the Bronx faithful.