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The youth movement and where the Yankees are headed: Pitching Staff

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The Yankees have a young rotation, but can they remain healthy?

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees began the youth movement on the pitching side of the team last season. It began with filling the voids left by Andy Pettitte and the decimation of the starting rotation by multiple season-ending injuries. Last offseason, the Yankees added the much hyped and coveted, Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka on a seven-year and a $155 million contract to be the ace of the rotation.  In his first season in pinstripes, the 25-year-old right-hander was dominant, going 12-4 before being diagnosed with the dreaded UCL tear in his right elbow that cost him more than two months of the season. For the first time since being traded to New York, Michael Pineda joined the rotation and showed fans the dominance that everyone has been waiting for, even though he missed June, July and August. The staff received two other crushing blows when Ivan Nova succumbed to the league-wide epidemic of UCL tears requiring surgery, while CC Sabathia’s knee caused him to be shut down for the season after 46 ineffective innings pitched. Those injuries caused the team to dig into the farm system pressing Shane Greene into action on July 7th, where helped stabilize things with 14 starts, logging a 3.64 FIP and a solid 9.19 K/9 the rest of the season. Chase Whitley also was able to contribute seven decent starts before he came crashing back to earth in Toronto.

While no one will ever replace Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer of all time, David Robertson stepped up and pitched admirably in the closer role in 2014. He proved more than capable of making the transition as he racked up 39 saves in 44 opportunities. After years of showing patience and waiting for the talent to develop, Dellin Betances rewarded the team by establishing himself as one of the best set up men in the game. His numbers were eye-popping no matter how you look at them; a 1.40 ERA and a franchise record 135 strikeouts in 90 innings of work. The numbers don’t do Betances justice, so here’s some video of his dominant appearance against the Mets.

Rotation

At this point the rotation has some intriguing young talent and carries some significant injury risk with it as well. Masahiro Tanaka returns as the ace, as everyone will hold their collective breath hoping that his elbow doesn’t come apart. After waiting two years to get a return on the Michael Pineda trade, he delivered in 2014, showing pinpoint control and length going six or more innings in 10 out of his 13 starts. Once again the Yankees hope that his right shoulder can handle the workload over a full season, as of now he slotted to be their number two pitcher. After pitching at least 180 innings in every season since 2001, CC Sabathia finally broke down with a degenerative knee injury in 2014. After sitting out most of the season, there’s hope that he can claim the third spot in the rotation, albeit with reduced velocity. Brian Cashman surprised everyone when he dealt for young fireballer Nathan Eovaldi earlier this month. Eovaldi is no sure thing, but at 24 years of age they hope that he can be molded into a mainstay of the rotation for years to come. Eno Sarris of Fangraphs wrote an excellent story comparing Eovaldi to Garrett Richards, and if that were what Eovaldi becomes, this deal was a steal for the Yankees. Rounding out the rotation it looks as if Chris Capuano or Bryan Mitchell will hold the last spot, until the recovering Ivan Nova is able to return.

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2015 Rotation

Age

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2016 Projected Rotation

Age

1

Masahiro Tanaka

26

1

Masahiro Tanaka

27

2

Michael Pineda

26

2

Michael Pineda

27

3

CC Sabathia

34

3

Ivan Nova

29

4

Nathan Eovaldi

25

4

Nathan Eovaldi

26

5

Chris Capuano

36

5

Luis Severino

22

As you can see by looking at the charts above, the rotation has become a lot younger with Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi in the fold. Bryan Mitchell, Manny Banuelos and Adam Warren are all in the picture heading into 2015, with Mitchell having the chance to be this year’s Shane Greene with more dominant stuff. After working his way back into shape last season, Manny Banuelos could very quickly enter the picture and become the power lefty that the team sorely needs, with CC Sabathia on the decline. It’s also very possible that top prospect Luis Severino could force the front office’s hand if he continues to dominate at the upper levels of the minor leagues and enter the big league picture late in 2015. Although injuries and underperformance do occur, it’s very possible that the Yankees could sport a rotation of all under-30 year olds as soon as 2016.

Bullpen

No matter which way Joe Girardi decides to use his bullpen in 2015, for the first time since 2008, he won’t be won’t be able to call for David Robertson. Instead it appears that newly signed Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances or a combination of both will take over closing duties this season to form a lethal 1-2 late inning duo. Joining them will be newly acquired Justin Wilson, Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren, and Esmil Rogers, along with plenty of internal candidates to fill the last spot such as Jose Ramirez, Chase Whitley, Jacob Lindgren, Dan Burawa, Nick Rumbelow, and Tyler Webb. To have a bullpen that's young, deep and under team control is something that the Yankees will reap the benefits of for the next few years.

POS 2015 Projected Bullpen Age POS 2016 Projected Bullpen Age
CL Dellin Betances 27 CL Dellin Betances 28
SU Andrew Miller 29 SU Andrew Miller 30
RP Shawn Kelley 30 RP Adam Warren 28
RP Adam Warren 27 RP Dan Burawa 27
RP Dan Burawa 26 RP Jacob Lindgren 23
LOOGY Justin Wilson 27 LOOGY Justin Wilson 28
Long Esmil Rogers 29 Long Esmil Rogers 30

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Although the past couple of seasons haven’t been easy, things on the pitching prospect side of things should begin to payoff this season. With Bryan Mitchell and Manny Banuelos on the cusp of the big leagues and Luis Severino getting closer, the team has three prospects that could man rotation spots as soon as 2015. On the bullpen side, the Yankees are blessed with a deep pool of prospects including impact reliever Jacob Lindgren that should begin to make their presence felt in spring training. For all the doom and gloom being written about the farm system over the past few years, people began to see a positive change in direction last season. As always prospects are suspects, but 2015 could be a huge year and the continuation of building a very young pitching staff.