If the season started tomorrow...
It's kind of a stupid phrase, I admit that. If the season started tomorrow, teams would have been more aggressive in their deals.
Max Scherzer and James Shields will not be free agents at the start of the season, though I do wonder if one of them won't get Stephen Drew'd; might one of those two not get an offer he likes in time for spring training? There seem to be so few evolving rumors, and Scott Boras has done that with both Drew and starter Kyle Lohse, who went until nearly April before a team met their demands in years and dollars. But that's a whole different point.
At least publicly, the Yankees' top five are set: Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Eovaldi and Capuano. Let's leave Adam Warren in the bullpen for now; by some measure, he was one of the 20 most valuable relievers in all of baseball. Even though the projection systems think he'll regress a little in 2015, that's mainly because they think he'll give up more than four home runs in 78 innings of work.
There are five more starting pitchers on the 40-man roster. To avoid any kind of ranking, let's look at them alphabetically.
There's always a concern that a player won't come back from Tommy John surgery. It's happened. But ManBan's stats across three levels and 76 innings are almost exactly in line with his minor league career. It's easy to get excited by a lefty with a slight build who can hit 97 on a radar gun. But Banuelos hasn't posted a season WHIP below 1.5 since 2010. Of the five starters on the 40-man roster, I think Banuelos is the least likely to start a game in the Bronx in 2015. But maybe the full offseason will work a little magic on that elbow.
Jose De Paula
De Paula is definitely the least heralded of the prospects on this list. Signed as a minor league free agent from the Giants, he's pitched only a few innings at the Triple-A level in 2014 before being sidelined by an oblique injury. He's got an option left, and he was on the restricted list in 2012 when baseball found out he's actually older than previously reported (he turns 27 in March). The lefty has a low 90s fastball that he can dial up to 95; the reports I've read describe "sinking action" without calling it a sinker. His curve is the stronger of his secondary pitches, and his changeup is a work in progress.
The scouting reports say fringe starter/bullpen candidate with a low nineties sinking fastball and an average slurve, and a below average changeup that doesn't work against left-handed batters. The ceiling is there, the clearest scouting report I read said that he short arms the ball, so with some mechanical adjustments he could add mph to his fastball and improve both the speed separation and deception of his changeup.
The 2009 draftee got a cup of coffee in 2014, pitching well in an August relief appearance, pitching five innings, two earned runs in a double header spot start against the Orioles, and then eating four innings in relief on the second to last day of the season. He's got the high nineties fastball and the big curve, and his changeup is coming along. His control is the big issue, with 3.6 BB/9 being the lowest mark he's posted in a full season. Still, his command is improving with each stop and he's continued to climb the ladder.
The most familiar name on the list, Whitley was great his first time through the league and then he couldn't adjust. I think the #6 spot on the depth chart belongs to Mitchell at this point, but if he doesn't seem ready to take the step forward out of spring training, I could see Whitley in that spot.
Obviously, I've said all along I'd like the Yankee to sign Max Scherzer to push the entire depth chart one spot further down. But if that doesn't happen, I'm not really worried. Yes, someone is going to get hurt this year because nearly every team in baseball needs 7 or 8 starters to get through a season. The Yankees have got that kind of depth, and the resources to go find a Brandon McCarthy if that depth is sorely challenged.