For the last couple of seasons, the Yankees have had a revolving door in the bullpen, with middle relievers shuttling back and forth from the Bronx to Triple-A Scranton. In 2017, the shuttle could extend to the starting rotation. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda will almost certainly take the first three spots, with the remaining two up for grabs in spring training.
There are plenty of pitchers who will be vying for the fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation. Familiar faces will include Luis Severino, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, and Adam Warren. Exciting pitching prospects like Justus Sheffield and James Kaprielian will be at spring training with the big league club as well, though neither have even reached Triple-A yet, so it’s doubtful we see either in 2017.
Other spring training invitees include prospects such as Brady Lail, Jordan Montgomery, southpaw Dan Camarena, and 2016 breakout prospect Chance Adams. There will be lots of competition to round out the starting rotation for the Yankees, with several qualified hurlers taking aim at a starting role.
As Ben noted in October, a common theme for the Yankees’ rotation in 2016 was the lack of depth in the repertoires of Yankee starters. One point of fascination (and frustration) last year was Michael Pineda’s underwhelming numbers despite great strikeout and walk rates. Pineda was just one of a few Yankee starters who effectively relied on just two pitches, with the likes of Severino and Chad Green also lacking deep arsenals.
Severino’s changeup was his go-to secondary pitch in the minors, but he lost a feel for it in 2016. He claims to have found it again during the offseason, something that would immediately move him back into consideration for the starting rotation. Adam Warren has also flashed three good secondary offerings in the past, including a slider, a changeup, and a curveball. However, he tends to rely much more heavily on his slider when pitching out of the bullpen. If Severino and Warren show up to camp with their entire arsenals intact, the competition could be over before it starts.
Jordan Montgomery is also an interesting player to watch. The six-foot-four lefty throws from an over the top arm slot, which gives him plenty of downward plane on his pitches. While he was playing in pitcher-friendly environments at Double-A and Triple-A, Montgomery allowed just five home runs in 139.1 innings last year. He is not considered to have the highest ceiling in the system, but his ability to locate and keep the ball in the yard suggest that he is well-equipped to handle the MLB learning curve.
Obviously, spring training is also a time to watch for pitchers who are expanding their arsenals with new pitches. Pitchers like Green and Chance Adams figure to have high ceilings, but they will have to show the ability to throw off speed pitches before they attract significant attention. In any case, Joe Girardi will have plenty of options for his starting rotation. Last year, the Dodgers led the league by using 15 starters throughout the season, a number the Yankees could easily approach in 2017.