As we prepare for the 2016 MLB Draft next month, it's important to look back at what the Yankees already have. Let's take stock on the team's starting pitching depth at this point in time. Overall, they don't seem to have a lot of can't-miss talent, but there is plenty of depth that could develop into useful big league pieces at some point.
The best pitching prospects the Yankees have are still a few years away from the majors. Taken 16th overall in last year's draft, James Kaprielian is already making a name for himself. There were whispers of him being so advanced that he could be in the big leagues as soon as this year. An elbow injury has all but ruined whatever small chance he had of making in 2016, but he's supposed to be healthy again soon. He could reach Double-A Trenton by season's end, but it looks like 2017 could be the target now–the Yankees like him that much.
Beyond Kaprielian is lefty Ian Clarkin, who already dealt with his own arm injury last year. He missed all of 2015, but was able to pitch in the fall, and has pitched well with High-A Tampa this season. The elbow concern might slow down his development, but he's still just 21, and has plenty of time to develop. Domingo Acevedo has gotten attention in the last few years because he can throw the ball around 100 mph as a starter. He has a lot of potential, but he's been out of action since the beginning of May, and is already 22 in Low-A Charleston. Acevedo is ranked no. 7 in the organization for a reason, but he needs to stay on the field in order to make it all come together.
The Yankees don't have another Luis Severino waiting in Triple-A, like last year, but they do have some major league-ready talent. We've already seen Chad Green and Luis Cessa in 2016, and we will probably see more of them sooner or later. Bryan Mitchell is currently on the disabled list, but when he gets back there will have to be a conversation about where he fits on the team–starter or reliever. I personally think he's better in the bullpen, but the Yankees might want to stretch him out so he can play a role in the starting rotation.
The next class of talent might be even more impressive. Right-handed starter Ronald Herrera is only 21 years old, but he currently has a 2.35 ERA and 8.7 K/9 in Double-A Trenton. They got him in return for Jose Pirela. Think about that. Reliever-turned-starter Dietrich Enns was always on the bubble, and it looked like he fell out of sight after undergoing Tommy john surgery in 2014, but he returned in 2015 and has only allowed 13 earned runs since–that includes 2016, where he was named Eastern League Player of the Month for not allowing a run in April. He's now 25, has made the jump to Triple-A, and should be in the majors soon.
Over the last few drafts, the Yankees have prioritized high floor over high ceiling–essentially making safe picks instead of going after upside that might not ever be reached. It's hard to image what kind of pitchers some of them will turn out to be, but the organization boasts a few more promising players who have placed on MLB.com's top 30 Yankees prospect list, but are not particularly heralded.
Jordan Montgomery has been surprising with a 2.88 ERA and 8.8 K/9 over three professional seasons despite not having the most dominant of stuff. Cale Coshow has the body of a reliever, but a 3.22 ERA in the Trenton rotation, despite some below-average strikeout numbers. Brady Lail might be closest to the majors after getting a bump to Scranton, but his strikeout rate has disappeared over the last year. Then there is the matter of Jonathan Holder and Caleb Smith, who have both performed well as starters, but have been used out of the bullpen so far this season. Hopefully they will get the chance to start again so we can see what they can do.
Other names to watch include Josh Rogers, Jordan Foley, Justin Kamplain, Jeff Degano, and Drew Finley. Chance Adams was a potential fast-rising reliever before being converted into a starter this year. Brody Koerner hasn't pitched much, but he's already in High-A Tampa and performing well. One name to pay attention to in 2016 is Nestor Cortes, a former 36th-round pick who made his A-ball debut this year, and just struck out 12 in his last start. He's described as a low-speed, command guy, but struck out 10.2 batters per nine innings over his professional career.
The Yankees have seen more than their fair share of injuries over the years, so it's no surprise that Tommy John surgery has done a number on their prospect crop. The value of Vicente Campos and Domingo German have been drastically hacked by injury. Austin DeCarr should be returning from surgery this season, and the ever-broken Ty Hensley will lose another year to a second Tommy John procedure.
The team's depth at starting pitcher could be a whole lot better if injury didn't happen, but they aren't entirely devoid of promise. The 2016 season might not produce a lot of talent, but next year and beyond, we're going to have an awful lot of backend starters on our hands. It might not sound like much, but if one or two of the top prospects work out, things will look a whole lot better. That being said, let's hope the Yankees can add some top pitching talent this year. You can never have enough of that.