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Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances were two bright spots on a team that was otherwise underwhelming in 2014. Their outings on the mound made games watchable while the offense floundered for the entire season, giving us some reason to be optimistic about their presence on the team for the next few seasons. Although they were two of the most dominant Yankee pitchers in 2014, their paths to the big leagues could not have been more different. Assuming that the concept of a million dollar arm is one that is pretty indispensable to the organization, both of these pitchers more than fit the bill.
The Yankees took a leap of faith after studying video of Tanaka pitching in Japan for years before he was ever made available to MLB teams. Their $155 dollar commitment over the next seven years was quite the investment for a pitcher who had never thrown a single pitch in MLB and it could have turned out terribly if Tanaka's stuff didn't translate the same way it did when he was dominating Japanese hitters in the NPB. Fortunately for the Yankees, Tanaka seemed to transition seamlessly to MLB. There was concern about Tanaka's partially torn UCL that caused him to miss time from the All-Star break until virtually the end of the season, and therefore cost him a chance at the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards that he looked to be one of the favorites for, but his overpowering stuff has made him worth the risk and investment so far. It was a successful case of the Yankees going outside the traditional means of acquiring top tier talent that paid off in a big way to this point. If Tanaka can avoid Tommy John surgery so soon into his MLB career, the Yankees should have a true ace to turn to now that CC Sabathia is no longer the dominant force he was during the first part of his Yankee tenure.
Betances' ascension to dominating reliever was not as clear of a path as Tanaka's path to Yankees ace was. The control issues displayed in the minors kept Dellin from turning all of his potential into the frontline starter scouts thought he might be. After running out of time to keep trying the starter experiment, the Yankees moved Betances to the bullpen as almost a last resort. From that point on, Betances has done nothing but thrive in his new role. His 1.40 ERA in 90 innings out of the big league bullpen made him one of the best relievers in baseball, even as a rookie. Watching opposing hitters look helpless against his offerings was enough to make fans remember when a young Mariano Rivera was just starting to dominate hitters back in the mid-90s. Whether or not the Yankees decide to let David Robertson leave in favor of Betances as closer, it's comforting to know that the team has found such a weapon for the late innings out of a pitcher who was very nearly a completely failed prospect. Dellin has absolutely found his groove as a reliever, even if that groove is a bit different than the career path he originally set out on.
Both Tanaka and Betances displayed why they were million dollar arms by their dominating performances in 2014. The way they got to that point couldn't have really been more different, but they were both able to become forces to be reckoned with after being given the chance. Do you think the Yankees' next million dollar arm is already somewhere in the system? Who do you think it will be?