Back in October, Scott wrote about about the resilience of the 2014 rotation and a bright outlook for the 2015 staff. Nearly everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong, yet the team somehow pieced together a competent rotation that kept them competitive far deeper into the season than they should have been. With CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova all missing significant portions of the season, the Yanks relied on names like David Phelps, Brandon McCarthy, Shane Greene, Vidal Nuno, Chase Whitley, and Chris Capuano to start 83 of their 162 games. Aside from McCarthy, none looked like front-of-the-rotation arms, but all looked capable of either improving or effectively holding down a spot or two in the rotation going forward. Combine that with the fact that Tanaka and Pineda showed that, if healthy, the Yankees have something special on their hands, and Scott's optimism was warranted.
Cut to today, with Opening Day just over a week away, and things still looking good even if the rotation picture isn't what we'd imagined it would look like. Kuroda, Phelps, McCarthy, Greene, and Nuno are gone, and the Yankees' biggest starting pitching haul wasn't Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, or James Shields as many fans hoped, but 25-year-old righty Nathan Eovaldi, who has found only moderate success, but is capable of being as good as any number mid-rrotation starter in baseball. Sabathia is back at his 2012 weight and has looked promising this spring, while Tanaka and Pineda have luckily had no bumps in the road back and appear ready to be the two-headed beast the team will need them to be.
Skies are clear for takeoff, but what if things take an abrupt turn for the worse again? On the surface, it doesn't look like the Yankees have the arms to hold down the fort again like they did last year. Then again, there's really no team that enters the season with enough depth to withstand losing four starting pitchers, but it's all about how resourceful you can be.
There are several factors that play into how the Yankees would go about replacing spots in the rotation, such as who it is that's missing time, how long they'll be out, what point in the season it is, and how involved with the playoff race they are. In most scenarios, the answers would likely be found in-house. The Yanks have already been forced to go to that well when Chris Capuano, the anticipated stopgap until Ivan Nova returns, went down with a leg injury. At this point it appears Adam Warren will be the one to take the job, but his two main competitors would still likely be the next in line should the Bombers be faced with a decimated pitching staff once again.
Esmil Rogers is by far the more experienced arm of the two, but he's mostly failed to impress in his pursuit of the rotation spot this spring and doesn't have anything to hang his hat on in terms of his career numbers either. Bryan Mitchell has also not looked good this spring, but he could benefit from being an unknown quantity. After all, his advancement through the minors thus far has been predicated on his stuff rather than his results. The big thing for him will be to get a grasp on the strike zone. In his lone start with the big team last season, he threw only 48 of his 84 pitches for strikes in a loss to the Orioles. The Yankees clearly have an affinity for the kid, though.
The other options on the 40-man are Chase Whitley and Jose De Paula. Whitley is the only man other than Capuano still standing from last season's staff of replacements that made over ten starts. He had mixed results, pitching to a 2.56 ERA in his first seven starts, then up to 8.03 the rest of the way. De Paula, the 27-year-old lefty who's yet to get a crack at the majors, has spent time in the Padres and Giants organizations and was signed this offseason to a major league contract. He's regarded as a decently hard thrower with good control, but if he's starting a game at any point this season, something has likely gone very wrong, though that's exactly what they brought him in for.
Aside from Capuano and Rogers, other veteran options within the organization are Scott Baker and Kyle Davies. Baker is a reclamation project and Davies, like Rogers, has yet to find any real success at the big-league level.
No matter how you slice it, the odds of the Yankees being able to maintain through another season barraged by injury in the rotation seems unlikely. It will take a surprise from an unexpected minor league arm, a crafty trade, free-agent pickup or waiver-claim. It might even take some desperate measures, like breaking the farm for Cole Hamels or giving Luis Severino an early call to the show. Here's to hoping it doesn't come to that.