At the beginning of February, the Yankees are still rumored to be in the hunt for more starting pitching help. The Bombers are reportedly searching for possible avenues to clear salary that would allow them to sign Yu Darvish to a multi-year deal.
These efforts to bolster the staff come despite the Yankees having five solid arms in the rotation, based on last year’s performances. CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka are back, and Yankees fans will get to enjoy a full season of Sonny Gray in 2018.
So, why do the Yankees continue to look for starting pitching help? Aside from the “you can never have enough starting pitching” mentality, there may be some concerns about how young starters Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery will fare after logging full big league seasons in 2017.
Montgomery was thrown right into the fire in his rookie season, tossing 155 1⁄3 innings at the big leagues with no previous experience to speak of. Meanwhile, Severino tossed 193 1⁄3 innings while establishing himself as an ace, after logging just 71 innings in a bullpen role the season before. There is some concern that the two young arms could experience fatigue in 2018 after these large increases in workload.
Luckily, we have plenty of evidence that show young starters continuing to improve the season after a major innings spike, and there’s no reason Severino and Montgomery can’t join this list of starters who were just fine after throwing full big league seasons in their early twenties.
2014: 219 IP (up 155 innings from 2013)
2015: 208 IP, 2.73 ERA
If you’re looking for a reason to be confident in Severino and Montgomery in 2018, look no further than their teammate Gray, who was heavily relied upon in 2014 after being called up to the majors in July of 2013. Gray followed a 200-inning season at the age of 24 in 2014 by eclipsing the 200-inning mark again in 2015. He ultimately earned an All-Star appearance and finishing third in the Cy Young voting.
In short, Gray was just fine.
1992: 241 IP (up 154 IP from 1991)
1993: 167 2⁄3 IP, 3.98 FIP
Mussina was an absolute workhorse in 1992 after making the big show late in the 1991 season. He finished with a 157 ERA+ at just 23 years old, and followed up that season with an All-Star 1993 season. Sure his innings went down, but did anyone really expect it to go up from 241 innings?
Oh, and Mussina showed incredible poise in his 1993 season when he patiently awaited the arrival of a charging bull:
2012: 192 IP (up 121 from 2011)
2013: 214 1⁄3 IP, four complete games
He may be a lefty, but Sale still provides a very solid comparison to Severino, given his early career trajectory. Like Severino, Sale spent some time in the bullpen early in his career, specifically the 2011 season. He took on a starting role in 2012 and posted a 140 ERA+ en route to his first All-Star selection. The following year, Sale finished north of 200 innings with almost identical numbers as the season before, finishing with a 137 ERA+ and leading the league in complete games.
Here is one of Sale’s best starts of that 2013 season, before he and the throwback jerseys had a falling-out:
2012: 136 1⁄3 IP (no major league action in 2011)
2013: 200 IP, 120 ERA+, 7.4 K/9
Sale’s former teammate provides valuable insight when discussing Montgomery, as Quintana threw over 120 major league innings in his rookie season after throwing zero innings as a major leaguer the season before.
Quintana would follow up his rookie season by logging exactly 200 innings and improving in ERA, K/9, BB/9 and WHIP. Montgomery doesn’t possess the same talent as his fellow southpaw, but Quintana still provides hope for back-to-back full seasons out of the minors.