With over a week to go until the regular season, the Yankees appear to have their big league starting rotation just about set. At the Triple-A level, however, things aren't quite the same, as injuries to some of the team's better starting pitching prospects have put a wrench into things at the moment.
Coming into camp, I was hoping we'd see pitching prospects Nik Turley and Jose Ramirez appear in a game or three. Unfortunately, those two suffered injuries early on in camp and have not appeared in a game since; Turley's arm felt tight during a bullpen session before spring games even began and Ramirez injured the same oblique that sidelined him last summer. Because Turley and Ramirez have been unable to get innings under their respective belts this spring, it wouldn't be a shock to see these two land on the DL to begin the season.
A prospect we did get to see this spring, though, is Manny Banuelos. He looked very rusty in his two outings, but that's to be expected given the nearly two-year, elbow-related layoff. Although he has spent prior time at Triple-A, Banuelos could wind up in High-A Tampa's rotation to begin the year; the weather is much better in Tampa than it is in Scranton right now and it'd be preferable to have a guy who's coming off Tommy John surgery pitch in more ideal conditions. Once the weather improves up north, Banuelos could find himself back in the RailRiders' rotation.
After being optioned to minor league camp, Chase Whitley is expected to be stretched out as a starter. Whitley does have experience as a starter, most notably pitching to a shiny 1.42 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .512 OPS in a four-outing trial at the tail end of last season. For whatever reason, Whitley didn't get claimed in the Rule 5 draft, so he'll get to show if he can continue his success in the rotation for Scranton.
Another option could be Vidal Nuno. Even though Nuno has pitched well this spring, he appears to be, at best, a bullpen option at the big league level. At the same time, I wonder if the team would be better off having Nuno in the Triple-A starting rotation so he can build up some innings; if one of the big league starters gets hurt, the Yankees would have a major league arm stretched out and ready to step in. Joe Girardi did say at the beginning of spring that David Phelps and Adam Warren will make the team no matter their role, so Nuno starting in Triple-A wouldn't be much of a surprise in that case.
Because of the injuries/rehab to Turley, Ramirez, and Banuelos, the outlook of the Triple-A rotation is somewhat of an unknown at the moment. Another prospect, Shane Greene, could possibly make the rotation, but for now it's unclear whether he'll start in Scranton or at Double-A Trenton (he did pitch well in 14 Double-A outings last season and has performed well this spring, so he could get bumped up to Triple-A). Either way, the Yankees may have to use some of the lesser-named minor leaguers (Caleb Cotham, Graham Stoneburner, Zach Nuding, etc.) to fill out the rotation in the meantime before the bigger-named prospects are ready to step in.