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If Andy Pettitte does not resign, the Yankees are currently set up to enter spring training with two open rotation spots. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember that ever being the case on the modern Yankees. Even in 2008, when the Yankees attempted to use Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy, and later Joba Chamberlain all in the rotation, the plan was set from the start. If the Yankees decide to go into spring training with their current roster, it’ll really be a rare sight, and pretty interesting too from an objective standpoint.

Luckily for the Yankees, the team does have a lot of options. An exhaustive list at this point probably includes Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Sergio Mitre, Joba Chamberlain, D.J. Mitchell, Andrew Brackman, Dellin Betances, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, and Romulo Sanchez, plus whatever minor league contracts the Yankees bring in to audition.

Right off the bat, I think the Yankees will value some stability by immediately promising one job to Ivan Nova. This would allow him to relax in spring training a little bit and work on his game, instead of having to endure the pressure of a competition. You can pass your own judgment on whether or not pressure is good for a young pitcher – I think the team should press him. Regardless, Ivan Nova is probably the best “ready-now” pitcher on the roster. He’s got two great things going for him – a superb 2.86 ERA in 146 Triple-A innings plus a solid MLB debut with a 4.50 ERA in 42 innings. He’s got the workload and mental icebreaking down. Nova’s problem is that he’s just not all that great of a pitcher. He has the stuff, and should be a MLB starter, but has poor K/BB numbers all around. He’s going to allow a lot of baserunners, which means a lot of runs. Still, he’ll get his outs, and shouldn’t be overexposed in the majors. The Yankees couldn’t really ask for much better right now.

Once we get to the competition, I think that the Yankees will only give a real serious chance at making the rotation to Phelps, Brackman and Mitre, plus Joba if they decide to go that route. They’ll do their due diligence on Sanchez and Mitchell, but neither are particularly promising as starters in the majors. Warren, Betances, and Noesi offer higher-ceiling options than Phelps and Mitre, but all could definitely benefit from some more time. The Yankees do not need their opening day starters to last the whole season, and Noesi in particular could very well be ready by the time its apparent that one of the MLB guys isn’t working out. If spring training is really kind to them and the Yankees are feeling pretty adventurous, maybe they get a shot. Just don’t bet the farm on it.

Phelps should be the favorite of this group. He has the potential to be a lot better than Mitre, but is a little more ready than Brackman. He pitched a robust 158 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, with a strong 3.92 K/BB ratio. He’s got solid enough stuff with a 91-93 mph fastball and a good slider, plus oodles of polish. He’s no ace, but Phelps definitely has the potential to stick in the back of the rotation on a team like the Yankees. You could see him pitching 200 innings with a 4.50 ERA, which we would take I think. Brackman, on the other hand, is the opposite kind of prospect. He had a fairly strong season, but topped out pitching 80 2/3 innings at Double-A. We all know about how good he can be. If he shows up to spring training looking like the good Brackman – in shape and all together mechanically – I think the Yankees will strongly consider him. But that needs to happen first. Sergio Mitre is Sergio Mitre. You know what he brings to the table – not a whole lot, but he’ll go out and pitch every 5th day.

Its important to remember what the Yankees are seeking to replace. Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez combined to pitch 286 innings for the Yankees with a combined ERA of 4.40. That’s what the Yankees should shoot for. Furthermore, the Yankees can count on some kind of mid-season reinforcement coming from Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, Manuel Banuelos, Brackman, etc, plus the trade market. I really don’t think this picture is all that bleak for the Yankees. Yeah, it might be painful to watch some rookies struggle at first, but it was just as painful to watch the Vazquez/Moseley/et al crew try and hold down the bottom part of the rotation this year. Cashman might not be pulling a Bubba Crosby here, folks. The truth is that Phelps and Nova are relatively solid, if unspectacular, major league options, and the rest of the crew represent high-ceiling potential at mid-season (or earlier in Brackman’s case).

12 Responses to “What would a two-slot spring training rotation battle look like?”

  1. What kind of work could Nova put in to help him improve on his 3rd time through line-ups? Is it a matter of learning a new pitch or is there a simpler solution?  (Quote)

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    EJ Fagan Reply:

    Your guess is as good as mine. He did pitch pretty decently-long outings in the minors this season (6.3 innings per start, strong for milb), which I guess is worth something.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    He seemed to have a pretty decent change for such a young guy wouldn’t you agree EJ? If I remember correctly he has a decent three pitch repertoire, the curve is a little lazy and not as tight as you would want but it’s still a good pitch and he believes in the change enough to throw it.

    I can’t imagine that adding another pitch is the key but maybe it is, I remember that he seemed to throw his changes early in the game so maybe it’s just a case of him needing to wait and throw mostly fastballs in the first and slowly integrate his offspeed pitches, that’s just an educated guess though.  (Quote)

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  2. The stats you DEMAND from Phelps is what most here were willing to live with and pay Javier Vasquez and his 88-89 MPH heater 10 -12 million for last season.
    When will YAnkees and their fans stop assuming the players who are succeeding in the Minors at every level aren’t potentially very good players and can’t help us win.
    How many were ready to give pu on Hughes before he went to the Pen and succeeded there?
    How many were sure Joba was a superstud?
    You never knwo for sure but i would not be overly shocked if Phelps turned out ot be a very solid starting pitcher.
    I remember many PUNDITS suggesting Hughes would never be more than a #4 type starter also.

    Phelps is a competitor who throws strikes, competes and touches 93-94. Why bring in another has been instead of giving a guy like this a real shot and aving the money until and if you need it..  (Quote)

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    Moshe Mandel Reply:

    Scouting matters. just because pundits have been wrong before doesnt mean you should assume they will be wrong in the future.  (Quote)

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  3. Yes,scouting by the Yankees and their professionals.  (Quote)

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  4. Why didnt you mention Banuelos as a potential starter out of spring training, or at least mentioned in the group with Betances. You probably just missed him, but was wondering if you put him in the group with Betances or Brackman, in terms of consideration for rotation shot in 2011.  (Quote)

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    T.O. Chris Reply:

    He has had 15 innings of double A and Betances has 14 neither one has even seen triple A I highly doubt either one of them sees the rotation this year and if they do it’s a huge mistake, I happen to think it would be a much bigger mistake for a 20 year old like Banuelos though because your just asking for injury.

    Why does everyone count out Mitre? I understand no one wants him in the rotation from opening day including me but in a battle against a bunch of double A kids and one guy with 80 innings in triple A how is he not the favorite?  (Quote)

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    EJ Fagan Reply:

    I just really don’t think that the Yankees will consider Banuelos. Betances is a bit of a stretch, but he’s older and arguably better right now. Banuelos is not only a better prospect, but one who needs a little more nurturing.  (Quote)

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  5. I highly doubt that DJ Mitchell or Romulo Sanchez figure into rotation battle, both are bullpen pieces anyway and Romulo has no options left so if he doesn’t make the team he has to go through waivers before he can go down and because of that I imagine he will spend all of spring training looking to make that last bullpen spot.

    If I had to guess the only pitchers with a prayer of starting opening day in the 5th spot (if we assume as you say that Nova gets the 4) would be Mitre, Phelps, Brackman, Noesi and Warren with Mitre, Phelps and Brackman having a leg up on everyone else, sure they may say Betances and Banuelos are “in the running” but I don’t believe for a second they would do that to either one of those kids considering they would be basically going from high A to the Majors in one jump and neither one pitched a full season last year and Betances was on a 65-75 pitch count.  (Quote)

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  6. Nice analysis. And if Pettitte comes back, even more reason not to panic. Come back, Andy.  (Quote)

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