5 Reasons New York Yankees Need Michael Pineda to Make a Strong Recovery in 2013

Jeremy FuchsCorrespondent IIIJanuary 21, 2013

5 Reasons New York Yankees Need Michael Pineda to Make a Strong Recovery in 2013

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    If the New York Yankees want to be great, they'll need Michael Pineda to make a strong recovery for 2013.

    Pineda is an elite talent, but his Yankee career has been marred by injury and scandal. He missed all of 2012 and is not a lock for 2013.

    As Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York reported, Pineda may not be ready until mid-season:

    During Ian O’Connor’s interview Sunday with Yankees GM Brian Cashman on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, Cashman said that Michael Pineda’s surgically-repaired shoulder will not be good to go until June or the “second half of next year.” 

    The Yankees need Pineda to make a strong recovery and come back as soon as possible if they want to be a serious contender.

    Read on to find out why the Yankees really need Pineda to make a strong recovery for the 2013 season.

The Trade

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    In the offseason before the 2012 season the Yankees swung a big deal. They traded top prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda.

    Pineda came in with big expectations. In 2011 Pineda had an awesome rookie season: posting a 3.74 ERA, a minuscule 1.10 WHIP and a ridiculous 173 strikeouts in 171 innings. 

    Getting a pitcher of that caliber at only 24 was seen as quite the coup for the Yankees.

    But it didn't work out that way. Pineda missed the whole season with a shoulder injury. To make matters worse, he was arrested for a DUI in August.

    Meanwhile, in Seattle, Montero had a fine season. He batted .260 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI.

    So Year One of the Pineda-Montero trade went in favor of the Mariners.

    The Yankees need to salvage this trade. If Pineda cannot recover and if Montero continues to flourish, then they will have a hard time explaining this to a fan base who has become increasing enamored with their top prospects.

    We know Pineda has ability, but we just haven't seen it. The Yankees will regret trading Montero if Pineda cannot pan out. 

    2013 will be a crucial year to see how the trade pans out. 

Age

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    Hiroki Kuroda is 37. Andy Pettitte is 40.

    Yikes.

    They're fine pitchers, but it's a brute fact that injury risks are heightened when you get older. Plus as their arms age you can't rely on them being effective every start.

    That's why Pineda is so important. Not only is he 24 but he will provide valuable depth.

    If Pineda can make a strong recovery, then an injury to either Kuroda or Pettitte won't be as devastating.

Depth

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    Here are the stats of pitcher A: 4.23 ERA, 165 strikeouts, 196 hits in 191 innings.

    Here are the stats of pitcher B: 3.74 ERA, 173 strikeouts, 133 hits in 171 innings.

    Everyone in their right mind would take pitcher B. Who is this mysterious pitcher B? None other than Michael Pineda. 

    Yes, those are the stats of Michael Pineda in his 2011 rookie season. It's the reason why the Yankees were willing to give up so much to get him.

    So if the Yankees had a choice between Phil Hughes and a healthy Michael Pineda for their fourth starter, who do you think they would take? The answer is Pineda.

    A healthy Pineda gives them a legitimate number one starter who they can plug into the fourth slot. It's an enviable problem. 

    Of course, Pineda needs to be healthy and focused for the Yankees to reap the rewards.

    But still, Pineda is the second-best pitcher on the team and having him healthy and focused will give the Yankees one of the best and deepest rotations in baseball. 

Talent

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    Behind C.C. Sabathia, Michael Pineda is the most talented pitcher on the Yankees.

    That's why they need him to make a strong recovery.

    As the playoff series against the Detroit Tigers showed: dominant pitching will get you quite far in the playoffs. The Yankee bats could not figure out Tiger pitching and it led to a sweep.

    The Yankees had the 12th-best ERA last season, at 3.85. Not terrible, but not great. 

    In fact, you could say that about the pitching staff as a whole—they were simply average. 

    Pineda has the kind of elite talent that can take an average pitching staff and turn it into a great one.

    Of course, he needs to stay healthy. He needs to recover from his shoulder injury.

    If he can, the Yankees pitching staff will be taken to new heights—and with it, a World Series berth is not out of the question. 

Playoffs

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    Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but the Yankees do stand a good chance of making the playoffs in 2013.

    Assuming that there are no big mid-season trades the postseason rotation should look something like this:

    • C.C. Sabathia
    • Andy Pettitte
    • Hiroki Kuroda
    • Phil Hughes

    If Pineda is healthy and pitching well, he could still play a valuable role for the Yankees in the playoffs. Pineda could end up being a key cog in the bullpen.

    With electric stuff Pineda could be absolutely dominant coming out of the pen. He could go all out and throw that dynamite fastball with all the aggression he could muster. He'll use his devastating slider to confuse hitters.

    Pineda is a starter and will remain one for his career. But in the bullpen for the playoffs Pineda could be a really important piece of a World Series run.