New York Yankees: Projecting Yankees' 5-Man Rotation in 2014
The New York Yankees' starting rotation got a whole lot deeper on Jan. 22.
Prior to signing Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka to an enormous contract, the Yankees rotation was suspect. CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda were expected to head a rotation comprised of question marks.
Ivan Nova would have taken the reigns as the No. 3 starter, and it remains to be seen if he can continue his successes from the second half of the 2013 season. Following Nova would have been a combination of David Phelps, Adam Warren, Michael Pineda and Vidal Nuno.
It's safe to say that the addition of Tanaka makes this rotation significantly better.
In fact, this rotation has the potential to perform as one of the best in the American League if Tanaka can translate his game well to the States.
Here's what to expect from this group in 2014.
1. CC Sabathia
2014 Projections: 17-9, 3.45 ERA, 211.0 IP, 190 SO, 1.200 WHIP
Gone are the days of watching CC Sabathia dominate every single fifth day. He still has it in him, but the drop in velocity and questions surrounding the durability of his arm are starting to become real concerns. Sabathia can still perform like an ace, just not like the one that Yankees fans are used to seeing.
Last season's poor performance, however, is not a sign of things to come in 2014.
I think Sabathia will bounce back nicely. No longer does he have the strain of trying to carry the entire team every fifth day. He now has a much more reliable lineup, as well as a better rotation overall behind him. The bullpen is still a bit suspect, but there are plenty of bodies available to allow manager Joe Girardi to ride the hot hands.
Sabathia's biggest tests will come once August rolls around. Sure, the big man pitches better in the heat, but the strain that will be on his arm after already tossing around 140 innings to that point will make it difficult for him to stay consistent.
The days of Sabathia competing for a Cy Young are long gone. That's not to say he can't be a very useful pitcher for the Yankees throughout the remainder of his contract.
2. Hiroki Kuroda
2014 Projections: 14-12, 3.28 ERA, 201.0 IP, 160 SO, 1.150 WHIP
Hiroki Kuroda was by far the best sub-.500 pitcher in baseball last season. He finished 11-13. While that's a product of his streakiness down the stretch, it's also a product of some poor run support from a weak Yankees lineup.
He won't fall victim to a lack of run support much in 2014. The additions of Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury will help improve the lineup, as will the health of Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter. A full season of Alfonso Soriano presumably won't hurt, either.
Kuroda is infallible on the mound, and that's what makes him an asset to this Yankees team. No matter how poorly anybody else is producing, Kuroda always goes out there and does his job.
This very well may be Kuroda's last season before retiring (or heading back to Japan). With that being the case, expect him to leave it all out on the mound this season. His record has pretty much always been around the .500 mark, and his 68-70 career mark is not at all suggestive of how great of a pitcher this guy is.
Look for him to head out on a high note and even his career mark at .500.
3. Masahiro Tanaka
2014 Projections: 15-10, 3.74 ERA, 182.0 IP, 205 SO, 1.250 WHIP
It won't be easy for Masahiro Tanaka in his first season in the majors, but he'll prove to be worth the investment by the Yankees. While he'll never go 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212.0 innings like he did last season in Japan, Tanaka will provide quality innings for the Bombers.
Countryman Yu Darvish went 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA over 191.1 innings in his rookie season in 2012. I expect Tanaka's numbers to be very similar. Darvish was able to strike out 221 batters over 191.1 innings for two reasons: (1) batters in the United States were not at all used to his stuff and (2) he is a master of setting people down on strikes.
I predict that Tanaka will have similar success in that regard.
Being a strikeout pitcher will make it much easier for Tanaka to put up good numbers. Being susceptible to losing batters after getting two strikes on them is enough to make any pitcher lose his mind—even 10-year vets. Having several out-pitch options to choose from, Tanaka will be able to get the job done.
He'll go through some cold streaks, but overall his first season with the Yankees will be a success.
4. Ivan Nova
2014 Projections: 14-11, 3.80 ERA, 185.0 IP, 155 SO, 1.300 WHIP
Predicting Ivan Nova's yearly numbers isn't easy. He's not exactly the most consistent pitcher on the Yankees. While he's capable of flashing signs of acelike work over stretches, he's also capable of being a dud for weeks at a time.
He was stellar for a good portion of last season, going 9-6 with a 3.10 ERA. That was done in 23 games (20 starts, 139.1 total innings).
I think this will be the first season since 2011 that he'll stay both healthy and productive over the course of the season. He may miss a start here or there, but he could easily put up the numbers above if he can make 30 starts.
Nova has a devastating breaking ball and a changeup that is a work in progress. He gets in trouble when he misses his spots because his fastball is extraordinarily straight. It stays on exactly the same plane and doesn't have the velocity to blow by most hitters.
When he can paint the corners, Nova is tough to beat.
5. David Phelps/Michael Pineda
David Phelps 2014 Projections: 8-8, 4.10 ERA, 120.0 IP, 95 SO, 1.350 WHIP
I think David Phelps will break camp as the team's No. 5 starter. He was successful in that role at times in 2013, and his experience as a Yankee will give him the slight edge over Michael Pineda.
Phelps, however, will have a short leash. He is more than capable of pitching out of the bullpen, and the Yankees will need help there during the season. If he falters in the rotation, then look for a swap.
The Yankees are trying to temper expectations with Pineda, and rightfully so. Nobody knows what he's going to be able to bring to the table. Why have huge expectations when there's a strong chance you'll be let down?
Michael Pineda 2014 Projections: 7-9, 3.65 ERA, 110.0 IP, 115 SO, 1.240 WHIP
Pineda will regain some of his 2011 form in 2014, but he'll need this year to get re-acclimated to the bigs. After missing so much time with injuries, it's OK if Pineda puts up these numbers—which, to be fair, are still pretty darn good.
I think 2015 will be the big year for Pineda, but 2014 is important as well. The Yankees need to actually see what this guy can bring to the big league roster. Expect every pitch he throws to be analyzed before deciding whether he'll be part of the team's long-term plans.
The combination of Phelps and Pineda should give the Yankees a solid No. 5 spot in the rotation.