New York helped shore up their bullpen by signing Rafael Soriano, but Yankees' fans worldwide should be concerned about their current projected rotation.
Everyone knows C.C. Sabathia will be a workhorse, and Phil Hughes was great before tiring down the stretch in 2010, but what can we expect from A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre? What other starters should fans know about?
This is a tough question to answer. The Yankees have acquired a number of journeymen starters to try and pin down the fifth spot—none of whom are likely to be anything worth owning on a fantasy team (Mark Prior, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia).
Either way, I don't expect Sergio Mitre to get many starts for the Bombers in 2011, and I don't see any of the above pitchers being ownable in any but the deepest leagues.
On the rest of the rotation spots, expect C.C. Sabathia to be his usual self, worthy of selection in the early third round on (ADP of 21.8 in ESPN leagues). If he gives you a low-3 ERA that's a bonus, but playing in bombastic Yankee stadium in front of a rapidly aging set of position players, this is going to be increasingly unlikely.
I'd look for a 3.5-3.7 ERA, 17+ wins, around 200 Ks and a WHIP between 1.15 and 1.25.
Phil Hughes is the real prize to be had, mostly because after his second half last season (in which he seriously tired down the stretch), people are going to have forgotten how ridiculously good he was to begin the season. Good luck getting Sabathia without overpaying for him (whether in draft position, or trade value).
Hughes is the ace of the future on this Yankee staff. He possesses true swing and miss stuff, much like Josh Beckett in his prime. Watching him pitch the beginning of last season, you saw a lot of batters take some serious cuts at Hughes' pitchers—the kind of swings that you expect to turn into line drives—only to come up completely empty.
His fastball, despite only getting as high as 92-93 mph on most days, moves enough off of expected vectors that batters have serious trouble centering it. When he tires (late in games, or late in the season) that movement diminishes, and you start seeing a lot more hard-hit balls.
As far as A.J. Burnett, heck. I'd love to tell you what to expect, but I haven't got a clue. Bill James' projection system pegs him at about a 4.00 ERA—which the Yankees would be thrilled with. Oddly enough, this is only enough for 12 wins, per James' projections—a difficult proposition in front of this Yankee offense unless one is giving up a ton of unearned runs.
Burnett's K/9 was below seven last season for the first time since 2001—a troubling sign—while his walks were right around his career average. Personally, I'd sign up for anything below a 4.50 ERA. He's also prone to the "explosion" game. You know that game that ruins your head-to-head week because it's so bad. Rather than give you any sort of consistency, he'll dominate one game and be a disaster the next. Not the kind of player I like running out on my fantasy teams, even if the aggregate is good.
With Pettitte gone (sob) the No. 4 spot is taken by Ivan Nova, and who he is (at least to fantasy owners) remains to be seen. As with the scrapheap players mentioned above (Colon, Prior, Garcia, etc.), I'd probably avoid him unless we're talking an extremely deep league, or a league where wins are dramatically overvalued (because with the Yankee offense behind him, he'll get his share of Ws).
Nova is not a top prospect, and if he can be a serviceable No. 4 starter (think ERA+ around 100—straight league average) the Yankees will be thrilled.
The names on the horizon to watch are Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman and Manny Banuelos, all of whom could possibly see time in the show in 2011.
Betances has the filthiest stuff of the trio, but has had trouble staying on the field. The nearly seven-foot tall Brackman had a horrific 2009, but dropped his BB/9 rate from 6.4 to 2.5 last season, and looks ready to emerge. Banuelos has flashed 97-mph heat (though he normally sits around 91-92) and has a dirty changeup.
Of the three, I like Banuelos the most—but I can understand people who want to dream on Betances' pure stuff.