New York Yankees: 2 Spots, 4 Candidates- Sorting the Mess That Is the Rotation
If you happen to read the blog, you know I haven't thought very highly of some of the moves the Yankees have made to bolster (and of course by bolster, I mean fatten up) their roster. We heard all off-season that there was a plan B—a break-glass-in-case-of-Cliff-Lee-signing-elsewhere scenario, and that everything would be fine.
Well, unless that plan involves illegal Colombian diet pills and advances in scientific research that make all that gravity-defying gyroball crap a reality, things might not be fine. In fact, things could get downright ugly—even if we assume a return to 2009 form for A.J. Burnett, and that's hardly a given.
Here's a breakdown of the main candidates vying for the fourth and fifth spot in the Yankee rotation.
Ivan Nova, RHP
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
Nova has become the leader of this rag-tag pack of misfits, mainly because the word "veteran" isn't the only "superlative" you can attach to him.
He's 24 and has pretty good velocity on his fastball, but has never translated that into high strikeout rates (7.14 K/9 rate in 145 triple-A innings last season, but prior to that it was never higher than 6.60). So the secondary stuff isn't consistently there yet.
Assessing Nova's work at the major league level is difficult due to the small sample size. He did show a good ground ball rate (51.4%, right around Carl Pavano level) which is always the best alternative for success if you don't miss many bats.
If Nova does have some development left, he'll likely do it in the majors. Best case scenario, Nova is serviceable in the fourth starter role, maintains good ground ball rates despite the lack of K's, and gets the team through 5 or 6 innings before turning it over to a deep bullpen. He doesn't profile as a top 3 starter, but then again he doesn't have to be (right, A.J., RIGHT!?)
Bartolo Colon, RHP
Al Bello/Getty Images
I didn't think I had any more fat jokes in me until I saw this blob throw 2 innings over the weekend looking like a balloon from the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
The consensus seems to be he performed admirably. It was encouraging that he hit 93 mph in his spring debut, but velocity was never really a problem for the Dominican; it's more the fact that he literally knees himself in his gigantic gut every time he finishes his delivery.
Colon hasn't thrown more than 99 innings at the major league level since 2005, and the sporadic times he has pitched since then haven't been anything to write home about. At age 37, there really isn't a lot here to hang your hat on, and lightning in a bottle isn't likely.
Colon was always sort of overrated due to an inflated win-loss records, but he was also a pitcher who was consistently a 4.0 WAR or better guy; there was definite value there for a while, bu he wasn't quite the ace he was made out to be.
Best case scenario, Colon is able to stave off heart disease long enough to throw between 100-150 innings with an ERA and and FIP probably hovering close to 5.
Sergio Mitre, RHP
Andrew Burton/Getty Images
Mitre has hung around with the Yankees for a couple of years, never throwing more than 54 ML innings in a season and never having an FIP below 4.49, even though his 2010 ERA was 3.33.
The big difference between Mitre in 2009 and Mitre in 2010 was his ability to keep the ball in the park: a HR/FB (home run to fly ball rate) of 13.2 in 2010 was close to league average while in 2009 it was a brutal 21.7 percent.
Mitre is a sinkerballer, so the more balls on the ground the better. But even with solid GB rates he's still a career 4.72 FIP pitcher—meaning you'll still need a good defensive infield to make him an above average starter. The left side of the Yankee infield isn't that.
Mitre works mostly in the high 80's, so the sinker isn't exactly a power sinker, and the off-speed stuff isn't there, as is evident when you look at his unimpressive career strikeout rates.
There's no real track record here to suggest Sergio can be an every fifth day starter, especially in the AL East. Best case scenario, he fills the long reliever role.
Freddy Garcia, RHP
Al Bello/Getty Images
There probably isn't much left in the tank here, despite his great nickname (The Chief). He also looks like The Rock, so if being baller is enough to get through the Red Sox lineup, he should be just fine.
You may have noticed a trend here amongst these candidates—either no track record or a track record that hasn't been impressive in over 5 years. Garcia is no exception. His last season above 200 innings pitched was 2006, when Ozzie Guillen was doing everything he could to ride his starters into the ground (although to Ozzie's credit, they did win it all in 2005, so maybe it was worth it?) After that, Garcia bounced around with little success, until last season when he went back to Chicago to face down his Ozzie fears. He threw 157 innings for the White Sox in 2010, posting an ERA of 4.64 and an FIP of 4.77.
So pretty much what you see is what you get. Garcia is another pitch-to-contact type (who isn't in this group?) He's more of a fly ball pitcher than the others, so Yankee stadium isn't ideal, but neither was U.S. Cellular and he fared well there.
If Garcia has another season of smoke and mirrors in him, he probably becomes the front runner for the fifth starter role—if for no other reason than because he might eat the most innings.
Best case scenario, he replicates 2010, although the AL East is a different beast than the Central. The Yankees should hope for 150 innings, ERA and FIP hovering between 4.50 and 5.