Though the season hasn’t even started, the Yankees have already had their depth tested in two positions. Curtis Granderson‘s injury has opened up a spot in the outfield, and the catching situation has been much maligned since the Yankees declined to re-sign Russell Martin and passed on signing A.J. Pierzynski. And with Derek Jeter‘s ankle injury, we’ll see the infield depth tested as Eduardo Nunez and/or Jayson Nix get some time at short to spell the Captain. On the other hand, the pitching seems to be fairly deep.
The bullpen is well-stocked and some pitchers (think Clay Rapada and Cody Eppley) will not last the year on the 25-man roster. Likewise, though not quite as widely, the starting rotation is considered to be an area of strength. It’s certainly a talented rotation featuring CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda. But is it as deep as we think?
Phil Hughes has already suffered an injury. Andy Pettitte is coming off an injury (granted it was a freak, batted ball thing). Kuroda, though he showed few (if any) signs of injury last year, is coming off a career high in innings pitched. Sabathia, godly though he may be is coming off of (relatively minor) elbow surgery. It’s easy to imagine one or more of them missing time over the course of the season. If (when) that happens, where can the Yankees turn?
In past years, we’ve seen the Yankees slug their way through mediocre starting rotations. Though this plan seemed to fall apart in the playoffs from 2005-2007, it still got them there. With a slightly diminished lineup in 2013, the team’s ability to pound its way out of tight pitching spots is certainly in question. As such, the Yankees will have to rely solely on their starting pitching depth. What does that depth look like?
One of David Phelps or Ivan Nova will be the fifth starter. The other will, presumably, be the sixth starter and will be called upon to take over when someone goes down. Both have some pros, and some cons. Nova, for example, has great stuff and good Major League experience. However, 2012 was an absolute nightmare for Nova. Phelps showed solid control and command when up in the big leagues last year, but his stuff isn’t horribly special and he lacks an out pitch. He also had trouble turning over the lineup in his starts. I’m not high on either guy, but my pessimism here may be played up; you could do a lot worse for fifth/sixth starters. After that, though, things aren’t so hot.
Adam Warren has always been a personal favorite, and he’s certainly had enough seasoning to be able to survive at the Major League level. But can his stuff live up to the Majors? He’s been good-not-great at AAA and did get smacked around in his only ML start last year. That’s not too damning, but he didn’t inspire much confidence in 2012. After that, the pitching situation is a bit dicey. The only other starters on the 40-man are Jose Ramirez, Brett Marshall, Manny Banuelos, and Dellin Betances. The first two are not ML options at this point. Though they’ve got good promise and are top prospects, they don’t have nearly enough experience to be relied upon in a Major League rotation, even on a short-term basis. As for the last two, Banuelos is out for the year thanks to Tommy John Surgery and Dellin Betances defines “train wreck” in terms of being a prospect right now.
While my reservations and hesitations may be a bit overstated, the Yankees could (duh) be in a bit of trouble if an early injury befalls more than one of their starters. But I suppose with depth, the farther down you go, the shallower it gets.