The Shallow Depths

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.



About Matt Imbrogno

A native and resident of the Mean Streets of Southwestern Connecticut, Matt is a narcissistic, misanthropic 20something English teacher who lives by a simple creed: Yankees Only.

8 thoughts on “The Shallow Depths

  1. With Hughes, Nova, and Phelps, it's as deep as we think it is. Not like they have 6 aces on the team, but they have 3 great starters with 3 other guys capable of getting the job done. And any other team would be in trouble if one of their pitchers got injured. But at least the Yankees already have a 6th guy and a possible 7th in Warren.

  2. Well, the depth will improve with Pineda coming back by June or the All Star Break. I agree, that if Warren has to start for an extended period of time, something went terribly wrong. While it is reasonable to question what your team has, expecting bad things to happen is being cynical.

    Instead of fretting solely about the Yankees 7th starter, how does their situation compare to what the rest of the league has?

  3. " I’m not high on either guy (a reference to Nova & Phelps), 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.

    Just one comment. How many teams when you get to what might be their 7th and 8th starters have hot starters? My guess is absolutely NONE, although I could be wrong. But if the 7th and 8th starters were any good they would NOT be a teams 7th or 8th starters.

    Give me: CC, Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes, Nova and Phelps, Warren and in the 2nd half of this season Pineda as potential starters in a pinch. I'll take that combination every day of the week.

  4. I'm loathe to dump on one of the New Guys, but what does this post add to anything that's already been written? There's no new insight or take or prescription, but this is the sentence that really struck me: "[T]he Yankees could (duh) be in a bit of trouble if an early injury befalls more than one of their starters." If you're writing "duh" to your own post, it's time to reconsider whether it adds value to the discussion. (And I do hope you'll take this as a well-intentioned, constructive objection rather than as pedestrian internet message board snark. I am rooting hard for the success of this merger.)

  5. if Eppley is on the 25 man roster to begin the seaons, I will be surprised. Righty specialists don't really add much value, IMO. The best thing about sideapmers/submariners is the ability to use them lots (Reds' Scott Sullivan always stood out), but Eppley isn't even that good enough to be used that often.