It's no secret that the Yankees are thin on major league starting pitching. What do they look like a little deeper down?
1. Masahiro Tanaka. He's really good.
2. CC Sabathia. The degree to which Sabathia rebounded in 2016 is a little bit disguised by the changing run environment in the American League. His 3.91 ERA was good for a 111 ERA+. Just two years ago, Sabathia would have been worse than the 3.81 league average (although about average with park adjustments), but pitchers averaged a 4.21 ERA in 2016. For starting pitchers, the average ERA was all the way up to 4.42. His FIP was a little higher at 4.28, but still above-average.
3. Michael Pineda. Similarly, the run environment makes Pineda's 2016 ERA look worse than it was. His 4.82 ERA was good for an 90 ERA+, nearly average among starting pitchers after the park adjustment. Of course, his FIP was much better for the second straight season at 3.79.
4. Luis Cessa. Now we start getting to the point of this post. Cessa has never struck out enough batters to be a great pitcher, but I think he can live in the back of a rotation by throwing strikes and getting ground balls. As a starting pitcher, he pitched to a 4.01 ERA, 5.14 FIP 4.21 xFIP. My guess is he gets the first crack at the rotation out of spring training, but also a quick hook.
5. Luis Severino. Is he a starter or reliever? I don't know. He's still only 22 years old, and was rushed up through the high minors in 2015. I think he's a (very good) relief pitcher long term. For now, the Yankees have no reason to convert him yet.
6. Chad Green. I think it's easy to forget how good Green was in the minors this year: 94 innings in his first shot at Triple-A, 1.52 ERA 2.17 FIP. Green didn't come out of nowhere either - he's still Louisville's career ERA leader. I think he's the most likely of the bottom-three to stick long term in a major league rotation.
7. Jordan Montgomery. You've got to love a pitcher who gets better every time he is promoted. Montgomery started off 2015 all the way down in Low-A, and finished the 2016 season with 37 innings at Triple-A with a 0.97 ERA and 1.90 FIP. The big improvement came from his changeup. He also has a crazy pitching motion. No one so far has been able to hit his weird over-the-top delivery. Seriously, watch the video up top. I've never seen anyone throw like that, and he can throw strikes. I think Montgomery starts the season at Triple-A, but is the first call up.
8. Dietrich Enns. I think Enns is a little bit overrated at the moment. No one has been able to hit him hard since he returned from Tommy John surgery in 2015. He's posted an ERA under 2.00 at every stop along the way, but much higher FIPs. He didn't strike a lot of guys out at Triple-A, and has always walked batters. Maybe he was tired coming back from Tommy John surgery. Although he was a reliever in college, he doesn't sound like a good bullpen conversion candidate. Enns doesn't throw hard, but has a legitimate four-pitch arsenal to attack hitters. I think he goes back to Triple-A and tries to reclaim the strikeout rates that boosted him through the minors. He seems like a smart guy too.
9. Ronald Herrera. I can't figure out why the Yankees added Herrera to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule V draft. He's another low-90s, four-pitch control pitcher, spent most of the season at Double-A, and has an okay statistical history in the minor (2 seasons of 140 innings and a high-3s ERA, 8ish K/9, mid-2s BB/9). He's young (21) for his level, which helps. The Yankees acquired him from the Padres for Jose Pirela a year ago. He'll start the season at Triple-A, and could be making spot starts pretty soon due to his status on the 40-man. None of the three names above him are there yet.
10. Chance Adams. Definitely the best prospect on this list. Adams killed hitters in 2016: 127 1/3 innings, 10.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, evenly split between High-A and Double-A. He's got great stuff, but his small stature points some people toward the bullpen. He'd be higher up if he were on the 40-man roster. I wouldn't be shocked if he gets sent back to Double-A too.
11. Daniel Camarena. He's been in the Yankee system forever, but he only just turned 24. He missed all of the 2015 season with some kind of non-Tommy John elbow injury. He recovered well, pitching 141 2/3 innings, mostly at Double-A, with a 3.68 ERA. Baseball America named him as the best control pitcher in the Eastern League, which is good because he throws in the high 80s. If the plague (or trade deadline) strikes the Yankee rotation, I bet he comes up to eat some innings. There are plenty of lefties with his profile bouncing around MLB teams.
12. Yefrey Ramirez. Another name that I hadn't heard of before he was added to the 40-man roster. Ramirez was picked in the Triple-A portion of the 2015 Rule V draft as a 22 year-old in rookie ball. He responded by putting together 124 innings between Low-A and High-A with a 3.11 ERA, 9.6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. I can't find good scouting information on him, but the Yankees clearly liked him enough to protect him from the Rule V draft.
Others who could make starts in 2017: Bryan Mitchell (I think he's a reliever), James Kaprielian (I doubt we see him in 2017, so I didn't list him here), Domingo Acevedo (same), Justus Sheffield (same).
Bottom Line: The Yankees have a bunch of low ceiling guys (Cessa, Herrea, Camarena) to eat innings in the case of a disaster, a few medium ceiling guys (Green, Enns, Montgomery) who could be interesting, and really only one or two (Adams, Severino) potential top of the rotation arms. It's not great depth, but they do have real young players to take the ball if someone gets injured who can place at or above replacement level.