While it has been clear that ownership, General Manager Brian Cashman, and a rabid Yankees fan base all want the Bronx Bombers to add pitching. The addition of a frontline starting pitcher is never something any Major League Baseball organization should pass up. It is worth noting that giving up a pool or crop of young talent for the wrong pitcher is not always worth it. Neither is the idea of shelling out nine figures to a 30+-year-old free agent not named Clayton Kershaw (admittedly I have issues with Kershaw at this point in his career as well). The multi-million dollar question now is whether the Yankees 2018 starting rotation is good enough as is or if the club needs to add a Cole, Corbin, or any other starter. The Yankees 2018 starting rotation is already much better than many want to discuss.
As previously mentioned, the Yankees have been active in the trade market trying to secure another arm. Given the rate of injury that has befallen starting pitchers over the years, it seems a plausible approach for any organization. However, the quality of arms currently in New York is being overshadowed and undersold by many fans and ‘expert.” Let’s take a look at the project Yankees 2018 starting rotation as it stands now. The projected Yankees 2018 starting rotation is filled out with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, Jordan Montgomery, and CC Sabathia.
Yankees 2018 Starting Rotation – Luis Severino
Undoubtedly, Severino is the ace of the Yankees 2018 starting rotation and who would have seen that coming? The Yankees did and so did an unlikely former player in Pedro Martinez. Severino started 11 games as a rookie in 2015 carrying a 2.89 ERA and almost a strikeout per inning. With high expectations entering 2016, he was shelled in 11 starts and moved to the bullpen where he was much better. The team struggled with what to do with Severino during the 2016/17 off-season. He spent some time with Pedro Martinez and then the real Severino reappeared in 2017. In 31 starts he went 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA, a 152 ERA+, and 230 strikeouts in 193.1 innings. He finished third in FIP and third in American League Cy Young voting. There is no need to continue down the Severino trail. He is young, he is that good, and the Yankees love having him as their ace.
Yankees 2018 Starting Rotation – Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka would sure like to forget most of 2017 but there are a few important notes to consider. His elbow, that so many worry about, was a nonfactor as he made 30 starts for the second consecutive year. He is also still on the correct side of 30 as he will pitch 2018 as a 29-year-old. Yes, it is true that at face value, Tanaka struggled to a 4.74 ERA in 30 starts and that is almost a run and a half higher than in any of his previous seasons in New York. But it is worth digging into a little bit. Let’s look at his ERA on a month to month basis to see how “consistently bad” he was or if there is an exaggeration here.
Here are his ERA numbers by month: April was 4.20, May was 8.42, June was 3.94, July was 3.82, August was 2.63, and September was 4.99. May was just flat poor and there is no other way about it. It is hard to point a finger to exactly why but his following three months were solid if not great at moments. September was up and down but three of four division starts were seven-plus inning affairs with two or fewer runs given up.
Two keys for me are how he faired against American League East opponents that are a threat in 2018 and how did he pitch in the post-season. That opponent is, of course, the Red Sox. In 2017, he faced the Red Sox four times with a 2-2 record. In those starts, he pitched 28.2 innings while giving up nine runs which is good for an ERA around 3.00. That included a complete game shutout in Boston. In three post-season starts against the Indians and the Astros, he went 2-1 with a 0.90 ERA allowing 10 hits and striking out 18 in 20 innings. The reports of a Tanaka demise appear to be overstated. He has shown that he has the ability to pitch at a Cy Young level and the Yankees do not need that to get value out of Tanaka on the Yankees 2018 starting rotation.
Yankees 2018 Starting Rotation – Sonny Gray
Gray was a trade acquisition for the Yankees in 2017. He was both a short term and long term solution given his team-friendly controllability coupled with his age and the minimal economic investment required for his services. These reasons are also why Gray was a priority over Verlander last season. Gray only won four games in 11 starts for the Yankees last year but his 3.72 ERA and 8.1 SO9 are formidable especially given the offense the Yankees possess. He has multiple 200 inning seasons under his belt so it can be expected that Gray will give you seven-plus innings more often than not. Keeping that formidable Yankee bullpen fresh is an added bonus.
Gray rebounded last season after a more than forgettable 2016 that saw him struggle with health and performance. What was forgotten was how good Gray was in his previous two full seasons in Oakland. He made 64 starts and compiled a 28-17 record while pitching for the Athletics. In that stretch, he struck out 352 batters in 427 innings. He finished third in the American League Cy Young voting in 2015. Gray will have an offseason to continue to acclimate to life in New York and if his short time last year is any guide, the stage was not too big and the moment appears to be something he relished.
Yankees 2018 Starting Rotation – Jordan Montgomery
Montgomery is no household name and has not been the “hot name” pitcher in the Yankees organization. He was supposed to lose out to others for the fifth starter slot but then the youngster showed what he can do and won the job. In 2017 he made 29 starts, pitched 155.1 innings and went 9-7 with a 3.88 ERA. He also struck out 144 in those 150+ innings. Those numbers helped him finish third in American League Rookie of the Year voting albeit a distant third to teammate Aaron Judge.
Montgomery is young and constantly served as the overlooked or underappreciated so all of this is nothing new to him. Despite that, he has exceeded at every high school, college and professional level he has been a part of to date.
Don’t think of Montgomery as some middling little guy either. He stands 6-foot-6 and weighs over 220 lbs. He carries five pitches to the mound with him. Two need some more work and are pretty much show me pitches at this point. His sinking changeup is a plus pitch and his reasonably new slider has the making of a dominant pitch. His four-seam fastball is interesting to say the least. Why? He threw it in the upper 80s in college and by the end of last year he was throwing it in the low 90s occasionally touching 95. His age and frame imply that he might still have two or three more miles an hour that have not been tapped yet.
Montgomery belongs and could be the number two in New York in the not so distant future. With that, he is the four now and that is a great place for him and the Yankees to be heading into 2018.
Yankees 2018 Starting Rotation – CC Sabathia
The old man is back on a one year/ $10 Mil deal with inning incentives that can bring it to $12 Mil. Is this the same Sabathia the Yankees brought in 10 years ago (Well almost 10 years)? Of course he isn’t. The man has more on his tires than most can ever imagine. He was used over and over again and he will stay in a game even when getting shelled to save the bullpen.
Older? Check. 200 inning monster? Nope. A very effective starter? Absolutely. Most teams would have him as a three with a couple of desperate teams using him as a two. All the weight or old age jokes aside, he was very effective in 2017 and many probably missed his performance due to his decline in recent years. Some will argue it was a contract year but that doesn’t really matter since his new deal makes this a contract year as well.
Here are the high-level CC Sabathia statistics from 2017. He started 27 games and pitched 148.2 innings. He went 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in that span and struck out 120 batters. He also made four post-season starts against the Indians and Astros where he pitched 19 innings and gave up five earned runs while striking out 19. You will be hard-pressed to find any team in baseball who put up numbers like that as a fourth starter and he is the fifth guy up in New York.
Yankees 2018 Starting Rotation – Recap
As you can see, the Yankees 2018 starting rotation is not the abysmal thrown together hodgepodge of players that some would want you to believe. In fact, health aside you can line this group up against the majority of teams in baseball and they would have the edge. Factor this group with the offense that the Bronx Bombers will deploy and this is a team I great shape. Now if the Yankees are looking to add depth and are dealing from a position of prospect strength, I can understand the logic. However speaking of prospects, we have arms in the pipeline as well and some could be ready when called upon in 2018.
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