Unless there is an injury during spring training the starting rotation is pretty much set for the Yankees. It’s not known what order the rotation will be, but the five starters in the rotation will most likely be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nate Eovaldi, CC Sabathia and Luis Severino. There are some injury question marks with three of those five starters, but that rotation has the potential to be a very reliable one if they all stay healthy and pitch how they are capable of.
Severino is the wild card of the five and the one who might have the most upside. The 21-year-old Dominican, who was the team’s #1 prospect after the 2014 season according to Baseball America, made his major-league debut on August 5 and in his 11 starts he had a 2.89 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 56 strikeouts. He only allowed more than two earned runs in three of his 11 starts and if he can pitch with that kind of effectiveness for the majority of the 2016 season, after other teams have more of a scouting report on him, the rotation could be better than it was last season.
Ivan Nova, who had a below average 5.07 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in his 17 starts last season, recently avoided salary arbitration by signing a one-year, $4.1 million contract. The 29-year-old righthander will be headed to the bullpen due to the emergence of Severino. He is an intriguing option as a long-reliever and sixth inning option before the flame-throwing trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
Nova made four starts in April of 2014 before having to leave his start on April 19 with an elbow injury that led to him needing Tommy John surgery. He had a 8.27 ERA in those four starts and hasn’t been able to perform like he did in the 2013 season. In the 2013 season, Nova showed what he is capable of as he had an impressive 3.10 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) to go along with two shutouts and a career-low 1.28 WHIP.
Last season Nova proved that he can still be productive since he had six starts where he pitched five innings or more and allowed less than three runs. He is far too inconsistent to start games consistently this season, but based on the ability he showed at times last season it would make sense for him to be the top candidate to make a spot start.
Relievers only need two pitches that they can count on to be successful, which makes Nova an ideal candidate for the bullpen. Nova has 12-6 curveball that can be un-hittable at times and a slider that he throws between 85-89mph that can be also be a strikeout pitch for him when it is on. If Nova is restricted to one or two innings besides occasional spot starts then his pitches should be more reliable than they have been the last two seasons as a starter.
The Yankees bullpen likely will be the most dominant backend of a bullpen of all-time because of the last two seasons that Chapman, Betances and Miller have had. However, the bullpen will need depth and Nova can provide another quality pitcher with experience that Joe Girardi can have pitch in the sixth or seventh inning when one of the “Big Three” need a day off.
Chapman, who has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons and throws the fastest fastball in baseball, will likely be suspended to begin the season because of his serious domestic abuse allegations. The league could suspend him under its new domestic violence policy. According to John Heyman, the league might not have enough evidence to give him a long suspension.
Other pitchers who will likely come north with the Yankees after spring training are Branden Pinder, Chasen Shreve, James Pazos and Bryan Mitchell. Pazos, Shreve and Pinder are all pitchers who had success last season and are used to pitching in the bullpen but they don’t nearly have the experience of pitching in the big leagues that Nova does.