Let me start by saying I hope Masahiro Tanaka is able to turn things around and figure it out. One month ago I would have said CC Sabathia was done. I couldn’t have been more wrong about that. Star pitchers are often one small mechanical adjustment away from turning their whole season around. I’m hoping Tanaka can do that.
That said, there are those out there who believe that it is time to give Tanaka a long rest, or maybe even time to go ahead and operate on him. I can’t speak on that, but I can definitely highlight some of the in house options the Yankees can call on if he does go on the disabled list.
The Crown Jewel
The most obvious choice, and the one the Yankees would probably love to see most, is Chance Adams. He has soared through the minor leagues and now finds himself one step away from the majors. The Yankees have told him to work on his fastball command, and he seems to be very close to making that happen. He has a 93-96 mph fastball that has reached 99 in the past. His secondary offerings include a plus slider, a plus curve, and a plus change. This is a future cornerstone of the rotation. The only question is whether or not the future is now yet.
The Diamond in the Rough
Caleb Smith has seemingly come out of nowhere this year to become a legitimate big league rotation option. He was drafted in the rule 5 this year, and returned to the Yankees. That’s usually not a good sign, but in this case it has lit a fire in him. His stuff actually compares pretty well to Jordan Montgomery, except he has taken longer to develop. He has a 93 mph fastball that touches 95-96. He also has a slider and a circle change which are above average and can be plus. Most importantly, he is now at the highest minor league level and dominating. He has 56 K : 14 BB and a 2.67 ERA in 57.1 innings. He seems like a lock to make the major leagues at some point.
The “Quality Start” candidates
Luis Cessa and Chad Green have already shown that they can navigate through a major league lineup and give the team five decent innings if needed. They are both solid depth pieces for the Yankees, but I don’t think anyone looks at them as the future of the organization, at least not as starters. Green is carving out a nice role for himself in relief, and I’d hate to see that go away. Cessa has had his struggles in Triple-A this year, although he seems to be hashing that out in his last three starts. We already know what we’re going to get with these two guys. Solid low to mid-90’s fastball, decent secondary offerings, and good control. There’s nothing wrong with that combo, but there’s also nothing terribly exciting about it. Still, they are fantastic depth pieces to have for the organization if a need should arise.
The “Out of Nowhere” Option
Domingo German was largely a forgotten man, especially in this farm system. Now, suddenly he is knocking at the door to the Bronx. He has a 3.34 ERA with 65 K : 17 BB in 59.1 innings so far this year over the top two levels of the minors. He has a fastball that sits mid to upper 90’s, and an above average, rapidly improving changeup. It seems like the curveball has taken a major step forward too. He’ll need that pitch if he wants to be an effective major league starter. He already made his major league debut on Sunday and performed well, so he might even have a leg up on the competition.
The “other” Domingo
One of the fastest rising starters in the minors is Domingo Acevedo. He has crushed Double-A since his arrival, and on the season sports a 3.25 ERA with 83 K to 12 BB in 74.2 innings. He should be ready to throw around 130 innings this year, which may make it hard for the Yankees to call on him. He’s probably more of a 2018 guy, but is rapidly approaching go time. The fastball is upper 90’s and has been clocked over 100 mph. He also has a plus changeup and a developing breaking ball. Not sure where that breaking ball stands this year, but if it has improved he could be ready very soon.
The “I’ll be back” Candidate
It was very sad to see James Kaprielian go down and need Tommy John Surgery this year when he was so close to the majors. That said, at least he’ll be able to put it behind him next year. If all goes well he’ll be back early in 2018 and can hopefully return to his previous stuff; he has a mid-90’s fastball and three secondary pitches which all grade out as above average or plus. Next year he will be fun to watch, and could round out a very young, talented rotation.
If this exercise has proven anything, it’s that the Yankees have some serious starting pitching depth. With Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery firmly planting themselves into the rotation with every passing start, the future is looking really bright. It’s easy to dream on a rotation anchored by those two, and including some combination of Chance Adams, James Kaprielian, Domingo Acevedo, Domingo German, Justus Sheffield, Caleb Smith, Luis Cessa, and Chad Green. Bryan Mitchell is still around too, if he’s ever able to take that next step. I can’t recall a time when the Yankees had this much starting young pitching talent between the major league team and the upper minors.
When you consider how successful Severino and Montgomery have been, the rotation will be in a great position if even one more of these guys can step up. They can fill out those last two spots in free agency if they have to, or maybe Tanaka will figure out his mechanical issue and they’ll be even more flush with talent. It sure would be nice to have their ace back.