Yankees Have Decisions to Make with Homegrown Players

ivan novaIvan Nova is in a walk year, Greg Bird might not reach the majors after a successful two month campaign and Luis Severino has an innings’ limit. The Yankees are finally pumping out some homegrown talent and now will have to remember how to juggle the growing pains, arbitration clocks and pressure of the youngsters.

While the organization and fans alike wait to see if Aaron Judge is going to pan out and make the outfield picture of the future clearer, the immediate decisions will be coming over the next couple of months.

Severino has thrown a career high of 160 innings, meaning anything above 190 frames in 2016 is not welcomed. And it would be very un-Yankees’ like to plan Severino’s development around no playoff games.

Nova is in a walk year, but after a disastrous 2015 trying to make it back from arm injuries, Nova is not only going to have to fight for his future contract, he’s going to have to fight for a spot in the rotation. The Yankees already have: Nathan Eovaldi, Masahiro Tanaka, Severino, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda under contract and Bryan Mitchell needing no further seasoning in AAA.

Bird is the most clear-cut of the trio. Brian Cashman has already stated Greg Bird will at least start the year in the minors. It’s not the worst thing for a 23-year-old who demonstrated he can hit big league pitching but can definitely afford to cut down on strike outs. As long as Mark Teixeira is healthy (which is rarely a full season), Bird will be in the minors. With Teixeira in a walk year, it’s conceivable we won’t see Bird until September, but count on him to start at first base in 2017.

So what to do with Nova and Severino? The answer would seem logical. Mitchell seems destined to take over the long relief role as a young pitcher who can eat major league innings but is very unlikely a long-term answer in a rotation. Pineda, Sabathia, Tanaka and Eovaldi are all but guaranteed starting spots if they emerge out of Tampa healthy. What would make sense for the Yankees is to limit Severino’s innings in AAA for the month of April and perhaps some of May, limiting him to less stress and less pressure to pitch deeper into games.

This could set him up to prepare for about 25 or so big league starts and hopefully around 150 major league innings. Combined with say, a half dozen starts in the minors and Severino should teeter around 180 innings by late September. Preparing him for over 200 innings in 2017, leaving some wiggle room for the playoffs and likely slowing his arbitration clock to avoid any risk of the Yankees losing an extra year of ownership in the long run.

This would also impact Nova. It allows Nova a solid four to six weeks to showcase he’s fully healthy and either rebuild trade value or give him a guaranteed spot in the rotation should any injuries occur (these things always have a cruel way of working things out). By letting Nova into the rotation and keeping Severino in AAA to start the year, the Yankees could preserve the future for both (benefiting themselves in both instances) while sacrificing very little. The alternative is going with a six man rotation or skipping Severino’s starts with the front loaded off days in April, which is an option, but seems more risky to optimizing the pitcher’s values and allowing for them to develop a routine.

Though very much part of the future and almost guaranteed starting roles in 2017, the Yankees would benefit by leaving Severino and Bird behind when they head for the Bronx in April.

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