This is part two of our analysis of the Yankees’ rotation heading into 2016. In part one we discussed the pluses, perils and change in expectations for: Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi and Michael Pineda. We will round out the rotation options by considering the future of: Ivan Nova, Luis Severino and CC Sabathia.
Pluses: He’s a second year removed from Tommy John surgery and posted a 3.10 ERA with a 1.28 WHIP before the injury in 2013 over 139 innings. It’s unlikely Nova would be counted on to throw more than that as he’s not even guaranteed a spot on the team let alone in the rotation. Still 28-years-old, Nova is still in his prime and perhaps in a walk year can find some of the spark which made him an asset just a couple of years ago.
Perils: Nova has had one season in his career of throwing in more than 25 starts and posting an ERA under 5.00 and that came in 2011 in his rookie year. It’s unrealistic to expect much from a pitcher who had a miserable 2015 season and missed most of 2014. A 4.87 FIP implies Nova pretty much deserved all of the hideous stats he posted with a 5.07 ERA and 1.40 WHIP to go with 3.2 BB/9.
Change From Last Year: Sure, there was concern Nova was coming off of Tommy John going into 2015, but we never doubted his ability to pitch. This season Nova’s health has no concerns but there is legitimately no way to gauge what kind of pitcher he will be and what sort of opportunity he will have. In a walk year, unfortunately, any success Nova has might be more to package him in a trade than to actually help the Yankees’ down the stretch and we consider that a downgrade.
Pluses: Severino looked the part of a future ace, pitching to a 2.89 ERA and 1.20 WHIP along with an 8.1 K/9 in 11 starts. The top prospect will turn 22 right before the season starts and will hope to throw around 180 innings and work on his control to pitch deeper into games. There’s not a lot of downside and unlike most of the starters in the rotation, Severino does not come with a lot of legitimate injury concerns.
Perils: Even with a fully healthy season, Severino won’t be able to exceed around 180 innings in the regular season, which means he will have to miss time, struggle, or get skipped, a lot. Things outside of his control aside, Severino will want to avoid the vaunted “sophomore slump” and can do so by learning how to put away batters better and avoid walks, normal things for a 22-year-old to work on.
Change From Last Year: They are drastic. Last year at this time Severino was a high prospect looking to prove himself in the minors by building upon excellent control and developing secondary pitches. By the end of the year he was developing a reputation as a savior of both the Yankees’ farm system and future rotation.
Pluses: Posting 167 innings was a far step in the right direction over 2014 when Sabathia only posted 46 innings before missing the rest of the year with injuries. A 4.73 ERA and 7.4 K/9 to go with a 1.42 WHIP is right on par with Sabathia’s 2013 numbers for what it’s worth. For a pitcher who has battled injuries and now we know, alcohol addiction, as well as weight problems and chronic knee conditions, if Sabathia goes out and throws another 170 innings or so and can keep his ERA in the 4’s that’s about what you should expect and be content with as the big lefty’s career winds down.
Perils: Almost everything. We hope Sabathia found the help he needed for his personal life when he checked into rehab shortly before the playoffs began last October. We hope with a knee brace full time we can see the five start or so glimpse of success we saw from Sabathia late in the year in 2015. We hope his knee, his arm, his personal life, his weight and his numbers since 2012 are all obstacles he can overcome, but the truth of the matter is all of those are perils for a pitcher past his prime and expectations to be anything but a fifth starter would be wildly optimistic.
Change From Last Year: The chronic knee issues didn’t completely derail his career, so there’s that. It’s not so much expectations has changed as much as they have become solidified. Sabathia is no longer a front or middle of the rotation starter and that doesn’t stand to change this season.