Predicting the New York Yankees’ 2014 Starting Rotation
New York Yankees Look to Solidify Starting Rotation Prior to Opening Day
The last offseason has been one of rejuvenation for the New York Yankees franchise as they spent $450 million to bring in Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Matt Thornton, Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson. And while spending massive sums of money is a semi-regular occurrence for the Bronx Bombers, this spending spree is massively more important than their normal expenditures because the team finished with a disappointing 85-77 record last season and missed out on the playoffs for only the second time since 1993.
Suffice to say, Yankees fans around the world expect better than this, and the Steinbrenner family has let it be known that they are not going to be afraid to spend wildly and take luxury tax penalties along the way. But this also puts an immense amount of pressure of manager Joe Girardi to form a 25-man roster that is ready to compete from start to finish. Boos will start ringing at Yankees Stadium as early as mid-April if this team is not winning games in a convincing fashion.
In the lengthy 162-game schedule that MLB plays, you have to have great starting pitching to win consistently, and it will be up to Girardi to pick out who is in his starting rotation and how they are aligned. After all, the Yankees were hurt immensely by the fact that the team received rather erratic results in 2013 from guys who are as entrenched stars as C.C. Sabathia to relative youngsters like Ivan Nova. This resulted in a ERA of 3.94 from the team's starters which ranked 18th in MLB. And when combined with a total of only 84 "quality starts" (when a pitcher goes at least six innings and lets up three runs or less) it meant that on many instances the team was out of games before they even had a chance to truly get going.
As Girardi looks to form his starting rotation for the 2014 MLB season he in large part has only one spot to fill with the fifth spot in the rotation. This obviously doesn't mean the rotation is set in stone, though, and I have set out to inform you who will take up each spot in the rotation. Here are my predictions for the Yankees' 2014 starting rotation.
1. C.C. Sabathia
Despite going 14-13 with a 4.78 ERA during the 2013 season, there is no doubting that C.C. Sabathia is still the New York Yankees' ace -- at least for the time being. The big lefty will automatically throw 220-240 innings, and after coming to camp at a very slim 275-pounds it is clear he is stronger and more physically prepared for the 2014 season than he has been in a long time. Sabathia may lose out on the No. 1 spot if he doesn't get back down to his 3.38 ERA of 2012, but he certainly will be starting when the Yankees open their season against the Houston Astros.
2. Hiroki Kuroda
Hiroki Kuroda slides into the No. 2 spot in the rotation perfectly as he is extremely stable on the mound, provides good durability and can win games against nearly any other second starter in the big leagues. Over the last four seasons, Kuroda has had an ERA between 3.07 and 3.39 each year, and the 2014 season shouldn't break that trend. With good run support the 39-year-old will win 15-17 games, and he certainly will break 200 innings on the season.
3. Masahiro Tanaka
Masahiro Tanaka is a bit of an unknown, as despite coming in on a $155 million deal, nobody really knows how he will adapt in the change from Japan to MLB. Of course it won't hurt that he has a fastball that sits in the 92-95 mph range, an above average slider, two show pitches in a curveball and change-up and a split-finger fastball that has been described by many as the best in the world. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has tempered expectations by saying the organization expects Tanaka to be a middle of the rotation starter. It can be expected that Girardi will start him at the three hole and let him adjust to MLB before moving up the ladder later on.
4. Ivan Nova
Ivan Nova has been a perennial head-scratcher for the Yankees organization over the past few years, as at times he looks like a viable No. 2 starter and other times he looks like a fifth starter at best. This played itself out to be true last year as Nova went 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA in April, was then sent down for most of May, and recovered to put up a 9-6 record with a 3.08 ERA. At 27 years of age, the Yankees must hope that he has finally found stability in his motion as his mix of 93-95 mph four-seam fastball, a sinker that sits 92-94 and an above average curveball (which he threw a career high 35.4 percent of the time in 2013) can be a dominant arsenal when located. Girardi will slot Nova into the four hole to begin the year and hope that he proves to be the best No. 4 starter in MLB.
5. Michael Pineda
The last starting spot in the New York Yankees' rotation is the biggest question mark in Spring Training, as Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, David Phelps and Michael Pineda are all in the running. It is obvious that the organization wants Pineda to win the spot, though, and he is certainly the most talented pitcher of the quartet. Pineda has an overpowering fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a sharp slider and a show pitch in his change-up. Prior to undergoing Tommy John Surgery in 2012 he was one of the best young pitching prospects in the big leagues, and the Yankees won't give up on letting him attempt to fulfill that potential in 2014.