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Yanks Starting Pitching Depth is a Real Edge

By Mike Silva ~ March 26th, 2011. Filed under: Mike Silva, New York Yankees.

The Yankees starting pitching is a strength. Making that statement might surprise some. On the surface you see an unproven number four starter, and a fifth spot that will feature a scrapheap combination of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and maybe Kevin Millwood. If you break it down logically the Yankees are in a good position this season thanks to their depth

First, you have the “big three” of Sabathia, Burnett, and Hughes. You know what you are going to get from Sabathia- 230 innings, plus 10 won/loss- as he is one of the top five pitchers in baseball. Despite being one of the worst pitchers in 2010 you have to assume, if healthy, A.J. Burnett will pitch to a four ERA and win 12 and 15 games thanks to the Yankees offense. Phil Hughes is still a bit of a mystery. He showed flashes of being an ace in 2010, but also produced at backend of the rotation levels for a good chunk of the season. Regardless, he will clearly be a solid third starter with top of the rotation upside.

That brings me to the backend of the rotation and the depth of the minor league system. I believe Ivan Nova is going to be a surprise in 2011. I could see him emerge to be just as good as Burnett or Hughes. We have reported the quote given to us by a scout numerous times about how Nova has a “little Pedro Martinez in him.” Even the scrapheap trio is pretty solid for a number five slot. Garcia had 18 quality starts last season (more than Burnett), Millwood pitched to a 3.67 ERA when returning from the disabled list in August, and Colon has been impressive this spring. It’s not farfetched to project league average pitching from the five hole which would be an improvement from last season.

Where the Yankees pitching becomes a real strength is when you consider the depth of their farm system. David Phelps, Adam Warren, Hector Noesi, Andrew Brackman, and even D.J. Mitchell could potentially step up and fill in at some point. If they don’t there still is the possibility (albeit unlikely) that Manuel Banuelos or Dellin Betances gets a look. Numerous individuals in camp believe Banuelos could pitch in the big leagues right now.

The point is how many teams can go fourteen deep in a given season? Most would sign for eight starters, and hope that six through eight can be competitive for five innings. This depth will come in handy by plugging in the inevitable rotation holes that occur during a 162 game season, or be valuable trade bait to acquire an established starter. It’s possible the best rotation help will come from within. This is a far cry from even the dynasty team that needed to go outside the organization to acquire pitching help.

Don’t buy into the meme that the Yankees starting pitching will be their undoing. If anything, it’s what could differentiate them from the competition this season.

Mike Silva is a freelance writer and radio host since March of 2007. This website is his own personal "digest" of New York Baseball He's also hosts NYBD Radio on Blog Talk Radio and 1240 AM WGBB. Check out his sports media commentary at www.sportsmediawatchdog.com. Check out his official website, www.mikesilvamedia.com
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