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Why Yankees Must Use Offseason to Figure Out Internal Pitching Roles

While the New York Yankees have many questions to answer during this winter, there is one internal problem that they have to try to figure out and it involves their pitching. Across the league, teams have put their trust in different young pitchers. Yes, some of them are because they have to due to injuries such as Ian Anderson with the Atlanta Braves, but the trust is shown.

If the Yankees want to avoid having to overpay for veteran starting pitchers in free agency or having to overpay on the trade market for a starting pitcher, then they need to figure out what confidence they have in their young pitching. After a 2020 season where the new training staff was under the microscope, that will be the case for pitching coach Matt Blake and the new pitching department in 2021.

When Blake was the pitching coordinator with the Cleveland Indians, he played a major role in developing the likes of Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, Triston McKenzie, James Karinchak, Mike Clevinger, and many others. Can Blake work some similar magic with this current group of young arms?

First, let’s take a look at the major league squad. While the club said glowing things about Deivi Garcia all season long, Garcia was only trusted to throw one inning in the 2020 postseason. Is he a top-of-the-rotation starter? That remains to be seen, but his regular-season resume at least showed that a larger role should have been given to him in October.

As for the Game 4 starter, Jordan Montgomery’s line may not have been the greatest, but he showed that he had the capability to perform on the biggest stage. Garcia and Montgomery should have roles in the 2021 rotation, but what those roles will remain a question.

Sure, the Yankees could add a veteran starter by bringing Masahiro Tanaka back or adding another mid-rotation arm if Tanaka and James Paxton sign elsewhere. However, signing veteran arms to fill holes doesn’t work all the time. The Yankees probably don’t want what happened with them this year with J.A. Happ to come up again.

When you look at the Yankees young pitching, there are many questions surrounding it. Can Jonathan Loaisiga or Nick Nelson become high leverage relievers in the bullpen? Can Michael King and Clarke Schmidt become pitchers that are allowed to eat innings rather than just being used as openers? Plus, what will happen with the likes of Luis Gil and Luis Medina going forward as pitchers on the 40-man roster?

Eventually, the Yankees will have to decide which pitchers they can trust on the roster and at the upper levels of the organization and which ones can be traded to either help the big league club or improve the lower levels of the farm system as the lack of minor league baseball in 2020 will cause some players to lose precious development time despite the ZOOM coaching throughout the winter.

Right now, it is hard for Yankees fans to trust that this organization can develop young pitching. Outside of Luis Severino, who would fans say is the last pitcher that the Yankees truly developed to be a mainstay in the rotation? Yes, some of that is because New York is always in contention and it is tough to both contend and develop. With that being said, you are seeing teams like the Dodgers, Braves, and Rays do that. So, why can’t the Yankees?

If you move that problem over to the bullpen, New York’s best internal reliever they have developed is arguably Dellin Betances. In an era of baseball where getting relief pitching is at a premium, New York could save money for other needs if they had good young arms ready for big roles in the bullpen. In addition to Nelson and Loaisiga, what about Albert Abreu or Brooks Kriske, or Miguel Yajure?

Fortunately, the Yankees won’t exactly have to deal with too much of a roster crunch in 2020 in terms of Rule V protection. The most notable name is arguably RHP Roansy Contreras. The 20-year-old right-hander went 12-5 with a 3.33 ERA and had 113 strikeouts to 36 walks over the course of 132.1 innings at Low-A Charleston. Heading into his age-21 season, how much can Contreras jump up the system after missing a full year of on-field development?

Another name to keep an eye on is reliever Daniel Alvarez. Down in Double-A Trenton in 2019, Alvarez had 11.7 strikeouts per 9 innings and has been close to 10 K’s per 9 over the course of his six-year minor-league career. With a logjam of young relievers in the system, where does he exactly fit into the picture?

The Yankees have used many of their young pitchers as openers in the past. However, if they do not spend on pitching this winter, then it is up to Blake and the front office to figure out which pitchers can have prominent roles in the rotation, which ones they can develop to be key parts of the bullpen, and which pitchers can they deal to help this team win now in its current window?

Brian Cashman and his staff don’t necessarily have to make a blockbuster deal with any of their pitchers. With that being said, they have to figure this out before their prospects lose value to other clubs and they don’t maximize the return they get back. It is not an easy thing to do when you consider Cashman most likely deals with the Yankees premium in a lot of cases where teams want a lot more from New York than others.

So, while you think about what players the Yankees should add over the winter, keep in mind the players they currently have because with the high payroll, the time has come to figure out who can help the team from an internal standpoint. The Rays are in the World Series because of their “stable of arms.” Maybe, it is time for the Yankees to figure out theirs.

Written By

I am an alum of St. John's University, where I majored in sports management.

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