Our third AL East article covers the team that plays in the Bronx, and the one that won the sweepstakes for the most recent Japanese import. For fantasy purposes, this rotation goes three deep, and depending on what transpires in the spring, maybe all the way to five deep.
Starting Pitching Rotation Analysis
New York Yankees
Potential Rotation Alternatives
ADP designated by * indicates no reported ADP as of date of publication. Projections are based on a compilation of several sources (ZiPS, Oliver, Steamer, RotoChamp), given equal weight.
CC Sabathia dropped a whole lot of weight this off season, and I must confess that concerns me. The guy has always been large and in charge on the mound, and I wonder about a decrease in velocity, a change in motion that leads to injury, or some other wacky disturbance in the force. His fastball velocity is down below 90 MPH this spring, and building off a sub-par (for him or any ace) 2013, the concern about his value is valid. His strikeouts are declining, and he is now a SP3 by my reckoning.
Hiroki Kuroda is nothing spectacular, just a steady option to solidify your fantasy rotation. He can give you nice peripherals, and his BABIP and strand rate are just about league average, so I don't expect a major regression. His strikeout rate is a bit below average, but he compensates by not handing out a ton of free passes. At 39, he's getting a bit long in the tooth and we saw him fade in 2013, so get your value out of him early on, and maybe trade him after All-Star break.
Masahiro Tanaka is the "bonus baby" the Yankees wanted this off season, and the purchase has been paying off this spring, as Tanaka pitches like an ace. The major concern I have is workload related, as he will be expected to toss 200 innings for the Yankees, something he hasn't been required to do in Japan, where 160 innings more the norm. Tanaka, like Kuroda, projects out as solid starting option for the Yankees and their fantasy owners this season and in Tanaka's case, for years to come.
Ivan Nova pitched well after being sent to Triple-A for a time at the start of last season, and became the best starting option on the Yankees after June. He generates groundballs, and a decent number of strikeouts, but the control is not always as sharp as it needs to be to raise his game to the next level. He is coming into his prime at 27, and with his late round ADP, he can certainly bolster the back of your fantasy rotation at a cheap price.
David Phelps started this spring as the penciled-in fifth starter for the Yankees, but the race seems to be between him and Pineda right now. Phelps had solidified his status in the rotation after a fine 2012, but 2013 saw him go down with a forearm strain that effectively wiped out the balance of his season. He needs to pitch well in the spring to overtake Pineda, but I am not putting my faith in him at this point.
Michael Pineda has been a severe disappointment after coming over from Seattle in after the 2011 season in exchange for Jesus Montero. Neither team has benefitted as expected, but if Pineda can keep his velocity up and is fully recovered from his shoulder woes, then his nearly strikeout per inning ratio should excite potential owners. He is still a young 25, and hasn't worn himself out while rehabbing, so if you feel like taking a chance, he could pay huge dividends.
Adam Warren has been pitching well in spring, fighting for the fifth rotation position, but he has a tough path to follow, with Phelps and Pineda in his way. He possesses a fastball that tops out near 93 MPH, and has a better than 2 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio. Couple that with a groundball to fly ball ratio of 1.43 in 2013, and he has the makings of a fine fifth starter, but as I noted, the team is more enamored with Pineda and Phelps, so a demotion to Triple-A is also a possibility. Keep him on your radar in dynasty or keeper leagues, but don't draft him expecting a ton of value in 2014.
The early spring success of Tanaka is going to have drafters jumping on his bandwagon, and that may be justified, although the pressure of pitching in the Big Apple has damaged its share of players. Kuroda is still a solid mid late round option, and CC will be falling in drafts, making him a potential value. Pineda is a wild card, as is Nova. There is a lot to like about the Yankee staff so long as you aren't drafting any of these guys as a SP1.
If you disagree with my assessments, or just want to discuss starting pitching, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I enjoy comments and am more than willing to engage in discussion about fantasy baseball, so feel free to write.