2014 New York Yankees - Pitching Staff Preview
2013 Stats: IP 211, Wins 14, ERA 4.78, WHIP 1.37, K 175
While I believe Sabathia will have a bounce back season, it’s hard to imagine this aging pitcher regaining his All Star form. He has stated that he’s been studying more film, and I do believe his hamstring will no longer be an issue, but he will still be 34 in June and evidence of a 2-3 mph decrease in velocity combined with a dipping release point (due in part to balance issues resulting from his weight loss) are concerning. However, with a revamped Yankee’s lineup another 13-loss season is highly unlikely. The Yankees’ acquisition of Masahiro Tanaka adds another wrinkle; CC may not have to face opposing aces any longer. Still, unless CC completely figures out how to compensate for the drop in velocity, we can expect next season's line to fall somewhere between his 2012 and 2013 campaigns. Look to draft CC no earlier than the 9th round, although he may prove everyone wrong and turn out to be a great sleeper this year. Yes, the great CC Sabathia, a potential sleeper!
2014 Fantasy Prediction: IP 220, Wins 16, ERA 3.70, WHIP 1.28, K 190
2013 Stats: IP 201.1, Wins 11, ERA 3.31, WHIP 1.16, K 150
Has there been a more consistent pitcher than Hiroki Kuroda? Aside from last year's second half decline, which can be best explained by simple bad luck, Kuroda has put up solid top of the rotation type numbers year in and year out. His second half collapse can be explained by a BABIP that jumps from .252 to .324 with all other metrics staying just about the same. Some may be scared off by his age, but if a guy can pitch so well and give you over 200 innings at 38 years of age, why not expect more of the same at 39? Just stay away if you are in a keeper league as he may retire within the next two years, otherwise he'll be as reliable as most fantasy starters picked in 6-7 round range. Look to see very similar type numbers, if not a slight improvement over last year's campaign. Kuroda has likely hit his talent ceiling so don’t expect much more out of him aside from a slight bump in wins.
2014 Fantasy Prediction: IP 199 Wins 15 ERA 3.35 WHIP 1.16 K 158
No, Masahiro Tanaka is not Yu Darvish! While Yu and Masahiro shared a similar ERA in Japan, Yu’s strikeout rate was significantly higher (almost 4 strikeouts per 9 higher). However, If everything goes as planned the Yankees have just acquired the rich mans Hiroki Kuroda, with a bit more strikeout potential. That’s pretty impressive. His repertoire features a plus fastball that sits in the low 90s and can reach 95 MPH, a sinker, slider and an absolutely devastating splitter. We should see a lot of groundballs, which will play well in Home Run haven Yankee Stadium. He did have a very solid 8.5 K/9 over 6 years in Japan, but his real strength is his control. His walk rate in Japan was a mere 5.2%. From the limited video footage that has been floating around the Internet, his fastball seems to be flat at times, and when he does miss he has a tendency to leave them high. Major League hitters will definitely make him pay for those mistakes if they continue. If he is as quick a learner as the Yankees say he is, he will adapt and could turn out to be a surefire ace. I’m expecting some growing pains however, and considering most Japanese pitchers don’t make 200 innings in their first full year in the MLB, I don’t expect Tanaka to either. I would consider him a top 25 Starter by the end of the season, with top 10 potential if his strikeout rate surprises.
2014 Projection: IP 189 W 13 ERA 3.44 WHIP 1.19 K 162
2013 Stats: IP 139.1, Wins 9, ERA 3.10, WHIP 1.28, K 116
Nova reinvented himself last season, posting a 2.23 ERA after returning from the DL in late June. Batters hit a measly .231 against the righty. He completely cut out his slider and relied much more heavily on his curveball, which opposing batters hit a paltry .151 against. Even though Nova is only 26 and is entering his prime, I would bet that teams will be quick to adapt to his curveball since they have now had an entire offseason to scout his new pitch selection. I expect a bit of a regression for Nova in 2014. But even with a slight regression in stats, Nova will still be a solid fantasy baseball pitcher; take Nova in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft.
2014 Fantasy Prediction: IP 160 Wins 12 ERA 3.8 WHIP 1.30 K 140
2013 Stats (Triple A): IP 23.1, Wins 1, ERA 3.86, WHIP 1.03, K 26
No pitcher has ever come back from a torn labrum and pitched as well as they did pre surgery, with the exception of Curt Schilling. Pineda hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, so who knows what type of numbers he will produce, but his 2013 minor league numbers were surprisingly good. He struck out about a batter per inning and maintained a sub 4 ERA through Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A combined. Unfortunately, since the signing of Masahiro Tanaka, he wont get the opportunity to start as Phelps is probably the number 5. Still, figure for the Yankees to try and use him any chance they can and get him some spot starts at the least. The Yankees want to see what ability he has left, so assume they will try to use him as much as possible. However, Cashman has been quoted as saying “I don’t see using him out of the pen…he’s a starter and that’s how we’ll use him and that’s it.” I think they will probably stick to that sentiment after seeing as how the sagas of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes turned out. He is undoubtedly an incredible talent, and hopefully can regain the form that we saw the first half of his rookie season with Seattle. There will be some growing pains with any action he sees in the big leagues. Pineda is worth a flier in the final rounds of the draft, and even higher in keeper leagues.
2014 Fantasy Prediction: IP 80 Wins 4 ERA 3.97 WHIP 1.20 K 88
2013 Stats: IP 86, Wins 6, ERA 4.98, WHIP 1.42, K 79
As of now it seems like Phelps will be the Yankees fifth starter. I place him above Michael Pineda since no one is quite sure when and more importantly how Pineda will play. Phelps actually has electric stuff as we can see from his 8.24 K/9, but his walk rate is high and he gets himself into trouble late in innings. I think Phelps will surprise many and will lower his ERA to the very low fours, possibly high threes, with around 10 wins. His BABIP was extraordinarily high last season compared to his normal numbers, which leads me to believe he will fair a bit better in the future. However, at the first sign of trouble figure the Yankees wont hesitate to fill his role with Pineda, Warren, Nuno or even Dellin Betances. Take a flier on Phelps late in the draft.
2014 Fantasy Prediction: IP 180, Wins 9, ERA 4.11, WHIP 1.30, K 161
2013 Stats: IP 66.1 Wins 5 Saves 0 ERA 2.04 WHIP 1.04 K 77
The closer role is Robertson's to lose. It’s unlikely that the Yankees will go out of house when Robertson has been such a consistently dominant setup man for the past 3 years. Over his past 3 seasons he has averaged a 11.99 K/9, a 1.93 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. He may not be Mariano but he should still be a top ten closer next year. He has been unfairly questioned for not having a closers mentality, but the numbers prove otherwise. He may hit a few bumps along the way, due solely to getting comfortable in his new role, but should transition nicely into the closers role, getting anywhere from 30-35 saves.
2014 Fantasy Prediction: IP 65, Wins 2, Saves 34, ERA 3.10,WHIP 1.14, K 78