A Way Too Early Look at the 2017 Rotation

On Tuesday we learned that Nathan Eovaldi would miss the rest of 2016 and all of 2017 due to two separate elbow injuries, both of which will require surgery. The rotation has been a weakness throughout 2016 (it currently ranks 11th in the American League in adjusted ERA), and losing even a mediocre starter that was penciled into its ranks for next season is less than optimal. And, while the team's farm system is among the strongest in the game, its best pitching prospects are in the low minors (Justus Sheffield, James Kaprielian, and Ian Clarkin), and are unlikely to be factors next season (at least at the onset). So we are left to wonder what shape it will take seven or eight months from now - a fool's errand, to be sure. But here we are.

The Locks, for Better or Worse (until/unless one or more are traded)

  1. Masahiro Tanaka
  2. Michael Pineda
  3. CC Sabathia

I would hazard that all three will be in pinstripes next year, though I am confident that the Yankees would be happy to have Pineda and Sabathia taken off of their hands. That being said, I am also confident that none will suit-up for them in 2018 - Tanaka has an opt-out, and Pineda and Sabathia will both be free agents. And if Tanaka does not opt-out, it will be because he had some form of surgery that keeps him out for the duration of 2018. They're known commodities at this point.

The Up and Down Guys

  1. Chad Green
  2. Luis Cessa

Green has dominated Triple-A this season, pitching to a 1.52 ERA in 94.2 IP, allowing just 68 H and 21 BB while striking out an even 100 batters. We saw flashes of that dominance earlier this week, and he'll have every chance to earn his keep over the next six weeks. Cessa has (arguably) the superior stuff, but the converted shortstop hasn't had the results. He's making his first MLB start on Saturday, though, and I suspect that the Yankees will give him a long look, as well. 

The New Old Faces

  1. Adam Warren
  2. Bryan Mitchell

Warren was a true swingman in 2015 but, save for a spot start in July (a 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6 K outing against the Reds), he has been used as a one or two inning reliever this year. He looks to be back in his pre-Cubs form, with the obvious exception of his meltdown a couple of days ago. Mitchell seemed poised to fill the void that Warren left in 2016, but a toe fracture kept him sidelined until August 8. He has made three starts thus far (one apiece at Single-A, High-A, and Double-A), and might make it back up once rosters expand - it feels disingenuous to call it anything more than a lost season, though. 

The Joba

  1. Luis Severino

We talked about Severino on our last podcast, comparing his erratic up-and-down use to the team's treatment of Joba Chamberlain. That isn't quite fair, though, as they seemed to have a clear-cut (if questionable) plan for Chamberlain ... whereas Severino has apparently been grouped with the up and down guys of late. It's clear that he has work to do with his command and change-up, and I'd like to see him get the time he needs in Triple-A. He's only 22-years-old, after all, and it's easier to work on specific pitches where it doesn't hurt the team.

The Back of the Rotation Prospects

  1. Jordan Montgomery
  2. Dietrich Enns
  3. Brady Lail
  4. Ronald Herrera
  5. Dan Camarena
  6. Chance Adams

These half-dozen pitchers profile as fourth or fifth starters, and I believe that each of them will have a chance to make a cameo (at the very least) in 2017. They've all put in at least a half-season at Double-A, and most have reached Triple-A, so they're only a stone's throw from the Majors. Montgomery has the highest floor of the bunch (Enns may not be too far behind), but Adams may have the highest upside.

The Free Agents

  1. Andrew Cashner
  2. Bartolo Colon
  3. Jorge De La Rosa
  4. R.A. Dickey
  5. Doug Fister
  6. Jeremy Hellickson
  7. Rich Hill
  8. Jered Weaver
  9. C.J. Wilson

That's a rather uninspiring group, isn't it? Hill has been terrific since his surprising return late last season, but he's a 37-year-old that has made all of 18 starts these last seven years, and hasn't pitched since the Dodgers acquired him from the A's on August 1. After that, we're essentially looking at innings eaters with little upside.

In the end, and stop me if you saw this coming, it is too early to know what shape the team's rotation will take next year. However, we can say with confidence that it will take a trade, a massive improvement, or a rookie overachieving for next year's group to represent an upgrade over this current incarnation. But with a treasure chest full of prospects and some extra financial wiggle room, a blockbuster trade may be in the team's future.