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  • E.J. Fagan

Just How Good Is the Yankee Starting Rotation?

By EJ Fagan

Special to SSTN

January 4, 2023


Note: This article comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is used with permission.


Fangraphs has released their depth charts based on projected performance. The Yankees are projected to be best in baseball:

Not bad! Other than the Rangers (more on them later), no American League team comes close to the Yankees. The Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays and Angels are clustered about 3-4 wins behind the Yankees. Even if they hadn’t signed Carlos Rodon, the Yankees would still have a better projected starting rotation than that group.

Here are the individual projections:

Not surprisingly, Fangraphs has the vast majority of the playing time going to the top five Yankee starting pitchers. They expect all three to put up ERAs in the 3.00s, with Cole and Rodon projected to be two of the top four starters in baseball:

Cortes, Severino and Montas all have a similar projection of 2.2-2.3 fWAR, all hovering around the 40th best pitcher in the majors neighborhood (Gray is #40):

Projections take injury risk into account, which is why all these guys are projected to hit the low-2s in fWAR. Most of them will do a win or so better than they are projected, but a few will get zero wins because they miss the entire season.

That said, I think Severino and Cortes are better pitches than pretty much all of these guys, and should be good bets to be better than any of them next year. Cortes is coming off two excellent years in terms of preventing runs. His xERA was 2.70, fourth best in the majors behind only Verlander, Ohtani and Cease (>140 innings). Cortes has definitely passed my, “is he real?” test, but the projections are still being conservative. Similarly, the projections don’t know how great Severino looked last year, nor that he’s in a contract year. I bet both are better than their projections barring any unforeseen injuries by about a win.

If we add two wins to the Yankee projection, they project as a 19 fWAR starting staff. That’s incredible! I don’t think the Yankees have looked this deep in starting pitching since the 90s.

The only American League team to come close to the Yankees is the Rangers, but that relies on what feel like much more optimistic projections:

172 innings and a 2.65 ERA is pretty darn optimistic for DeGrom. Would I be shocked if he put up 5.5 fWAR? Absolutely not. But I’d probably take the under. DeGrom hasn’t put up a full healthy season since 2019. Also, Heaney, Gray and Eovaldi are not better than Severino, Cortes and Montas. The Rangers have a strong pitching staff, but they aren’t a tier above the Marlins, Blue Jays and Rays.

What about the Astros? Fangraphs is skeptical about their rotation depth without Verlander:

With Verlander, the Astros would add another three wins over Urquidy, placing them a solid second place behind the Yankees. It feels weird to say that the Yankees have only about an above average pitching staff, but I think it’s pretty fair. They just don’t have the depth that the Yankees do.

The only team that really would scare me in a playoff matchup is the Mets, with a caveat. They added a lot to their rotation this offseason:

Scherzer-Verlander is a pretty darn great top two. The two Hall of Famers can hang with Cole and Rodon. But the Mets just don’t have the depth. Quintana rejuvenated his career with a 2.91 ERA, but against a 3.86 xERA, and is just one year removed from an ERA over 6.00. Carlos Carrasco is 36 years old and inconsistent. The Mets are one 40 year-old injury away from a pretty mediocre rotation.

The bottom line is that the Yankees have the best rotation in baseball, and it’s not really close. They might have had the best rotation if they had just resigned Jameson Taillon, but they jumped ahead of the pack with Carlos Rodon. May they all stay healthy.

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