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My Thoughts on the Starting Rotation

by Paul Semendinger

February 1, 2021


The other day, I looked at how I would construct the Yankees lineup, using my perspectives about lineup construction and the players’ projected stats from Baseball-Reference.

Today, I’ll look at the starting rotation as it stands today and share some general thoughts. At the end of the post, we’ll see how Baseball-Reference projects the 2021 Yankees starters.

Regarding the 2021 Starting Rotation:

Gerrit Cole is the unquestioned ace of the staff. The Yankees should throw him on his regular turns throughout the season. That’s easy.

The rest of the staff is a huge question mark with a lot of upside (and hope).

If the starting pitchers stay healthy and perform to their talent levels, the Yankees will have a huge year. If they do not stay healthy, the Yankees could see a .500 season. Or worse. I like the staff as assembled, but note that this can’t be the finished product. This rotation is too much boom or bust. That’s not how to build a team designed to create fan interest and win a championship.

What cannot be forgotten is that between them, Corey Kluber, James Taillon, Domingo German, Jordan Montgomery, and Luis Severino combined to win a grand total of two games in 2020. Two. And both of those wins were from Jordan Montgomery.

The Yankees have also not had a good record when it comes to injury prevention .

Getting Corey Kluber and James Taillon completely changes the 2021 team. I think they will both be difference makers (in a good way) for the Yankees. On them, I am optimistic.

The upsides for Kluber and Taillon are tremendous.

Going into 2022, the Yankees might be able to say that they have two top of the line starters (Cole and Taillon) to anchor the rotation. I am very confident that that will be the case.

But for 2021, there are a lot of questions. A ton. This is a staff (except for Cole) of pitchers that cannot be expected to pitch deep into games. The Yankees’ bullpen is going to be running on fumes from the start of the season. This is why the Yankees need a no-doubt-about-it #2 starter for 2021. They need someone other than Gerrit Cole who can go deep into games. Without that person, the Yankees are in trouble.

I am still confident that the Yankees will address the starting rotation. I think Brian Cashman has one more trick up his sleeve. I don’t know that that trick is Trevor Bauer, but it might be. I’m starting to convince myself that the Yankees might be actually truly willing to go for it in 2021 and surpass that luxury cap. I hope they do. The time to win is now.

The time to win has really been the last few years. The Yankees are letting their championship window close.

The #2 pitcher the Yankees need might also come through a trade. I’m hoping that happens this week. I sense something will happen by Valentine’s Day. That’s my hunch.

If I were the Yankees, I would bring Corey Kluber back slowly. The Yankees need him in September and October. They should build him up to be the great pitcher he is by then. They don’t need vintage Kluber in May. They need vintage Kluber in October.

Ditto James Taillon. But, for Taillon, I’m also thinking about 2022, 2023, and beyond. I am hoping that he is a major piece in the rotation going forward.

Ditto, ditto, ditto Luis Severino. I wouldn’t push him at all. Whatever he gives in 2021 will be a bonus. 2021 should be his season just to come back. Remember, he hasn’t been the pitcher we all remember since the first half of the 2018 season. That was a long (long) time ago.

I think Jordan Montgomery can be a solid #4 or #5 starter, but he might have to be the #2 guy at the season’s opening.

Deivi Garcia is also the future, but the Yankees will also need him to pitch well right out of the gate. In April and May, he might have to be the #3 guy the way this all works out. He can be that.

I’ve never been sold on Domingo German. 2019 seemed to be a fluke. Maybe I’m wrong about that. Truth be told, I will actually be surprised if he’s pitching for the Yankees at the start of this season. I think he’ll be traded.

My starters to begin the season will be:

Gerrit Cole

Jordan Montgomery

Deivi Garcia

Corey Kluber

James Taillon

In the playoffs, I see the big three as Cole, Kluber, and Taillon. I see Severino as the Game #4 pitcher if necessary. I see Deivi Garcia being lights out in a relief role in the post season.

In 2022, if everything works out, the Yankees’ rotation should be one of the best in baseball:

Gerrit Cole

Luis Severino

James Taillon

Deivi Garcia

Jordan Montgomery

I only wish there was another lefty in that mix.

Oh, Patrick Corbin… if only!

Note that Clarke Schmidt isn’t in my plan. He might be good. He might be very good. I think he will have to be traded to get that #2 guy the Yankees need right now. I think there are some teams that would be very willing to trade a #2 innings-eating starter for a package that starts with Clarke Schmidt and Domingo German. With the staff above, especially if a #2 pitcher is added to the mix, there aren’t spots for Schmidt and German now or in the future.

I am always in favor of trading young talent for a proven big leaguer, especially if that Major League player is young. Might that guy be Luis Castillo?

Baseball-Reference’s Projections:

Gerrit Cole: 15-6, 3.17 (179 ip)

Jordan Montgomery: 6-7, 4.65 (118 ip)

Deivi Garcia: 7-6, 4.50 (106 ip)

Corey Kluber: 5-3, 4.15 (65 ip)

James Taillon: 4-4, 3.94 (64 ip)

Luis Severino: 5-3, 3.85 (61 ip)

Domingo German: 6-3, 4.50 (68 ip)

Clarke Schmidt: 3-3, 4.60 (45 ip)

Of note – these numbers (except for Cole, Severino, and Schmidt) all seem very low. I think we’ll see this staff way out perform these projections.

The time for the Yankees to go all-in is now. I have said this often, but it bears repeating. Championship windows close quickly. The Yankees are not, any longer, a team of young talent. They are a team of talented, oft-injured players, who are getting old quickly. Most of the Yankees’ core does not project to be all-star level for many years going forward. In order to get to the World Series, the Yankees need a solid #2 starter. Without that person, too much of the burden will be placed on Gerrit Cole to be great every single time out, Corey Kluber and James Taillon will be rushed (Luis Severino as well) which risks dire injury, and Deivi Garcia and Jordan Montgomery will be asked to pitch in bigger spots than necessary. Rather than ease them in, as well, they’ll be thrown right into the fire. The bullpen will also be taxed beyond belief.

I am optimistic that the Yankees see all of this and do what is necessary to get that essential piece. A snowy day is a good day for the GM to work the phones and bring some warmth and sunshine to the fans in the way of a major signing or trade.


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