Yankees are bullish about their 2024 rotation for a reason

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is pitching against the Blue Jays on Sept 21, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.

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Aaron Boone expressed optimism about the potential of the 2024 Yankees’ rotation, stating it “has the opportunity to be exceptional.” However, he acknowledged that similar hopes were held for the 2023 rotation, which largely failed with the exception of Gerrit Cole.

Boone remarked on this topic prior to the Yankees’ game against the Blue Jays, a 6-1 loss at Yankee Stadium in their ongoing series against their AL East rivals.

The 2023 rotation, while having its moments, including Gerrit Cole’s outstanding season expected to earn him his first Cy Young award, ultimately fell short of expectations. The Yankees ace boasts a 14-4 record with a 2.75 ERA and 217 strikeouts in 200 innings.

However, aside from Cole’s excellence, the Yankees’ starting rotation experienced a disappointing season marked by adversity. With a collective 4.51 ERA, which ranks 18th among all 30 MLB teams and represents the organization’s highest figure since 2008, it struggled to meet expectations.

Injuries sidelined Luis Severino and Carlos Rodon for significant stretches, and both encountered difficulties upon their return. Frankie Montas spent the entire season on the injured list, while Domingo German, after throwing a perfect game on June 28, faced personal struggles and was lost for the season due to an alcohol-related issue.

Despite these challenges, Manager Aaron Boone remains optimistic about the future of the rotation. He discussed potential additions, such as Yoshinobu Yamamoto, a sought-after right-handed pitcher from Japan who plans to join a major-league team in the upcoming offseason, as factors that could enhance the rotation’s prospects.

The mixed bag for Yankees rotation

Beyond Gerrit Cole, who is expected to lead the 2024 rotation, the Yankees’ pitching staff presented a mixed picture. Carlos Rodon, signed to a six-year, $162-million deal during the offseason with the intention of becoming the No. 2 starter after Cole, faced a challenging season. Initially sidelined with a forearm strain, Rodon made his debut in early July. While displaying occasional glimpses of the pitcher the Yankees envisioned, he struggled, accumulating a 3-6 record and a 5.90 ERA in 12 starts.

Nestor Cortes, a key figure projected for the 2024 rotation, encountered difficulties this season. Following his impressive breakout performance in 2022, where he achieved a 12-4 record and a 2.44 ERA, Cortes experienced a slow start this year and then dealt with lingering shoulder problems. He will conclude the season on the injured list due to a left shoulder strain.

Additionally, Luis Severino, who is set to become a free agent after this season and is unlikely to return to the team, faced challenges. Severino, who joined the organization in 2011 when signed from the Dominican Republic at the age of 16, did not make his first start in 2023 until early May due to a lat injury sustained during spring training. However, his performance during the season was characterized by inconsistency. Severino, now sidelined for the year with an oblique strain, compiled a 4-8 record with a 6.65 ERA in 19 games, of which 18 were starts.

Remarkably, despite the injuries and underperformance of Rodon, Cortes, Severino, and Domingo German, who was placed on the Restricted List on August 2 to address alcohol abuse issues after posting a 5-7 record with a 4.56 ERA, the Yankees managed to maintain their season, avoiding a complete collapse.

The Yankees’ ability to stay afloat with their rotation was largely attributed to the contributions of Clarke Schmidt, along with rookies Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez. After a challenging initial month, Schmidt played a vital role in stabilizing the rotation and was its most effective member from May through July, aside from Gerrit Cole. Schmidt, holding a 9-9 record with a 4.65 ERA in 31 games, 30 of which were starts, is not guaranteed a spot in the rotation for the upcoming season but will compete for one during spring training. The same applies to Brito, as of now with an 8-7 record and a 4.52 ERA, Vasquez, with a 2-2 record and a 2.56 ERA, and Michael King. King, previously excelling in the bullpen but still aspiring to become a big-league starter, made the most of his late-season opportunity. As of his latest appearance against Toronto, he held a 1-2 record with a 1.93 ERA in six starts. In the most recent game, a loss, King allowed one run and five hits while striking out 13 batters in seven innings, making a career-high 101 pitches.

According to a rival AL scout, the group they have on paper for the upcoming spring appears to be quite strong. They noted that while there were some uncertainties, there were also many positive aspects to like about the group.

Why the Yankees manager is bullish

The Yankees’ interest in Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto is substantial, with their scouts having observed him since his participation in the World Baseball Classic in March. General Manager Brian Cashman and advisor Omar Minaya, who recently returned from Japan after witnessing Yamamoto’s no-hitter, are particularly keen on the 25-year-old pitcher. However, the competition for his services is fierce, as numerous teams are expected to make significant financial offers, indicating that the Yankees are not the only club with a strong desire to acquire him.

Boone expressed his optimism about the potential candidates who could fill the rotation, stating that it had the potential to be excellent. He acknowledged that the previous year didn’t unfold as expected but emphasized the need to focus on the potential of these individuals. Boone highlighted the importance of ensuring their health, consistency, and performance at the expected level.

Aaron Boone is confident in the Yankees’ existing pitching depth, regardless of whether they secure a significant rotation upgrade during the offseason, such as Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The team anticipates losing Luis Severino and Frankie Montas to free agency and non-tendering Domingo German. Despite these potential departures, the Yankees believe they have ample internal options.

They are optimistic about Carlos Rodon’s ability to bounce back in 2024, given his impressive track record as a two-time All-Star and his recent signing for $162 million over six seasons.

Additionally, the Yankees have faith in Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, and Nestor Cortes, as well as younger right-handed pitchers Clarke Schmidt and Michael King. They are also encouraged by the contributions of rookies Jhony Brito and Randy Vasquez, who have been called up from Triple-A to bolster the rotation during this season.

Boone mentioned that they believed the next group of players who were pushing for a spot on the team, including those beyond Brito and Vasquez, had potential. He also noted that they had high hopes for individuals at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, seeing them as possible contributors in the future.

The Yankees possess a pool of promising starting pitchers in Double-A and Triple-A, and several of them are highly regarded prospects, according to MLB Pipeline rankings. Among these prospects are Chase Hampton (No. 4, Double-A), Drew Thorpe (No. 5, Double-A), Will Warren (No. 10, Triple-A), Richard Fitts (No. 12, Double-A), and Clayton Beeter (No. 16, Triple-A).

Boone acknowledged that the previous year didn’t unfold as anticipated. However, he expressed optimism about the potential of the returning players. He emphasized the importance of ensuring their health, consistency, and performance at the expected level in order to generate excitement for the upcoming season.

Yankees serious about Yamamoto

Yanoshibu Yamoto - who has been linked with a move to Yankees - in action for the Japan NT.
The Boston Globo

Despite Brian Cashman’s attempt to keep his plans under wraps, his presence at the recent no-hitter was a clear indication of his intentions. The subsequent revelation that Omar Minaya was also in attendance and that pro scouting director Matt Daley had been sent to Japan weeks earlier only strengthened the speculation connecting the Yankees to Yamamoto.

Insiders familiar with Yamamoto’s league, NPB, concur that the Yankees are indeed serious about their pursuit. One scout even went so far as to describe the Yankees’ interest as the most active they’ve seen from the franchise in years.

NPB scout on Yankees interest in Yamamoto: “Haven’t seen them this active on NPB talent in a while, could be a major push to bring Yoshinobu to NY.”

However, the final decision rests with the right-handed pitcher, and he can expect interest from around 10 MLB teams this offseason.

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