Up until a couple of weeks ago, the Yankees seemed to have an extremely strong group of five starting pitchers. With Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Luis Severino, Nestor Cortes and Frankie Montas penciled in, the club had arguably the best rotation in the entire league. Unfortunately, the shoulder issues that plagued Montas last year are still lingering and he is going to miss the first month of the season. They still have an excellent front four but will now have to rely on their depth to start the season. Even if Montas is able to return to health and looks like his old self by May, it’s possible that one of the other four will need a breather and there will be continued opportunities for other pitchers. Teams almost never make it through an entire season using just five or six starters, meaning depth is always important.
Who does the club have on hand that could step up to fill in for Montas or any other injury? Let’s take a look at the options.
Germán, 30, is probably the most obvious and straightforward solution. He seemed to establish himself as part of the club’s future rotation in 2019 when he tossed 143 innings with a 4.03 ERA, 27.2% strikeout rate, 8.8% walk rate and 38.1% ground ball rate. But in September of that year, he was placed on administrative leave while the league investigated him for domestic violence. He ultimately received an 81-game suspension and flirted with retirement while serving it but ultimately returned.
In 2021, he was able to toss 98 1/3 innings over 18 starts and four relief appearances. He posted a 4.58 ERA while striking out 23.9% of opponents. Last year, shoulder problems sent him to the 60-day injured list in March and he wasn’t reinstated until July. He ultimately made 14 starts and one relief appearance, posting a 3.61 ERA in 72 1/3 innings. His strikeout rate dipped to just 19.5% and opponents hit just .262 on balls in play. That latter number is well below league average but not far off from his career mark of .272. It’s possible that he just has a knack for limiting damage but Statcast data doesn’t support that. He was in the 26th percentile last year in terms of hard hit rate and 25th in average exit velocity, though he was in the 57th for barrel rate. It’s possible that he would struggle to maintain an ERA under 4.00 but he avoids walks and would still be much better than the fifth/sixth starter on most teams.
Schmidt, 27 next month, was a first round pick of the Yanks in 2017. He pitched well as he moved up the minor league ladder and was considered one of the top 100 prospects in the league by Baseball America in 2020 and 2021. He’s had some brief time in the majors but his overall workload hasn’t been huge over the past couple of years. With the minors being canceled by the pandemic in 2020, he was limited to just 6 1/3 innings of official action in the majors. In 2021, an elbow strain kept him out of action for a while and he was only able to log another 6 1/3 in the bigs along with 38 minor league innings. Last year, he was frequently optioned and recalled, throwing 57 2/3 frames in the majors along with 33 in Triple-A, combining for 90 2/3 on the season.
When healthy enough to take the mound, he’s produced pretty solid results. His 70 1/3 innings at the MLB level have resulted in a 3.71 ERA, 22.5% strikeout rate, 10.7% walk rate and 44.6% ground ball rate. His minor league work has been even better, as he’s posted a 2.71 ERA over 71 innings in the past two years. He struck out out 31% of batters faced and walked 7.1% of them while getting ground balls on about half of balls in play. There are some things to like here but he still has an option whereas Germán doesn’t. Given that fact and his workload concerns, he might get nudged to Triple-A until a need arises.