New York Yankees’ starting pitcher Luis Severino is currently experiencing a rusty start to his sophomore campaign, is it too early to be distressed by his struggles?
Naturally, that is expected by a franchise that saw so much promise and dominance from Severino in a small sample size at the Major League level.
Many considered Severino to be the best starter in the rotation despite having only 62.1 innings on his big league resume. Those innings were impressive a year ago, as he went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA and 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. But despite the eye-opening first glance we got at the righty, it’s simply wasn’t fair to place all of these expectations on such a young kid.
In his first four starts in 2016, Severino is 0-3 with a 6.86 ERA and has surrendered 32 hits in 19.2 innings pitched while seeing his K/9 drop from 8.09 to 5.49.
The Yankees have seen top prospects bust time in and time out. For the record, the last top prospect that actually panned out was Derek Jeter, the number one prospect in the organization back in 1994.
In 2011, according to Baseball America, Montero was the Yankees’ top prospect, and Major League Baseball’s third best behind Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. Many considered his bat to be Mike Piazza-like due to the raw power he demonstrated at the plate.
To make the hype even larger, Montero slashed .328/.406/.590 and hit four home runs in 18 games in September of 2011. It was his first taste of the show, and like Severino, it left fans excited for his sophomore season.
To make a long story short, after he was traded, Montero reported to camp overweight, was suspended for performance enhancing drugs, and is now batting .222 for the Buffalo Bisons.
I’m not saying Severino is going to turn into the pitcher’s version of Jesus Montero, but Sevy’s early struggles are reminding the fan base a little too much about prospects that endured early success and hit a brick wall.
Ian Kennedy is perhaps the most relatable to Severino.
“I think I’m trying too much,” Severino said after his start against the Mariners. “I’m pulling (my slider), not just throwing it, like I was in spring training. I’m missing spots. I’m missing pitches. I’m not commanding my top stuff, and that’s the difference.”
Kennedy made his major league debut at 22-years-old when rosters expanded to 40 men in September of 2007. In his first big league outing, he pitched seven innings against the Devil Rays and held them to one run while striking out six.
The “rising phenom” finished his brief rookie campaign with a 1.89 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 7.11 K/9, 4.2 BB/9 and 0.5 HR/9. Severino’s first year: 4.37 FIP, 8.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and 1.3 HR/9.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they set unusually high expectations for Kennedy and he failed to build upon his success the following year. In nine starts during his sophomore campaign, Kennedy went 0-4 with an 8.35 ERA and found his way out of the rotation by the month of May.
He fell out of favor with the Yankees, who once saw him as a future ace, and he was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009.
The last top Yankee pitching prospect, Manny Banuelos, was number one in the Bronx in 2012. In the same year, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament and underwent Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss the 2013 season.
In 2014, he struggled mightily in Tampa, Trenton, and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 2015. Banuelos got his first taste at the show last year but underwent surgery to remove a bone spur this past offseason.
Back in 2008, Joba Chamberlain was the number one prospect in the organization and did well in his first full year in the Bronx. Unfortunately for him and the Yankees, the infamous “Joba Rules” forced him to transition from the bullpen to rotation on numerous occasions. This impacted his performance to a devastating extent, causing his 7.94 ERA in 2015.
I’m not predicting that Severino will turn into any of these guys because his stuff is first class, but the hit per innings rate is very disquieting. What we are seeing so far this year, is a kid trying way to hard to match the asinine expectations that were placed on him.
There was talk about him taking over as the number one starter by the end of the year, but maybe it’s time to tamper the expectations on this young kid and learn a thing or two from history.
Rising prospects who have the potential that Sevy has need time to adjust to the stage of major league baseball and develop at their own pace. The only thing expectations do is cause growing pains which inevitably lead to the Yankees falling out of favor with their prized prospects.