The role Luis Severino plays in 2017 will go a long way in indicating the New York Yankees’ success.
Luis Severino’s 2016 splits were astonishing, plain and simple. The extreme distinction between his success-level out of the rotation and the bullpen was unfathomable.
Heading into the year with loads of optimism surrounding his name, the young gun was destined to place behind Masahiro Tanaka, potentially working his way toward ace status.
The homegrown product was ready to excel and build off an astounding 2015 output, which led many to believe the right-handed flamethrower held the keys to the future.
This upcoming season, he will still have a firm grasp on those keys, but in a completely different form.
In 11 starts this past season, Severino did not collect a win and was charged with eight losses, recording a dismal 8.50 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in the process. In the same number of appearances out of the ‘pen, he pitched to a brilliant 0.39 ERA, allowed a mere 8 hits over 23.1 innings, and fanned 25 opposing batters.
The simple solution would be to pronounce him a reliever, unleash his 98-plus m.p.h. electricity in short-inning scenarios, and develop a dominant in-house bridge to Dellin Betances.
Joe Girardi, Brian Cashman, and company are not quite ready to do so — and rightfully so.
In 2017, they must figure out the 22-year-old’s identity, either writing the same 2016 narrative or emerging into the frontline starter everyone knew he could amount to. If the latter identity is established, the Yankees may be able to execute a tremendous bounce-back campaign, ultimately rising to prominence sooner than expected. If the former holds, coupled with a lack of offseason reinforcements, Cashman will left be scrambling for solutions.
In other words, the resurgence of Severino and the Bronx Bombers go hand in hand.
For the youthful native of the Dominican Republic, who is under team control until 2023, it is all about poise and command. When he is on his game, there is absolutely no doubting his repertoire and ability to perfect each of his pitches in a meaningful spot.
However, his popping fastball, devastating slider, and deceiving changeup do not keep hitters off balance unless he is hitting the catcher’s glove with each of the respective offerings. The second his slider becomes flat, his fastball becomes hittable. The second his fastball leaks over the heart of the plate, his slider becomes increasingly readable.
If all three pitches are working at the same time, effectively staying away from barrels, preeminence is the name of the game.
Suddenly, the Yankees will have the second rotational anchor they so desperately desire. Following an offseason featuring a brutally thin pitching market, the organization will have made the right move in sticking to its chips, not falling into the aging traps of Rich Hill or Bartolo Colon.
Not only will they have found another solid arm, but they would possess a dominant rising presence, one that is capable of running off lethal stretches, carrying a staff, halting losing streaks, and seizing the spotlight.
Without Severino’s redevelopment, New York will gain a potentially forceful late inning guy. While that will bring along numerous positives, his significance to this particular unit is far greater out of the rotation.
The identification, the narrative, and the final landing spot all mean a substantial amount to 2017’s complexion.
If Luis Severino can find himself, and bring his talents into a spot where he rightfully belongs, the Yankees will be instant contenders — an unforeseen occurrence given the process that comes with a rebuild.
The rotation will become deeper, more solidified, and ready for superb reinforcements in 2018 and beyond, having a sample size of success to lure those impending names.
It all depends on Severino — the 2017 x-factor — and his performance. The future depends on it.