Final Two Rotation Spots: Luis Severino vs. Luis Cessa vs. Chad Green vs. Bryan Mitchell vs. Adam Warren
Without a doubt, this is the battle most people will pay attention to from the day pitchers and catcher report until the Opening Day rosters are announced.
Instead of breaking them all down in one snip bit, I’m going to go ahead and make the case for each guy in competition for the spot:
The Case For Luis Severino:
Luis Severino is coming off a sophomore season in which he maintained an 8.50 ERA across 11 starts but a transition to the ‘pen saw him salvage his second year in the Bronx.
In 11 relief appearances, Sevvy sported a 0.39 ERA in 23.1 innings while striking out 25 batters (9.1 K/9). Despite the success, I think it’ll be too quick to rule the 22-year old as a “failed starter” at this moment.
I’ve discussed how, down the road, the move shouldn’t be unwelcomed but he’s just a kid, has a taste of success in the pros (5-3, 2.89 ERA in ’15) and has the blueprint of what he needs to improve on (sharpen his changeup and secondary pitches).
The Case For Luis Cessa:
Making his major league debut on April 8, 2016, and settling in a rotation spot on August 20, Luis Cessa showed hope, but didn’t impress down the stretch.
In nine starts, the 24-year old right-hander pitched to a 4.01 ERA and only struck out 35 batters in 51.2 innings. He also gave up 11 home runs, but with a slider that usually induces a terrific number of groundballs, he may be able to clean that up in 2017.
One aspect that has Cessa that impresses, is his ability to touch 95 m.p.h. with his fastball on a regular basis and compliment it with both a changeup and a slider.
The former shortstop has terrific athleticism and has a really smooth delivery — something many converted pitchers struggle to grow.
The Case For Chad Green:
I really like Chad Green, but not too sure how he’ll fare in cluttered competition.
Before going down with some elbow pain, Green maintained a 5.94 ERA across eight starts thanks to the 12 home runs the righty surrendered.
One promising sign, however, was his strikeout rate. He fanned 44 batters in 36.1 innings (10.7 K/9) including a dominant performance against the juggernaut Blue Jays’ offense (6 IP, 11K’s, 2 H).
The one problem with Green is his three-pitch mix. His fastball, according to baseball prospectus, would “see slight improvements if moved to the pen and he can throw max effort.”
The command on his changeup is considered to be below average in which he struggles with deception. Prospectus also claims slider lacks the ability to provoke swinging strikes against stronger competition.
The Case For Bryan Mitchell:
Thanks to some bad luck, Bryan Mitchell has been unable to secure a spot that he may have deserved since 2015.
After going 2-0 with a 0.57 ERA in Spring Training last year, Mitchell went down with a broken toe on March 30 which resulted in him tossing just 46 total innings between the minors and majors in 2016.
Making his regular-season debut on September 7 against the Blue Jays, the 25-year old finished with a 3.24 ERA in five starts at the end of the year.
That stretch included a start in which he hurled seven innings of two-hit, no-run ball against the AL East-winning Boston Red Sox and entering 2017, he’ll have a chance to permanently earn that spot.
With a fastball that peaks at 97 m.p.h. and just a curveball to coincide with it, however, a move to the bullpen, where that velocity could take a jump and turn his curve into a plus-pitch, may be where he’s best suited.
The Case For Adam Warren:
Just because Cashman sees Adam Warren competing for a rotation spot, it doesn’t mean he’ll get one.
Over his five-year career, the 29-year old owns a 3.88 ERA and a 6.6 K/9 ratio as a starter compared to 3.51 ERA and 8.0 K/9 ratio as a reliever.
Considering the rotation averaged just 5.6 innings per start in 2016, Warren’s utilization as a long-reliever would bode well for a ‘pen that lacks the long guy.
Prediction: Luis Severino and Luis Cessa
It’s just too unfair to give up on Severino as a starter and looking at the final four candidates, Cessa has the most impressive repertoire to succeed at the major league level.
All in all, there are certainly intriguing storylines to keep a close eye on in March. All the way from the backup catcher’s to the front-line of the rotation, spots are in dire need of filling.
Will these predictions pan out? Time will tell. But one thing is for certain, despite Opening Day being in early April, the source of success starts in mid-February, as players begin to showcase their worth.