With rosters announced for spring training 2.0, the New York Yankees will have a handful of arms battling for the final spot in their rotation.
After months of negotiating, Major League Baseball will officially return later this week. With players starting to report on July 1 (Canada Day), most teams will conduct their first workouts of the summer on July 3.
While it’ll be great seeing players back on the field, for the New York Yankees, they’ll be faced with some tough decisions involving their pitching staff in the near future. Without a minor-league season in 2020, some of their top young hurlers won’t be able to play in live games this season.
With just one vacancy in the Yankees’ rotation, most of those arms will either spend time in the bullpen or they’ll be limited to scrimmage games at the team’s alternate training site. As for who’ll compete for this role, Jordan Montgomery, Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, Michael King, and Albert Abreu could all receive opportunities to earn a starting gig in the major leagues this summer.
Coming off his Tommy John surgery, Montgomery made just a pair of appearances in September last season. Attempting to shake off his 16-month absence from the majors, the left-hander failed to perform effectively over his 4.0 innings of work.
Over his two outings (one start and one relief appearance), the 27-year-old hurler allowed seven hits, three earned runs, and one home run, while tallying five strikeouts in his limited action. In addition, the former fourth-round selection also surrendered five line drives, five fly balls, and just four ground balls last season.
Despite Montgomery’s layoff and concerning results, he was on pace for a breakout season before his elbow injury derailed his 2018 campaign. Relying on his low-80s curveball and changeup, along with his low-90s fastball and sinker, the 6-foot-6 hurler created a 3.62 ERA (career-low), 4.22 FIP, 4.67 xFIP, 1.35 WHIP, .240 OPP AVG, 19.8% strikeout rate, 10.3% walk rate, 45.7% GB rate, 28.4% hard-hit rate and a 0.4 fWAR rating over his 27.1 innings pitched.
Based on Montgomery’s major-league experience, he’s likely the favorite to round out New York’s rotation this season. With that said, this four-month layoff could pose some questions about his health status and his ability to stay on the field in 2020.
Similar to Montgomery, Schmidt’s career was delayed in 2017 after he underwent Tommy John surgery. Nevertheless, the right-hander has rebounded perfectly over his two seasons within the Yankees’ organization.
In particular, the 24-year-old dominated on the mound following his promotion to double-A Trenton last season. Despite making just three starts, the former first-round selection was still able to garner a lot of attention with his stellar performance.
During his second season with the Yankees, Schmidt complied 19.0 innings of work and produced a 2.37 ERA, 2.01 FIP, 2.47 xFIP, 0.79 WHIP, .200 OPP AVG, 26.8% strikeout rate, 1.4% walk rate, 44.0% GB rate and a measly 4.5% HR/FB rate with the Thunder.
Based on these results, the 6-foot-1 righty could certainly advance to the next level and make his major league debut in 2020. However, his undersized frame could lead to some durability and health concerns during this unusual situation.
Even though this season will be limited to just 60 games, this extended downtime and shortened spring training could put a strain on Schmidt’s body. But when healthy, he’s arguably the best arm in the Yankees’ minor-league system, which could help him break camp with the team later this month.
After producing five hitless innings during his lone start at double-A Trenton in 2018, Garcia was looking to continue his stellar results against improved competition last season. Luckily for the 21-year-old, he did exactly that over his 11 starts with the Thunder last season.
Over his 53.2 innings pitched, the young hurler produced a 3.86 ERA, 2.20 FIP, 2.45 xFIP, 1.29 WHIP, .212 OPP AVG, 37% strikeout rate, 11.1% walk rate, 43% GB rate along with a 5% HR/FB rate as well.
Following these impressive results, Garcia received a mid-season promotion to triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Unfortunately, the 5-foot-9 flamethrower struggled with the command of his pitches, leading to his miserable 5.40 ERA, 5.77 FIP, 5.18 xFIP, 1.48 WHIP and 18.2% HR/FB rate over his 40.0 innings of work.
Despite making five relief appearances in 2019, the Dominican native will likely still receive an opportunity to earn a starting role this season. If he fails to earn a spot in the rotation, the right-hander could transition into a bullpen role. Utilizing his low-80s curveball and high-90s fastball, he could serve as a valuable weapon during high-leverage situations.
Acquired from the Marlins before the 2018 campaign, King dominated on the mound during his inaugural season in the Yankees’ system, finishing with the second-lowest ERA (1.79) and the third-lowest WHIP (0.91) in the minor leagues.
Heading into last season, the 25-year-old was a potential candidate to start in the majors before a stress reaction in his elbow sidelined him until July. After making seven rehab appearances across three levels (rookie ball, low-A and double-A), the former 12th-round pick returned to triple-A and made four appearances before their season ended.
Despite allowing a trio of home runs, King generated a 4.18 ERA, 4.05 FIP, 3.55 xFIP, 1.10 WHIP, .225 OPP AVG, 28.6% strikeout rate, 6.1% walk rate and a 46.7% GB rate over his 23.2 innings pitched. Earning a late-season promotion to the majors, the 6-foot-3 hurler capped off his season by making one relief appearance – allowing two hits, one unearned run and recording one strikeout through 2.0 innings.
Based on King’s ability to generate ground balls and limit walks with his mid-90s two-seamer and four-seamer, he could be a dark horse in this race for the final spot in New York’s rotation. Even if the former Marlin fails to win a starting role, he should make an impact as a multi-inning reliever this season.
While this group features plenty of talented arms, Abreu could be the most underrated pitcher in the Yankees’ system. Nonetheless, his potential has been hampered by a ton of arm injuries over the last three campaigns.
Coming over in a trade from the Astros in 2016 for Brian McCann, Abreu has shown flashes of developing into a front-line starter, but hasn’t been able to stay healthy over his three seasons with the Bronx Bombers. Battling through shoulder, elbow and biceps issues, the right-hander hasn’t exceeded 97.0 innings of work since the 2016 campaign.
As a result of his limited playing time, the 24-year-old hasn’t been able to refine his delivery, preventing him from reaching his full potential. Unable to consistently command the strike zone, he offered too many free passes and surrendered plenty of hard-contact, recording a 4.28 ERA, 4.36 FIP, 4.21 xFIP, 1.61 WHIP, .271 OPP AVG, 21.6% line drive rate and a 12% walk rate over his 96.2 innings pitched at double-A Trenton last season.
While Abreu might be better suited for the bullpen, his stellar three-pitch mix — high-90s fastball, mid-80s slurve, and changeup — should provide him with an opportunity to start this season. Nevertheless, he’ll likely be near the bottom on the depth chart and will need to make a significant impression this summer.