Mar 15, 2014; Sarasota, FL, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Vidal Nuno (67) throws a pitch during the first inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Down on the Farm: A Look at the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rotation


It’s hard to believe that the New York Yankees’ time in Tampa is almost at it’s completion. As they get closer to the 25-man roster, it also means some of the players won’t be going to New York. There have already been quite a few cuts made, none of which have come as a surprise. The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre team is coming along and the starting rotation is in shambles.

If the projected rotation the Yankees envisioned for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre were to be set for their Opening Day series, the RailRiders would be just fine. As it stands, however, manager Dave Miley and pitching coach Scott Aldred are going to have their hands full.

Originally, the Yankees hoped prized prospect Manny Banuelos would anchor the top of the rotation (you’ll forgive me if I am hesitant to label him the “ace” at this point). However, he struggled mightily this spring, which was somewhat expected after a nearly two-year hiatus following Tommy John Surgery. After yielding 7 runs in one inning of work over two appearances, some feel Banuelos will be left behind in High-A Tampa to work the kinks out and get his arm loose in the warmer weather of Florida as opposed to the still chilly temperatures in Pennsylvania.

Jose Ramirez was another young fireballer the Yankees had hoped would be part of the rotation. However, he has officially been moved to the bullpen. You can’t really argue with the Yankees on this move. His fastball is overpowering as it often nears 100 mph. He throws so hard though that he is frequently injured, whether it be from arm fatigue or a strained oblique, which was the case earlier this spring. Limiting his innings to a bullpen role will keep him healthy and allow him to unload his cannon more frequently.

Nik Turley, considered one of the top 20 prospects in the system, also suffered an injury early this spring. The set-back occurred before Grapefruit League games even occurred and Turley did not throw a single pitch this spring. Turley doesn’t have the elite arm other prospects possess, but he was projected to be a middle of the rotation fixture. Don’t be surprised to see him start the year on the DL.

Michael Pineda is having a great spring but David Phelps is still staying in the hunt for the fifth slot in the rotation. Adam Warren and Vidal Nuno are officially out of the competition. Girardi vowed to keep Phelps and Warren in the bigs despite the end result of the fifth starter competition, so it looks like Nuno is headed for the Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre rotation. He had a nice spring, but the junk-baller doesn’t possess the skills to be an everyday piece of a Major League rotation. If he is in the rotation at Triple-A, perhaps the Yankees can evolve Nuno into a Ramiro Mendoza swingman pitcher.

Former reliever Chase Whitley will enter the rotation in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His first experience as a starter was a four-game stint at the end of last season. He excelled once given the opportunity and will now be stretched out as a starter to decide what his future will be.

Trenton Thunder (Double-A) pitchers may be expected to jump up a level and join the RailRiders rotation. Shane Greene has a lot of promise. He pitched as a starter last year at High-A and Double-A and his ERA actually improved after his promotion. How far away are Rafael de Paula and 2013 draft pick Ian Clarkin to making an impact on a high-level? 2014 may be the year we find out.

The RailRiders have a lot of uncertainty in their rotation and not much time to figure out what to do about it. It will be an interesting start to the season until the pieces are in place. As the Triple-A starting pitching stands right now, it doesn’t show much promise for the future of the Yankees rotation. Hopefully, a few of these prospects step up and surprise this season and give Yankee fans some hope for the future.

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