If Vidal Nuno is your number five starter, chances are you would be able to live with his sub-90 MPH fastball and propensity for giving up a lot of hits. You could make due with a home ERA over six. You could handle the fact that he barely averages over five innings per start. You might even be encouraged by the extended length of his last three starts, going at least six innings in each game. The problem is he is supposed to be the Yankees number three starter at this point. He was put into the rotation ahead of David Phelps and Chase Whitley. He is behind only Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda in terms of time in the rotation. You can’t absorb those kind of stats from your number three starter.
Nuno is young, only 26-years-old. I don’t like giving up on young talent. But I don’t think Nuno has a very high ceiling and he may have already peaked. He has zero above average pitches and is not a hard thrower. If he was right-handed instead of left-handed he would probably already have been removed from the rotation. His stuff is average and he doesn’t strike many people out. What we have seen the last two seasons from Nuno is most likely the best he will ever be. He is unlikely to dramatically improve.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Nuno is two-fold. First, he is not a legitimately bad pitcher. He is only a below-average pitcher. Second, he has been thrust into a situation in which he is generally unlikely to succeed. Nuno’s stuff, velocity and numbers all suggest a below-average pitcher, who would be best suited in a 25th man, long relief and spot-starter role. He is not a bad pitcher or even a Quadruple-A player. He is not someone who has no place in the majors. In fact, the majors are littered with Vidal Nunos. Every organization has three of them. That place, however, is not the middle of your rotation.
Both Phelps and Whitley have pitched better than Nuno to this point. They should remain in the rotation when Michael Pineda is able to return in a few weeks. But the Yankees should not wait until then to remove Nuno from the rotation. There is no benefit to keeping him there at this point. He should be regulated back to the bullpen and designate Alfredo Aceves, who has been atrocious, for assignment. In the alternative, he can be sent down to Triple-A to start, and remain stretched out in case yet another injury befalls the Bombers. Either way it’s time to see what someone else can do with a few starts before Pineda can come back.