What Has to Happen for the 2017 Yankees to Make the Playoffs
Find a Number Two Starter
While I would prefer general manager Brian Cashman go out and trade for an established number two starter to slot in behind Masahiro Tanaka (Jose Quintana and Sonny Gray are at the top of my wishlist), more realistically the Yankees will need to fill that vacancy with the guys they already have in the organization.
The good news is they have no shortage of talented arms with the ability to become a frontline starter. Both Michael Pineda and Luis Severino looked like they might be ready for a breakout season coming out of the gate last year before falling flat, but they still have all of the components to be that kind of pitcher, it’s just a matter of putting it all together.
Big Mike looked dominant for long stretches of 2016 and finished as the league leader in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.605 K/9. His peripheral stats continue to suggest a breakout is coming, even as he puts up ugly run prevention numbers. At this point I’m not holding my breath, but it definitely is possible he has a dominant season in him.
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Severino was much worse than Pineda in 2016, but was clearly rushed to the big leagues, and still looks like a quality starter in the long run if he can regain his confidence and get his changeup to be somewhere around an MLB average offering. The plus heater and wipeout slider are already in place, so maybe all his work on the change will start to pay off next spring.
The dark horse in this race is not yet on the 40-man roster, but was arguably the best pitcher in the minor leagues last season. In his first season as a starter, converted college closer Chance Adams put up a 2.33 ERA in 127.1 innings of work between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, striking out 29.1% of the batters he faced (10.2 K/9) while walking 7.9% (2.8 BB/9).
The 22-year-old righty has an MLB-quality arsenal just two years after being selected in the fifth round of the 2015 draft. He pairs a mid-90’s fastball with a hard slider that is his best secondary offering. He also throws a change and curve that are works in progress, but good enough to keep hitters off balance.
Because the Yankees have so many other starters in camp expected to compete for the two open rotation jobs, it is an extreme long shot that Adams even gets considered for the big league club until the second half, but I would love to see what he could do with regular turns over a full season. He looks ready right now.