Yankees picking the wrong guy to replace CC Sabathia in the rotation

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 6: CC Sabathia
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 6: CC Sabathia /

On Monday the Yankees received some more injury news when they announced that CC Sabathia would be placed on the DL. In his absence, Luis Cessa will fill his spot in the rotation rather than top pitching prospect Justus Sheffield.

This is another tough blow to the Yankees at a time where they can ill afford any more injuries. CC was coming off his second straight outstanding start but now he’s back on the DL for the second time this season after it was revealed he had inflammation in his right knee. It’s the same knee that has been causing him issues for years.

If the injury doesn’t keep CC out well past the 10 days you would figure that this shouldn’t hurt the Yankees record wise all that much. They have an easy August schedule that they should be able to take advantage of, but they better hope that CC can return for the stretch run come September.

With Luis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka both coming off terrible starts the Yankees need stability from their starting staff if they’re going to hold off the A’s and Mariners to secure that first Wild Card spot. They’ll face both teams on their West Coast trip September 3rd through the 9th and I’m sure manager Aaron Boone would much rather have CC on the mound for a game during those series than Cessa.

That’s why if CC does miss more than 10 to 15 days the Yankees should replace him with the young lefty Sheffield instead off Cessa. It’s fair to say Cessa deserves the first crack at it because he’s on the 40-man roster and he’s pitched well at Triple-A. However, if he struggles in his start against the Rays on Wednesday the Yankees should seriously consider giving Sheffield a look moving forward.

With Cessa they know what they’re getting and he doesn’t provide nearly the same amount of upside that Sheffield could. Cessa has had numerous spot starts and opportunities to pitch in the starting rotation since 2016, but he’s been nothing but inconsistent.

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We won’t know if Sheffield can do better until he gets his first opportunity but he’s the Yankees top pitching prospect for a reason. He’s had an excellent first season at Triple-A and has pretty much done everything he can to earn a call-up before the end of the season.

I wrote earlier this season that Sheffield could potentially make the same kind of impact Luis Severino did back in 2015 when he made his big league debut. Sevy burst onto the scene and was one of the Yankees best starters down the stretch before the Yanks lost to the Astros in that year’s Wild Card game.

It seems like the last step in Sheffield’s development is lowering his walk rate and pitching deep into games, but over his last seven starts, he’s only given up five earned runs in 39.1 IP. Those are impressive numbers no matter how many batters he’s walking per 9 innings (3.53 at AAA).

Another reason the Yankees might be hesitant to slide Sheffield into the rotation is that he’s on pace to set a career high in innings with 107 entering today. Sheffield is an important part of the Yankees future so they likely don’t want him pitching any more than 140 to 150 innings this season. That’s understandable but why can’t he pitch those innings at the big league level until CC returns?

Next. Stanton stepping up big time in the absence of Aaron Judge. dark

Once CC gets back the Yankees can either use Sheffield as a weapon out of their bullpen or shut him down for the season. Because if they really want to secure that wild card spot or possibly give themselves a fighting chance to catch Boston in the division Sheffield gives them the best chance to do so. Not Cessa.