Yankees: Three options who could fill Luis Severino’s rotation spot to start the season
The Yankees broke some bad news on Thursday when they announced Luis Severino has been shut down from throwing due to forearm soreness. On Friday he left camp to head back to New York for some tests.
Obviously, the hope is it’s nothing serious, but even if it’s just a minor injury it’s hard to imagine Severino being a part of the Yankees rotation to start the season.
This is now two years in a row where Severino has been shut down before he even makes his first start of Spring Training. Not only is he dealing with forearm soreness but the Yankees say he also has a loose body in his elbow. Last season right rotator cuff inflammation and a strained lat led to him making only three starts (all in September) so there are multiple reasons for concern.
Following the news on Thursday, the Yankees will have to start preparing for the regular season as if Severino is going to start the year on the IL. That means there’s probably going to be an open competition to fill his spot on the starting staff.
Prior to Sevy going down, there was already a battle to see who would replace James Paxton in the rotation to start the year. Paxton is going to be out until May at the earliest following back surgery but now that Sevy’s spot has opened up I think we can go ahead and pencil Jordan Montgomery into the rotation. He was already the heavy favorite to win the job because of his previous success at the big league level and deserves to be one of the five starters.
With Montgomery in the fourth slot, the competition to be the fifth starter should be pretty wide open. Prospects Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt could be in the mix, although management isn’t going to rush them so it’s more likely they’ll start the year at Triple-A. I think they could both impact the rotation at some point this season, but the three names you’ll see below all have a better chance of making the club out of camp.
Loaisiga could be one of the favorites strictly based on pure stuff, but there’s also a chance he could make the roster as a reliever for the same reason. The right-hander has an electric arm but he’s struggled to pitch deep into games and put hitters away with two strikes in his small sample size as a starter in the big leagues. Too often he nibbles around the strike zone instead of attacking hitters.
He’s also had a history of injuries throughout his pro-career which is another reason why he hasn’t been able to stick in the rotation. That doesn’t bode well for him if he wants to find long term success as a starter, but I have no issue with the Yankees giving him another shot. This could prove to be the year where Loaisiga makes it as a starter but I think he could potentially dominate as a reliever. That’s why if he doesn’t earn the final rotation spot it might be time to move him to the bullpen for good.
The odds of King making the rotation out of camp could increase if Sevy ends up starting the season on the IL. The 24-year-old was one of the pitchers Brian Cashman named to battle for the fifth starter’s slot entering camp and for good reason. He put together a terrific minor league campaign in 2018 and would’ve been given an opportunity to pitch in the rotation last season if he didn’t suffer a stress reaction in his elbow during spring training.
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Once King was healthy enough to pitch last year he finished the season very strong and made it up to the big leagues as a September call-up. King is a ground ball machine with great command and features a power sinker along with a solid changeup and slider. At 6’3, 210 lbs he fits the build of a starter more than anyone competing for a spot in the rotation outside of Montgomery.
The Yankees and Cashman have high hopes for the right-hander this season and expect him to play a big role as long as he can stay healthy. He’s going to have to earn his spot just like everyone else but I think he’s the favorite.
Bettis is the only player in the mix to win a spot in the starting rotation that isn’t already on the Yankees 40-man roster. The 30-year-old veteran was signed to a minor-league deal earlier this month to add some depth and of all the rotation candidates he has the most experience as a starter in the big leagues (92 GS) which could give him an edge.
Bettis a strike-thrower who induces a lot of groundballs, but he’s not going to overpower anyone. His numbers during parts of seven seasons with the Rockies aren’t very good, but there’s reason to believe he can turn things around pitching away from the hitter-friendly Coors Field. His career splits are much more respectable on the road (4.42 ERA compared to 5.82 at home).
He’s certainly not the most intriguing option, but if he puts together a good performance this spring he could be a short term replacement for Sevy to start the season. That being said, the Yankees shouldn’t rely on Bettis to earn a spot so if they can make a trade or sign another pitcher to add to the mix they should do so.