Acquire high-upside pitchers needing a bounce back (Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon)? Keep them healthy? So far, both men have dominated with a clean bill.
Add plenty of lottery tickets to help add depth to the mix? Jhoulys Chacin isn’t performing particularly well, and neither is Asher Wojciechowski (who’ll likely say goodbye soon), but they’ve served their role as innings-eating bodies.
If everything’s going well…then how are the projections looking?
When pitching coach Matt Blake was asked about the fifth starter candidates on Sunday’s YES Network broadcast, he led with Deivi Garcia, then highlighted Domingo German and Michael King, which was very kind of him to rattle off.
After one week, though, we have a fairly clear idea of our own projections for the Opening Day rotation — and the leader in the clubhouse might not be considered a leader in this clubhouse.
Projecting the Yankees rotation after a week of spring training games:
No. 1: Gerrit Cole
No. 2: Jameson Taillon
No. 3: Corey Kluber
No. 4: Jordan Montgomery
No. 5: Domingo German
At this point, we are ready to project Gerrit Cole as the theoretical Yankees ace.
The rest of the rotation may be too close to call, but these five spots all have clear leans in the early going.
Taillon, at this point in his career, is a high-variance option, but has more strikeout upside than Kluber. The intention of acquiring him was to add a No. 2 starter at a discount, and nothing has changed about that assessment based on his three shutout innings thus far.
That is no slight on Kluber, who breezed through two innings in primetime against the Toronto Blue Jays; both men are ostensibly interchangeable, if operating at their full capacity.
Montgomery’s steadiness has also been on full display so far in two outings this spring; he even uncorked perhaps the nastiest curveball of his young career on Sunday afternoon. He’s a prototypical No. 3-4, and could reside there for a decade if he gets his injury woes on track.
So, that leaves us only debating the No. 5 spot. With all due respect to Deivi Garcia, though, he wasn’t supposed to be here last year. His poised debut was a surprise that broke the mold without a Triple-A season. King’s effort has been much improved, too, but he’s the seventh man on the totem pole — and there’s no shame in that.
German, in his spring debut, proved once and for all that 29 MLB teams would be lining up for his services if the Yankees had cut bait this offseason. Somehow, he looked better than ever after a 550-day layoff.
He’s also got (gulp) a redemption narrative advantage; namely, he’s been the focus of an overload of coverage this spring, and has lived up to his billing thus far. He has nothing to gain at Triple-A, whereas Garcia has plenty. If both men are equal, German will likely get the nod.
He also appears to have the support of a few of his most important teammates, namely Gleyber Torres and Aaron Judge.
A phantom sixth starter will likely be necessary at times for the Yankees in 2021, in an effort to preserve the arms of the team’s most important starters for October after a stunted 2020.
That could be Garcia. It could be King or Chacin or a healthy Schmidt.
For now, though, it’s hard to envision a healthy Domingo German not traveling north to open the season.