I'm not the type to look ahead, and I always stress the importance of focusing on the NOW in Yankee baseball, but with the way some of the young guys have pitched so far in Spring Training, I think it warrants talking about how and where they might fit in in 2012. So allow me a minute to spitball and consider the potential situation for next year's rotation.
This year's rotational situation is what it is, and despite some early success from the likes of Garcia, Colon, and Ivan Nova, I think we can all agree that no level of regular season success in 2011 is going to lead to Garcia or Colon being a part of the 2012 rotation. They are here this year to serve as Band-Aids to try to help ease the sting of losing Lee and Pettitte and as placeholders for the crop of young talent in Double and Triple-A right now, namely the Killer Bs. And there's nothing wrong with that. Betances and ManBan are going to have innings limitations this year, and after the fiasco that was trying to put Joba and Ian Kennedy in the rotation before they were ready, the Yankees are playing it safe with these guys. With the lineup they have, the deep bullpen, and CC and Hughes at the top of the rotation they are still going to be one of the best teams in baseball.
But after 2011 ends for the Yankees, the rotation again becomes a huge question mark and a huge talking point. As of today, there are only 2 guys who will definitely be under contract and in the rotation in 2012, those guys being Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. For the purposes of this discussion, I'm going to say that whether he opts out or not after this year, CC Sabathia is coming back in 2012, giving the Yanks the same 3 "definites" that they had coming into this year. But after that is where it starts to get interesting.
I figure Ivan Nova is going to get the final '11 rotation spot over Colon, barring injury of course, so he becomes the #1 candidate to fill in the #4 spot in the 2012 rotation, a candidacy that could be strengthened by an improved performance this year and him showing that he has developed his secondary pitches and learned to change things up the 3rd time through a lineup. After him, the next group of internal candidates to step in and take a spot in the 2011 rotation, due to injuries or poor performance by others, would be Hector Noesi, David Phelps, and Adam Warren. As with Nova, they would be considered to have a leg up on the the rest of the youthful competition just based on any experience gained this year. The fact that none of these 3 are considered high-ceiling prospects, however, and could be used as trade fodder this year to bring in a starter at the deadline makes their 2012 spots less of a sure thing. But if the Yankees catch lightning in a bottle with any of them, they're going to have to give serious consideration to keeping that guy around for 2012.
Which brings us to the next possibility, somebody either added at the 2011 deadline or signed in the 2011 offseason taking a spot. Guys like Chris Carpenter, Mark Buehrle, and Roy Oswalt would be at the top of that list, and the addition of either of the first 2 by a trade probably eliminates guys from the Noesi/Phelps/Warren/D.J. Mitchell pool. So if one of them is brought in, do the Yankees sign him after 2011 and make him the #4 starter for 2012? If they don't, do they go all out for Roy Oswalt and plug him into the #2/#3 spot for 2012? Any outsider brought in ]before the start of 2012 has to be considered a favorite to also make the 2012 rotation due to the experience factor, but with age and salary concerns the Yankees could make the decision to not add payroll for an older player.