Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2013 Storylines: Shoring Up The 2014 Rotation

(Two important parts to this year's rotation.  But what about next year?  Courtesy of the AP)

To say the starting rotation is critically important for the Yankees in 2013 is an understatement.  The front office willingly took a step back offensively to make filling out the 2013 rotation the priority this past offseason, and so far in camp things are coming together nicely.  Ivan Nova has had two strong starts, Hiroki Kuroda looked outstanding yesterday striking out 6 over 4 scoreless IP, David Phelps has been steady and consistent as the 6th starter, and the rest of the projected starting five are scheduled to make their 2013 debuts in the very near future.

The rotation should be the biggest strength of this year's team, but on a parallel path of importance this season will be how this year's results influence the plans for next year's rotation.  The Yankees will have a lot more work to do building next year's rotation under the payroll crunch and will be using this season's performances to gauge how and if their current collection of young starters factor into next year's plans.

Ronnier Mustelier's Big Chance

(Courtesy of the AP)

(Originally published at IIATMS/TYA)

I don't know if it's my newfound rooting interest in him or the Yankees calling up every recently retired corner infielder like a desperate dude who needs a date to his 10-year high school reunion that's influencing this, but it certainly seems to me like there's been a red carpet of opportunity rolled out for Ronnier Mustelier in the wake of Mark Teixeira's injury.  He's gotten a lot more playing time at the hot corner in the six days since Teix's strained tendon was diagnosed, and had Cash himself confirm that the Yankees were looking at him as a potential option at third.  If you're on the wrong side of the roster-making fringe as Mustelier was, hearing the GM say your name is like music to your ears.

Mustelier has played in every game since Teix's injury, something he couldn't say prior, and he's had a few starts at third base.  He hasn't dazzled in the six games he's played, going just 2-12 at the plate with one run scored and RBI apiece, but he has sprinkled in little dashes of what he brings to the table offensively with a triple, a BB, and a stolen base.  And while he hasn't had the chance to make a lot of plays at third base, he's looked competent and drawn some positive reviews from folks who've watched him.  With the situation the Yankees are facing to start the season, he's the perfect type of player to roll the dice on.

Here Comes Jose Ramirez

(Courtesy of the AP)

He got sent down to MiL camp after yesterday's game, but no prospect made a bigger or better impression on the Yankee higher-ups this spring than Jose Ramirez.  After a solid finish to his 2012 season in High-A, Ramirez got the invite to big league camp and didn't waste the opportunity.  He was among the first pitchers to get into a game, he made two starts, and allowed 0 runs and just one BB in his 9.0 IP over three appearances, by far the most innings thrown of any Yankee pitcher to not allow a run this spring.  He located his fastball down in the zone and flashed pretty good command of his changeup, something that isn't always said about young pitchers.

I left Ramirez off the AB4AR Top 30 for the second year in a row because of his spotty history with consistency and injuries, but also because the Yankees didn't seem sure how they wanted to use him.  After this spring audition, there's no doubt that Ramirez should be molded as a starting pitcher and a potentially top-flight one at that.  He's got great velocity, improving mechanics and command, and a really high upside if he continues to refine his changeup and makes his slider a useful third pitch.  Without a lot of high-end pitching talent in the upper levels of the system, he can really make a name for himself with a strong season in Double-A and I've already got him marked as one of my big breakout candidates for 2013.