Heading into the 2019 season, the Yankees have a number of predictions that can be made, especially looking at their pitching staff.
As we wind down January and Spring Training draws closer, we are starting to get a general sense of how the Yankees’ 2019 roster will look. The Yankees have reinforced their rotation and bullpen through a series of signings, re-signings and a trade. Here’s a look at the pitchers we could see on the Opening Day roster.
1. Luis Severino (RHP):
After a breakout 2017, Severino endured a rocky 2018, looking great in the first half while struggling mightily for a significant stretch during the second half. A great (yet short) Wild Card Game start followed by a brutal ALDS Game Three outing left questions about his true potential in the playoffs, though he enters 2019 as undoubtedly the ace of the staff.
2. Masahiro Tanaka (RHP):
If there’s one word to describe Tanaka’s first five years with the Yankees, it’s reliable, with the exception of the first half of his 2017 season. While he’s had his fair share of injury concerns when he’s on, he’s filthy, and he’s been on more often than not in recent years. He would be an ace on a number of teams and serves as a very strong number two for the Yankees.
3. James Paxton (LHP):
Brought over in a trade with Seattle in November, Paxton has blossomed into one of the AL’s best pitchers over the last two years. The 6’4″ Canadian lefty has also had a number of injuries, though he’s said that “I’ve learned how to make sure those things don’t happen again through exercise or whatever and I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself and be ready for an entire season”.
He and Tanaka could flip as the number two and three over the course of the season, but I think Paxton enters the season as the number three as he navigates a new environment in the Bronx.
4. J.A. Happ (LHP):
In desperate need of a starter at last year’s trade deadline, the Yankees dealt for Happ, who was the team’s best pitcher down the stretch and was undefeated in each of his regular season starts for the Yankees. His poor start in ALDS Game One against the Red Sox left a poor taste in fans’ mouths, but his performance during the last two months of the season was enough to make the Yankees want to bring him back on a three-year deal.
Though he may not pitch at the level he did for the team last year, Happ would be a very solid option for any team, and fits right in as the Yankees’ number four starter.
5. CC Sabathia (LHP):
With Sabathia stating that 2019 will be the last season of his career, the Yankees brought him back on a one year deal in order to get him one more ring. Though he’s not the workhorse he used to be, CC is still a very serviceable starter and great clubhouse presence.
He figures to be the number five starter for the start of the season, though he could potentially see diminished playing time when Jordan Montgomery returns midseason.
Stephen Tarpley (LHP):
After struggling in his debut, Tarpley put together a string of a few nice appearances to work his way onto the ALDS roster. He could serve as a middle reliever or as a lefty specialist on the 2019 team. Other bullpen arms like Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Loaisiga or Domingo German could potentially beat out Tarpley for a bullpen spot, though I think Tarpley has the leg up on the competition after being the only one of the four of them to make the ALDS roster.
Jonathan Holder (RHP):
After struggling for the start of his Yankee career, Holder burst onto the scene as one of the team’s more reliable relievers in 2018. While the bullpen had a slew of injuries across the year, Holder and Dellin Betances remained two constant reliable arms in the pen for the team.
Though the Adam Ottavino signing could knock Holder a bit lower on the depth chart, expect to see him pitch in his fair share of games in 2019 as a middle reliever.
Chad Green (RHP):
Now with two impressive seasons under his belt, Green has established himself as one of the team’s more reliable relievers. There were rumors last Winter that we could potentially see the Yankees use Green as a starter in 2018, though those ultimately went out the window and the Yankees strictly used Green as a relief arm.
Even with more and more MLB teams trying the “opener”, expect to see Green remain in the bullpen as one of the team’s top relievers, just like he has been the last two years.
Adam Ottavino (RHP):
Brought in just last week in a free agent signing, Ottavino enjoyed a career renaissance in 2018 with the Rockies, striking out over 100 batters for the first time in his career and becoming one or Colorado’s most reliable relievers after recording a 5.06 ERA in an abysmal 2017.
Expect Ottavino to fill a role similar to Green’s, a reliable middle reliever who manager Aaron Boone can trust to get the big outs.
Zach Britton (LHP):
The Yankees brought in Britton from the Orioles at the 2018 trade deadline to add to their already stacked bullpen. Though he looked shaky at times, Britton became the team’s top lefty bullpen option other than closer Aroldis Chapman, allowing zero runs across ten appearances in September, including two against the Red Sox.
Keep in mind that this was in a season where Britton didn’t have a full Spring Training since he was rehabbing from a freak Achilles injury in the offseason. The Yankees brought him back in free agency and even though he may not be the elite 50+ save closer he was a few years ago, he’s still a top bullpen arm in the game who will appear in plenty of high leverage situations.
Dellin Betances (RHP):
Betances has had an up-and-down first few years with the Yankees, his worst stretch coming in the second half of 2017 when he pitched so poorly that the team rarely gave him the ball in the playoffs. After getting his command down, Betances enjoyed a stellar 2018 season, pitching to his lowest ERA since 2015, while also allowing 18 fewer walks than he did in 2017.
He enters 2019 as the team’s premier set-up man, an intimidating presence on the mound with a fastball capable of hitting triple digits. However, he has been shaky when given opportunities to close, so the team should keep him as far away from the ninth inning as possible.
Aroldis Chapman (LHP):
Chapman, the team’s fireballing closer, enjoyed a great 2018, converting 32 of 34 save opportunities while striking out 93 batters, his highest total since 2015. Though he had lingering injury concerns, his overall performance was a huge step in the right direction after his up and down 2017. He enters 2019 as the team’s closer, and while Britton has experience closing, he most likely will continue to serve as the team’s primarily closer unless he struggles mightily.