With James Paxton Sidelined, Who Could Emerge At The Back Of The Yankees’ Rotation?

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With the news that James Paxton will be sidelined for the first few months of 2020 due to having a lumbar discectomy operation to remove a peridsical cyst, there’s a void at the back of the Yankees rotation.  They have numerous options to step into the role, so let’s take a look at the possible names and determine their outlook:

Jordan Montgomery

Montgomery missed the bulk of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, and he’s only thrown 35.0 innings over the past two years.  When he’s been on an MLB mound (186.2 IP spanning parts of three seasons) he’s shown promise:

  • Strikeouts – 8.29 K/9 (courtesy of an 11.9% SwStr%)
  • Control – 3.04 BB/9
  • Groundballs – 41.1%

Pitching in Yankee Stadium there could be home run issues (1.21 HR/9), and that is a red flag.  While the AL East isn’t as difficult after Mookie Betts was sent to Los Angeles, it’s still not going to be easy sledding.  Montgomery shouldn’t be considered more than a streaming option depending on the opponent and location.

Luis Cessa

While he hasn’t thrived in either role, Cessa has been more successful coming out of the bullpen:

  • Starter (91.1 IP) – 4.93 ERA
  • Reliever (140.2 IP) – 4.22 ERA

He spent all of last season as a reliever, with a 4.11 ERA over 81.0 IP as he showed enough strikeouts (8.33 K/9), control (3.44 BB/9) and groundballs (48.7%).  None of the numbers are elite and he likely is a better fit remaining as a reliever considering his ERA the first time through the order (3.97) compared to the second (4.85) last season. He isn’t a good bet if he is given an opportunity.

Jonathan Loaisiga

Injuries cost Loaisiga significant time in ’19, being limited to 31.2 IP in the Majors and 17.2 IP in the minors.  This comes after he threw 80.2 innings in ’18 and 32.2 innings in ’17.  It makes sense that he’s in the mix for the spot, though he also has a history of control issues (4.47 BB/9 over 56.1 IP in the Majors).  He was significantly better coming up through the minors (1.7 BB/9), but with the lack of work will his control be there?  Could he be a better fit as a reliever?  It makes more sense to take a wait and see approach.

Mike King

The numbers have been impressive in the minor leagues, with a 2.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 7.5 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 over 387.0 IP.  However the upside isn’t there, as he is thought of having decent stuff that plays up thanks to his strong control.  As Baseball America noted:

“Many pitchers in the Yankees’ system have a higher upside than King, but he is one of the safest bets to have a big league career, even if it’s most likely as a back-of-the-rotation starter.”

Without much experience at the highest level, we are left to wonder if the stuff will play against more advanced hitters.

Deivi Garcia

Among the team’s top prospects, it’s easy to get excited for the potential opportunity.  However there are significant questions, as we recently gave him a B/B+ grade and said:

There were cries for him to join the MLB roster by some, though that never came to fruition.  Instead the 20-year old was pushed to Triple-A (he appeared at three levels in ’19) and struggled to a 5.40 ERA as he split his time between the rotation and bullpen.  His control was an issue regardless of the level he pitched (4.37 BB/9 over 111.1 IP) and we saw his groundball rate regress as he advanced:

  • High-A (17.2 IP) – 46.7%
  • Double-A (53.2 IP) – 43.0%
  • Triple-A (40.0 IP) – 37.4%

Listed at 5’9” he does have the stuff, but as we saw at Triple-A home runs could become a significant issue (1.80 HR/9).  When you couple that with his control questions it’s fair to wonder if he’ll ultimately transition to the bullpen, where he does have closer potential. 

There’s a good chance he opens the year at Triple-A and while he could be a factor later in the season, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, CBS Sports, Baseball America

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