Although reaching the Wild Card game last season, the New York Yankees had a really rough year with a struggling lineup that could do nearly nothing to win games. The only two in the lineup that performed as expected, was slugger Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Other than those two, for the most part, the rest of the lineup was impotent.
It was the Yankees’ sketchy pitching rotation that carried them through the season to the Wild Card game, in which they fell to the Red Sox, again ending their dream of another postseason appearance.
The 2021 season started with Gerrit Cole, the Yankee ace leading the rotation, followed by two other pitchers that hadn’t pitched in the majors for a few years due to various injuries and surgeries. Following Cole were Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. In the four-slot, five-year veteran Jordan Montgomery. The fifth spot was supposed to be Domingo German, but he quickly failed, and no less than six other pitchers filled that fifth spot during the season.
As one might have projected that both Kluber and Taillon would be injured during the season, leading to Kluber to pitch only 80 innings. Kluber did pitch the first Yankee no-hitter in twenty-two years, but even he didn’t have much of an impact on the season. With both Kluber and Taillon injured, the Yankees were about to observe the biggest surprise of the season, the emergence of Nestor Cortes Jr.
Cortes Jr. burst onto the scene from the bullpen to be one of the Yankees’ most dependable starters.
Looking ahead at the quickly approaching 2022 season, as of this point, it looks like most of those familiar faces will again attempt to get the Yankees to the postseason and a chance for a 28th World Championship. The Yankees, when the lockout is over, still have a chance to hire a free agent, like, Carlos Rodon, or trade for another legitimate number two starter (Chris Bassitt). Without that knowledge of what the Yankees will do, after calling their present rotation all they need, we will have to assume they will go with what they have.
If that is the case, we will, of course, see Gerrit Cole leading a rotation that General Manager Brian Cashman has had plenty of time to think about. The tall Cole battled his way through the ‘spider tack’ scandal to end up 16-8 with a 3.23 ERA for the Yankees. Although he had a sub-par two innings on the mound in the AL Wild Card game, he nevertheless finished the season second in the AL Cy Young voting.
Following Cole will likely be Jameson Taillon. He pitched above average in the Bronx last season. When nobody in the Yankees rotation was healthy, Taillon was out there game after game. The former Pirate logged a 4.30 ERA, pitching 144.1 innings. In 18 games, he posted an 8.73 strikeout per nine rate but a career-low 33.2% ground ball rate. An injury late in the season led to an offseason surgery to repair the partially torn tendon in his right ankle. He should be good to go by Spring Training, according to many reports. To make him a true number two starter, he will need to induce more ground balls and be the best version of himself in the coming season.
Next up should be Luis Severino. This might be a stretch as he has hardly pitched at all since his 19-8 2018 season. The twenty-seven-year-old coming back from Tommy John surgery and hamstring injuries in rehab last season is loaded with talent. However, with the lack of pitching for so long in major league games, the Yankees can only guess how he will fare this season. But now, being fully healthy, the Yankees will look for the righty to have a productive season.
The annual solid Jordan Montgomery will be stepping onto the mound next in the rotation. The 6’6″ lefty started 30 games for the Yankees last season with a 6-7 record and an ERA of 3.83. He pitched much better than his stats would suggest, as he got nearly no run support from the Yankees’ lackluster lineup. Montgomery may well be the key to a successful Yankee season. They need him to be solid in the middle of the rotation.
The starter to anchor the rotation creates the most intrigue. It will most likely be Nestor Cortes Jr, but also don’t be surprised if the Yankees choose Luis Gil, who was also successful for the Yankees in the second half of the season. Nevertheless, Cortes Jr., who made his major league starting debut last season, has deserved a place in the starting rotation. Gil is the likely backup if Cortes Jr. can’t replicate his last season’s success.
Outside of the pitchers mentioned, one thing that makes the Yankee rotation so formidable is the pitchers they have in the wings, should any of the starters become injured. There is Domingo German, who was the Yankee ace in 2019 with an 18-4 record. German was suspended for all of 2020 for his involvement in a domestic incident. Upon his return, he was 4-5 in 18 starts last season. The question with German is that he can be inconsistent. When he is on, he is lights out.
The Yankees also have Clarke Schmidt, Deivi Garcia, Luis Gil, and a bevy of relief pitchers that are more than competent to start games. Should the Yankee starters fail in any of their starts, the Yankees, even without Zack Britton, out for most of the season, still have some of the most effective relievers in the game. Chad Green, Jonathan Loaisiga, Wandy Peralta, Lucas Luetge, and Clay Holmes all could be Impactful. The Yankees hope that closer Aroldis Chapman can return to form this season. If he stumbles, Jonathan Loaisiga has risen to the next logical choice. He was 9-4 last season with a tiny 2.17 ERA and five saves to his credit.