Another massive blow struck the New York Yankees organization yesterday. According to Brian Cashman, Luis Severino will be undergoing Tommy John surgery and is expected to miss the entire 2020 season.
MRI’s and CT scans were issued to Severino after the offseason, but no sufficient evidence of anything troubling was found. Discomfort in his forearm would make a return and immediately shut him down from continuing any pitching exercises.
Last season, Severino threw just 20.1 innings in the regular season and the postseason. In the regular season, he recorded a 1.50 ERA, 2.13 FIP, 1.00 WHIP, 3.80 SIERA and a 0.5 fWAR. In the postseason, he recorded a 2.16 ERA, 5.73 FIP, 1.68 WHIP and a 4.53 SIERA.
Severino, who is a career 3.46 ERA, 3.35 FIP, 1.15 WHIP, 3.45 SIERA, 12.8 fWAR pitcher in 530.0 innings pitched, was projected to have solid numbers in 2020.
According to the ZiPS projections prepared by Fangraphs, Severino was expected to record a 3.46 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 1.12 WHIP and a 4.8 fWAR in 166.3 innings pitched. He was also expected to record 10.88 strikeouts per 9 innings, 2.33 walks per 9 innings and 1.19 home runs given up per 9 innings.
To make matters worse, James Paxton underwent back surgery recently and isn’t expected to start until after the All-Star break.
This leads to the question of the century: what now? What adversities do the Yankees have to tackle to improve their odds of winning a championship in 2020?
The bullpen won’t be an issue, as all the reliable relievers are in great condition and healthy. Aroldis Chapman, Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle and Zack Britton were huge contributors in 2019, recording a combined 6.6 fWAR in 294.5 innings pitched. In general, the bullpen recorded a 7.6 fWAR, the 2nd best in baseball.
The main issue is the starting rotation and who exactly will take up the “next man up” challenge from last season. Currently, the Yankees 5-man rotation consists of Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Loaisiga.
Even with Severino out for the season, the Yankees will be in business once James Paxton is fully healthy and makes a comeback as the number 2 starter on the 5-man rotation.
Gerrit Cole won’t be an issue. During his spring debut vs the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cole gave up no hits or runs, struck out 2 and walked 1 in 1.0 inning pitched.
In 2019 , Cole recorded an impressive 2.50 ERA, 2.64 FIP, 0.89 WHIP, 2.62 SIERA and a 7.4 fWAR in 212.1 innings pitched. Adding on to these majestic numbers, he struck out 13.82 batters per 9 innings and achieved 326 strikeouts.
Cole was in the 90+ percentile range for fastball velocity, fastball spin, curve spin and strikeout percentage. His arsenal includes a changeup, curve, four-seamer, sinker and a slider. Last season, he made hitters whiff 37.3% of the time and made hitters chase out of the zone 32.3% of the time.
While Masahiro Tanaka isn’t as consistent as Cole, he’s still a reliable weapon when his splitter is dominant, especially in October. In 2019, he recorded a 4.45 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, 4.46 SIERA and a 3.3 fWAR in 182.0 innings pitched.
Unlike Cole, Tanaka was in the bottom percentile range for fastball velocity, fastball spin, curve spin and strikeout percentage. His arsenal includes a curve, cutter, four-seamer, sinker, slider and his most effective pitch, the split-finger.
The higher the success rate is of utilizing a split-finger, the more productive Tanaka will be. In 2018, he made batters whiff 36.2% of the time on 742 split-fingers thrown. Hitters recorded a .210 AVG and a .318 SLG when dealt the split finger.
However, in 2019 due to an issue with gripping the ball properly, Tanaka made hitters whiff only 18.5% of the time. Hitters recorded a .261 AVG and a .415 SLG, a drastic increase from the previous year. If Tanaka wants to remain consistent, the split finger has to be at its most productive during the majority of his starts.
J.A. Happ would be the 3rd starter. Happ performed well in his first spring session vs the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up no hits or runs and striking out 3 hitters in 2.0 innings pitched. Although this was refreshing to witness, consistency will prove whether or not these types of performances will last.
In 2019, Happ posted a 4.91 ERA, 5.22 FIP, 1.30 WHIP, 4.72 SIERA and a 1.3 fWAR in 161.1 innings pitched. His fastball velocity, curve spin and strikeout percentage were in the bottom percentile range, while his fastball spin was just above the 50 percentile range.
Happ’s arsenal includes a changeup, curve, four-seamer, slider and a sinker. What’s concerning is his decreasing fastball velocity. In 2019, he made hitters whiff 25.2% of the time on 1303 four-seamers thrown. On the flip side, Happ gave up the most hits and hitters recorded a .561 SLG against him.
The decline in velocity is a major concern and will determine whether or not Happ will bounce back in 2020.
Jordan Montgomery would be the 4th starter. Alongside Cole, Montgomery made his spring debut vs the Pittsburgh Pirates, giving up no hits or runs and striking out 3 in 2.0 innings pitched.
Montgomery only pitched 4.0 innings last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in June of 2018. In 2017, his only full season played, he posted a 3.88 ERA, 4.07 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 4.34 SIERA and a 2.6 fWAR in 155.1 innings pitched.
In 2017, Montgomery’s fastball velocity, fastball spin and curve spin were in the bottom percentile, while his strikeout percentage was just above the 50 percentile range. His arsenal includes a changeup, curve, four-seamer, sinker and a slider.
When throwing curves, Montgomery is a disaster to battle. In 2017, he made hitters whiff at an astonishing 42.8% rate and allowed a .175 AVG and a .281 SLG on 658 pitches.
Montgomery also has an effective changeup that he throws 18.3% of the time. Hitters whiffed 29.6% of the time and recorded a .209 AVG and a .345 SLG on 477 total changeups thrown.
Montgomery has already demonstrated how deadly his changeup and curve are. The only obstacle keeping Montgomery off track is his past health report with Tommy John surgery.
Last, but certainly not least, Jonathan Loaisiga would be the 5th starter. Loaisiga made his spring debut vs the Tampa Bay Rays, giving up no hits or runs and striking out 1 in 1.0 inning pitched.
In 2019, Loaisiga posted a 4.55 ERA, 4.95 FIP, 1.48 WHIP, 4.34 SIERA and a 0.1 fWAR in 31.2 innings pitched. His fastball velocity, fastball spin and curve spin were all in excellent condition. His arsenal includes a changeup, curve, four-seamer and a sinker.
Loaisiga relies heavily on his changeup, curve and four-seamer. Hitters whiffed on changeups 43.6% of the time, but recorded a ridiculous .375 AVG and a .625 SLG on 76 pitches. When a curve was thrown, hitters whiffed 45.8% of the time and struggled severely with a .125 AVG and a .150 SLG on 182 pitches.
When a four-seamer was thrown, hitters whiffed 27.8% of the time. However, just like when changeups were thrown, hitters recorded an absurd .354 AVG and a .729 SLG on 282 pitches.
Location is everything, which means that if Loaisiga can remain consistent, his changeups and four-seamers will be a dominant force.
A 5-man rotation consisting of Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, Jordan Montgomery and Jonathan Loaisiga isn’t ideal, but it’s feasible. Locating consistently and staying healthy will determine whether or not the Yankees will glow it up in October or cave in.