What to do with all these pitchers

Farnsworth developing not one, but TWO new pitches
When can Hughes help?

Phil Hughes. Humberto Sanchez. Tyler Clippard. Steven White. Ross Ohlendorf. Matt DeSalvo. Jeff Karstens. Darrell Rasner. Steven Jackson.

That’s 9 guys vying for 5 Triple-A rotation spots. Even though most of us would prefer the Yanks to have that dearth of pitching at the big league level, none of these guys are that far away from contributing to the Bombers. Before we start to shake out this situation, let’s take a quick look at which each player did last year to put themselves in contention for a AAA rotation gig:

Hughes (A+/AA): 146 IP, 92 H, 168-34 K-BB, 2.16 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
Sanchez (AA/AAA): 123 IP, 97 H, 129-47 K-BB, 2.63 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Clippard (AA): 166.1 IP, 118 H, 175-55 K-BB, 3.35 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
White (AA/AAA): 175.1 IP, 152 H, 133-70 K-BB, 3.70 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Ohlendorf (AA/AAA): 182.2 IP, 186 H, 129-29 K-BB, 3.25 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
DeSalvo (AAA/AA): 116.2 IP, 127 H, 82-93 K-BB, 6.24 ERA, 1.73 WHIP
Karstens (AA/AAA/MLB): 190.1 IP, 174 H, 131-55 K/BB, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
Rasner (Rk/A+/AAA/MLB): 92 IP, 95 H, 70-20 K/BB, 3.23 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
Jackson(AA): 149.2 IP, 131 H, 125-44 K-BB, 2.65 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

Obviously, having this much young pitching depth is a problem 30 clubs would like to have. But how does this play out? I see 3 realistic options available:

Give the spots to the guys with the most talent
If you go this route, you’re looking at a 5-man staff of Hughes-Sanchez-Ohlendorf-Clippard-DeSalvo, which is a better staff than whoever the Nationals will be throwing out there. The problem with this is that Karstens and Rasner are just a phone call away from a big league emergency start, but will be ill-prepared coming out of Scranton’s bullpen.

Give the spots to the guys with the best track record
Going this route would yield a Hughes-Clippard-Karstens-DeSalvo-Rasner staff, which would still be better than the Nats rotation. However, Sanchez and Ohlendorf are left out in the cold, and it’s very possible that those 2 will turn out to be the best pitchers of the bunch. Simply put, they need to accumulate innings in a controlled way (i.e. starting every 5th day).

Give it to the guys who perform best during the spring
This is clearly the most logical approach, as competition is a great motivator, but this would leave you with a staff of Karstens-Clippard-Ohlendorf-TBA-TBA, as none of the other guys have performed as expected (or at all in Sanchez’s case). Surely you wouldn’t want to leave Hughes out of the rotation, and who’s to say that Rasner has been better/worse than Jackson, or that Hughes was better/worse than Rasner? Tough calls.

They could always use a 6 man rotation, but that’s just a bad idea in general, especially in the minors. In a feeble attempt to think outside the box, here’s my solution: go with a tandem starter system.

“But Mike, what’s a tandem starter system?”

Glad you asked. A tandem starter system is a way teams try to limit the pitch counts of their prized young arms, while getting as many guys into the game as possible. It’s used mainly in the low minors (Dellin Betances and Zach McAllister were a tandem last year in Rookie ball) with very young pitchers, but here’s the basic idea of how it works: Pitcher A starts the game and is held to a 60 pitch/3 IP limit, Pitcher B then comes in and is held to the same limits, then miscellaneous relievers finish off the remaining innings. The Rockies actually tried this at the big league level in the mid-90’s with a limit of 4 IP for the “starters”, but that was a disaster. The Reds used the tandem system in the minors for years before junking it prior to 2006, which just so happened to coincide with some of their top young pitchers taking off.

I’m the first to admit that this is a less than ideal solution, so why do I think it’s the way to go? Simple; it’s cold as all holy hell in Scranton, even in April. Using tandem starters will limit the amount of time each pitcher will have to bear the elements, still keep them on a regular rotation schedule, and limit their pitches to avoid overwork later in the year. Once the situation changes in May – when someone is called up, someone else is demoted, someone else is traded, etc – and the weather warms up, you can take the reigns off and let the 5 best go nuts. I’d line’em up like this:

Day 1: Hughes-Karstens
Day 2: DeSalvo-Sanchez – finesse guy to an extreme power guy is almost unfair for the hitters
Day 3: Ohlendorf-Rasner
Day 4: Clippard-Jackson
Day 5: White with no tandem

Of course having 9 starters in a tandem system leaves you room for 3, maybe 4 relievers. JB Cox and TJ Beam and shoo-ins, but then there’s Justin Pope, Charlie Manning, Jose Veras, and Colter “give him some damn respect. No way, he’d get spanked in the bigs” Bean left over.

No matter how you slice it, 3 or 4 guys are going to get the shaft and be banished to Double-A. For about 2 months anyway.

Farnsworth developing not one, but TWO new pitches
When can Hughes help?
  • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.


    Start Jackson in AA, and put Rasner and White in the bullpen. Once again, not optimal, but I’m thinking that White and Rasner will more likely end up in a MLB bullpen at some point, anyway.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A,

      What about Clippard?

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joseph P.

        I knew that was too easy.

        Clippard in for DeSalvo. It’s not like the guy wowed us last year.

        As you said, much of this will change by May.

        Do you think there would be any ill-effects of having DeSalvo pitch a month in Trenton?

        • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A,

          Probably not, and I would like to see him in the rotation instead of in the bullpen. I’m not sure what he’d gain from spending a month in AA, and I think it would be best to try and push him on track a bit after last year.

          I’ve said this before, but DeSalvo reminds me alot of David Cone. He’s an “undersized” righty, and he throws about 20 pitches from 15 different arm angles.

  • Malcard89

    Are desalvo and white even considered prospects anymore? they’re both too old and are probably not gonna be starters in the bigs, so why put them in the AAA rotation? rasner is a different story though, because he already has a taste of the bigs and didnt do a terrible job there, compared to white and desalvo who both did pretty bad in AAA. to me, the AAA rotation is an absolute no brainer: Hughes, Sanchez, Clippard, Ohlendorf, and Rasner, with Karstens being the long man on the MLB roster because he’s earned it with his spring training.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A,

      Both White and DeSalvo are still prospects in my eyes. They project out to back-of-the-rotation guys, which is still a valuable asset, DeSalvo especially

  • http://yanksandmore.blogspot.com Eric Schultz

    True, although Sanchez’s health needs to be taken into consideration. It is possible he may not be able to start the season in the rotation, in which case, I would put Rasner in his place. While I would like to see him stick as a starter, it is possible that Sanchez could be moved to the bullpen, which will simplify this embarassment of riches a bit. And Mike, I think when you said dearth, you meant the opposite, such as glut. Dearth means a scarcity of something, which does not sound like a description of AAA pitching for the Yanks.

    • http://riveraveblues.com Mike A.

      Foiled by the English language again!

  • KAnst

    I expect one of Karstens or Rasner to get a big league bullpen role and for Sanchez to stay in extended spring training to work on his delivery and catch up to schedule. that means for at least the first month the problem is eased a little. I say Jackson and DeSalvo go to AA. When Sanchez is ready he gets Steven Whites spot or whoever had been called up.

  • Mitchie Van

    Why not trade some of the excess for positional prospects, maybe a catcher or a corner infielder.

  • JP

    I like your ideas on using Tandem starters but the Scranton team also has the fortunate problem of having a stacked bullpen to boot. They probably need to find some innings for Britton to get straightened out in the first month or two.

    I gotta say the scenario you mentioned about using the best spring training performers – that staff has a chance to be better than the Nationals rotation too! I’ll take just two TBA’s over five anytime!

  • jeterisgreat

    Octavio Dotel

    Watched him today, looks very good . So far in the spring 6 innings pitched 0 earned runs 1 walk 2 hits and 10, yes 10 strikeouts. He is throwing the ball upwards of 95 mph. I still don’t know why we didn’t sign him for 2 years?! He basicly got healthy, used us to get his pitching in, strengthen his arm, and we paid him !!! We should have gotten something in return.

  • nyyfaninlaaland

    I’d go largely the same as mentioned, but put Rasner in the bigs as long guy – he was used that way more than Karstens last year, and has also done fairly well but with less attention than Karstens. The latter is our first starting option in case of injury or poor performance.

    Starting Sanchez in extended spring makes some sense – Scranton starts 4/5 with 8 games at home, then heads to oh so balmy Pawtucket, Syracuse, and Ottawa. The pitchers will probably want to play “one potato, 2 potato…” for who gets to stay in Tampa. I’d even consider – Sacriligious! – letting Hughes start in AA. While he dominated there, AA is where the prospects typically are, versus the extended bench guys that fill up AAA rosters, and he only made 20 starts there. Wouldn’t want that to last a long time, maybe 5 -8 starts, but it couldn’t hurt. I’d lean towards Jackson and DeSalvo in AA as well. Jackson doesn’t deserve it, he did well at AA throughout ’06, but DeSalvo didn’t perform well there and even though he’s getting a little long in the tooth for the level, he should demonstrate success or get started on a shift to the bullpen. I toothink he has a shot to turn it around, and Torre seems to like his stuff.