Feb
24

Heyman: Garcia likely No. 4, No. 5 “wide open”

By

The most peculiar aspect of the Yankees’ rotation battle this spring is that no candidate stands out. The contestants are either flawed veterans — Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon — or unproven youngsters — Ivan Nova, David Phelps, Andrew Brackman, etc. This leaves the Yankees with some tough decisions. One of them, though, might be made already.

This morning SI’s Jon Heyman reported that Garcia “has a leg up” on the No. 4 starer job. That would mean he’s a leg up on everyone, since he’d have to fall into the No. 5 spot before falling out of the race completely. When the Yankees signed Garcia, I assumed he’d win one of those spots out of spring training. He’s an experienced veteran who pitched serviceably last year, even with diminished stuff. Even though he came to camp on a minor league deal, I was confident of seeing him pitch in pinstripes this April.

While Garcia might already have an assumed spot in the rotation, apparently the Yanks are being a bit more tight-lipped about the last spot. Heyman calls the the competition “wide open,” but I think the Yanks have a good idea of what they’re doing there. They have a few young guys, but perhaps none quite as ready for the bigs as Ivan Nova. Brackman and Phelps would be nice options, but I can’t see either of them, in their limited experiences, making the club out of camp. That essentially boils the competition to Nova and Colon, and unless Colon lights up opposing hitters during his spring starts, it’s hard to see anyone but Nova taking the job.

This is really just a reminder of the differences between perception and reality in spring training. Last year the Yankees held a fifth starter competition, but word was that Hughes was the favorite from the start. This year they’re doing something similar, but if you break down the contestants it’s hard to pick anyone other than Garcia and Nova, with Colon having an outside shot because of his veteran status. Maybe these things do motivate players, but they’re easy enough to see through. The Yanks are saying it, but from the looks there’s not much of a competition at all.

Categories : Pitching

56 Comments»

  1. I wanted Bartolo the Hutt to win the spot. It would have been funny cause hes fat.

  2. Tank the Frank says:

    As it should be. There could be (and are) much worse 4 & 5 starters that’s for sure. I think it’s a nice little rotation for now. The Yanks seem to really like Nova and I do too.

  3. Ted Nelson says:

    Interesting stuff.

    “The most peculiar aspect of the Yankees’ rotation battle this spring is that no candidate stands out.”

    I think Garcia does in fact stand out of the group of candidates pretty easily. The rest had a combined 1 quality MLB start last season, while Garcia had 18. To me saying he doesn’t stand out is about like saying CC doesn’t stand out as the opening day starter.

    “it’s hard to see anyone but Nova taking the job.”

    Both Colon and Nova are pretty huge wildcards, for different reasons.
    I like Nova, but he was pretty mediocre in AA and AAA in 2009. He had a break-out season in 2010 that included a (relatively) hot finish with the Yankees (in like 4 innings a start). It’s not assured he can even repeat last season’s success at AAA, let alone come out of the gate as a consistent 5-6 inning starter in the bigs. Then again, it’s totally possible he builds on that success and is a good 6+ inning guy in the bigs.
    It’s pretty obvious why Colon is a wildcard, between his recent performance, no performance in 2010, and his weight. However, he’s still Bartolo Colon and if he’s really throwing 94 maybe he can do something.

    So, I think the Yankees almost HAVE to take a wait-and-see approach between these two. You can/should be be skeptical, but who knows where Colon is at (especially if you, like I, didn’t see any Dominican action this winter). If he shows something in ST and isn’t willing to take some time in extended ST or the minors to work out the kinks… Colon may be as good as gone should he not make the Yankees. So if he shows something good, maybe you keep him around till he proves he can’t pitch. You still have Nova in AAA in that case, getting a chance to see if he, Phelps, Noesi, Mitchell, Brackman, Warren… is the guy to call-up. Or if it looks pretty clear Nova built on last season, maybe he’s the guy. If it looks pretty clear he regressed, maybe you go with a Colon or prospect or Millwood or whoever out of desperation.

    • Tank the Frank says:

      I agree with everything about Garcia.

      I think it’s foolish to think anything other than that Colon is a meltdown/injury waiting to happen given the shape he’s in. If he does win the 5 spot, he’s just keeping it warm for Nova. I don’t think he’ll make more than a handful of starts before he tires, gets injured, or is just plain ineffective for a variety of reasons.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        “I think it’s foolish to think anything other than that Colon is a meltdown/injury waiting to happen given the shape he’s in.”

        I don’t know too much about what shape he’s in other than him wanting to lose 25 lbs. That’s not a good sign at all, but it doesn’t give us anything definitive about his arm strength or health. Colon managed some good seasons while he was pretty fat. Not a pitcher, but Miggy is a raging alcoholic and still an MVP-caliber player.

        “If he does win the 5 spot, he’s just keeping it warm for Nova.”

        That’s kind of the point. I think it’s Steve H who has been saying if Colon is going to walk should he get sent down out of camp, the only time to possibly get anything is early in the season. Let him pitch till his arm pops or whatever. That’s messed up, but he’s not a long-term play and really doesn’t have a long-term future anywhere as a MLB player. If he gives you 5 solid-ish starts and never pitches again in his life… ok. In the time he’s had 5 MLB starts Nova might have gotten 7 AAA starts or something given the light early season schedule that’s not going to require much of a #5 for the Yankees early.

        My point is that Colon is a wildcard, but so is Nova. Rather than decide which will win the spot before ST, why shouldn’t the Yankees let them truly compete? Plenty of prospects skip AAA, so if Brackman or Phelps or Noesi strikes them as clearly the best option… why not give them a shot?

    • Chris says:

      I think Colon has the inside track for the 5th starter spot. They can always send Nova down to Scranton and call him up when (not if) Garcia or Colon struggle. If Nova starts in the rotation, then they’ll lose Colon.

  4. SamVa says:

    I just had a ten minute freak out when Olney tweeted that ManBan and Betances were starting the year in AAA…
    then he tweeted he meant AA… good job Buster, you really know how to break the news.

  5. badadvice says:

    Freddy Garcia won 12 games with the sox, now he’s got better D behind him and the bats to back him up. Plus a year to work on his non fastball style of pitching. I think he will repeat his 6 game over .500. 14-8 would be nice or 18-12 . better then are #2 guy last years 10-15. I’d love to see oneof the kids as our #5. just can’t watch Colon and his Harpo Mark’s hair style !

  6. jsbrendog (returns) says:

    i disagree (BUT TEH GROUPTINK N!!!##!) make colon the 5th starter unless he throws like wang against cleveland 2 yrs ago in april every start and let him go til the wheels fall off then bring up nova. thats what i see happening

    • radnom says:


      i disagree (BUT TEH GROUPTINK N!!!##!)

      ….? You’re only disagreeing with Heyman’s source here, you’re still perfectly in line with the standard opinion around here, don’t worry.

      • The Real JobaWockeeZ says:

        It was a shot at a previous conversation regarding groupthink.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          It was initially misconstrued as an insult, when it was not. Now it is being thrown around–jokingly–in regard to an issue over which there is no clear groupthink.

          group·think? ?
          [groop-thingk] Show IPA
          –noun
          1.
          the practice of approaching problems or issues as matters that are best dealt with by consensus of a group rather than by individuals acting independently; conformity.
          2.
          the lack of individual creativity, or of a sense of personal responsibility, that is sometimes characteristic of group intereaction.

          There are certain issues here where there is an overwhelming consensus to the point that no evidence is needed to back-up a point and it is accepted. Sometimes that is a good thing, since you don’t have to explain why we shouldn’t put a ton of emphasis on, say, RBIs, BA, or W-L for a pitcher. Sometimes it’s a bit dubious like just using FIP as a catch-all measure of pitcher effectiveness. And sometimes it can lead to incorrect conclusions… for example: you should “never” give up a pick for a reliever… and relievers are “volatile.” There is some logic behind these statements that makes them generally correct, but when it comes to specific examples I feel like a more in-depth look is required to quantify the exact degree to which relievers are volatile or a pick is valuable vs. a reliever is valuable. There are enough exceptions that they shouldn’t be hard-fast rules. I feel like groupthink allows people to make blanket statements at times without really examining the issue and gain acceptance.

          I do it just like everyone else. It doesn’t mean we’re all sheep or stupid or conformists (well to some degree it does mean we’re conformists, but that’s good to a degree… evolution has led to a degree of conformity being a positive trait). It just means that sometimes we fall into the trap of going along with the consensus without really examining the facts. Not a perfect example, but in an earlier thread I went along with the consensus that Wainwright would be out 18 months. Then that consensus was brought into question by Mike Axisa, and when I looked I realized that Josh Johnson and Tim Hudson were back in about 11 and 13 months, respectively… Johnson was young, but Hudson was a vet like Wainwright.

    • A.D. says:

      Yup, least amount of lost oppertunity

  7. Jake says:

    I’m finding it hard to get excited about Garcia given his peripherals. A right handed, junk baller in Yankee Stadium that pitches to contact? This might not end well.

    • radnom says:


      A right handed, junk baller in Yankee Stadium that pitches to contact? This might not end well.

      Nope, but its better than the other options.

      • Granderslam says:

        “its better than the other options”…..For now. I’d love to see the Yankees make a big splash by July with names like Liriano, Buehrle, and Carpenter as possibilities. But, I will definitely take Garcia as a Number 4…like I said, for now.

      • jsbrendog (returns) says:

        false:

        This is really just a reminder of the differences between perception and reality in spring training. Last year the Yankees held a fifth starter competition, but word was that Hughes was the favorite from the start. This year they’re doing something similar, but if you break down the contestants it’s hard to pick anyone other than Garcia and Nova, with Colon having an outside shot because of his veteran status.

        joe ps words from the final paragraph, the statement i disagree with

        • radnom says:

          Hmm well in this case I would say Joe is the one going against the group-think. Most everyone being going on about starting Nova in AAA for the exact reason you listed. Assuming of course this was meant as a reply to my other comment :)

      • JU says:

        In what way is Garcia definitively better than say a Nova, phelps, Noesi, or even a Brackman? The guy is utter dog sh!t. It’s more Yankee conservatism. They’d rather take garunteed garbage than a kid with potential. Why anyone would be in support of having either of Garcia or colon in the rotation is beyond me, when you can give one of these young guys a chance

        • Ted Nelson says:

          It’s not an either/or case…

          You can have one or both of them in the rotation and still give the kids a chance. You’re oversimplifying things to a huge extent.

          A. You have spring training. If Garcia and Colon are clearly the best in the bullpen sessions, scrimmages, and games… why are you going to give the guys who lose to competition the jobs? If they’re not the best, then of course you can start to question who the best candidate is. If a young guy is clearly the best candidate I think they could/should get a chance.

          B. Garcia and Colon can become free agents if they don’t make the team out of camp. The Yankees still control the young guys if they don’t make the team.

          “In what way is Garcia definitively better than say a Nova, phelps, Noesi, or even a Brackman?”

          He had 18 quality starts in 28 starts last season. Phil Hughes had 15. Burnett and Pettitte had 14. Javy had 10. We might walk away from the season saying Garcia was the #2 starter on the opening day roster.

          The guys you list have a combined 1 QS in MLB on their careers. Sure, they have more upside… but they also have less probability in 2011, especially early in the season. It’s not start to be blind to Garcia’s faults, but it’s also not smart to just assume he’s worse than a bunch of guys who have 1 QS at this level in their combined careers.

          “Why anyone would be in support of having either of Garcia or colon in the rotation is beyond me, when you can give one of these young guys a chance”

          If “one of these young guys” doesn’t merit a chance, why are you just force feeding it to them? Your logic is that a veteran should not automatically get a spot without earning it. So how can you then logically say that a young guy should just get a shot without earning it? Hughes, Joba, and Kennedy were better prospects than these guys, and handing them rotation spots too early didn’t really work. I’m not saying these guys can’t earn rotation spots, I’m just saying that they have to earn the spots to get them.

          • camilo Gerardo says:

            he had a~4.3era in 18 starts and a ~7era in the remainder. why are people spinning this as a good precurser? he’s going to get eaten alive in the ALE

          • JU says:

            For the sake of brevity, I did oversimplify it. But here’s what I was really insinuating: that the Yankees will force feed these retreads, and will try to stop the kids from getting a chance. If the prospects did far and away outpitch Garcia and colon, they still wouldn’t be given a chance.

        • Sweet Dick Willie says:

          The Yankees are looking at him as a #4 starter.

          Look at his numbers from last year. While there is obviously no guarantee that he can repeat those numbers in 2011, he will have a better offense and defense than he did last year.

          I’m certain that if Cashman thought Nova, Phelps, Noesi or Brackman could put up Garcia’s numbers from last year, he would pencil them in the rotation.

          The fact is, other than Nova, none of them have ever thrown a pitch in The Show, and all (other than Nova) have extremely limited experience at AAA.

          So to say that any of them is more deserving than Garcia is, well, let’s just say short-sighted.

        • pete says:

          Looking inside my arbitration, I’d say a likely ERA for Garcia this year is around 4.70. I can’t be sure about Nova, it could be anywhere between about 4.25 and 5.50. I also can’t be sure about Noesi, but I’d guess that if you had him pitch the whole season in the bigs this year, he’d wind up between 4.50 and 5.50. Phelps I’d guess would be around 5.00-6.00, and Brackmonster could be anywhere between 4.00 and 6.50.

          The bigger question is, if you can easily replace their likely levels of production for a year without throwing them into the fire when they’re not ready, why wouldn’t you? That is to say, what’s the harm in keeping any of the young guys in the minors?

    • badadvice says:

      Mike Mussina hummm Yankee Stadium that pitches to contact did he win 20 games? its not always about the numbers . some people just know how to win. like guys the don’t walk the lead off hitter with a 3 run lead in the 7th inning. example Catfish Hunter 21-5 gave up 39 homeruns that year in 36 starts .

      • Jake says:

        Over his career, Garcia averages almost a full walk per inning more than Mussina & typically strikes out less guys than Moose did as well. Let’s not compare a Yankee great with a retread scratching at the back of the rotation.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I think you’re missing the point, Jake. It’s not that Garcia is as good as Mussina. It’s that simply looking at the average MPH of a pitcher’s FB and his FIP is an enormous oversimplification that might work as a general rule but is not going to work in every case. Mussina averaged 86.4 MPH on his FB his final season, with 6.7 k/9 and managed to go 20-9. If the Yankees can win more of Garcia’s starts than they lose, that would be solid. Last season the WSox went 18-10 in his starts, so it’s definitely possible.

    • J says:

      He did OK with the White Sox last year, and that park is just as bad.

  8. Pasqua says:

    This might seem like a strange comparison, but…I used to do a lot of theatre. During the audition process, the company I worked for would make a point to callback a balance of experienced and inexperienced actors for certain parts. The idea was, the veterans would be forced to raise their game, and the newbies would get a confidence boost, even though the likelihood of their getting cast was small. It created a good balance of attitude amongst everyone. I feel like the Yanks (and other teams, obviously) put this concept to good use in ST.

  9. CS Yankee says:

    After Colon pitches this Saturday, Joe has CC, Phil, AJ, Garcia & Nova penciled in.

    They have said that Colon is the most ready to go Saturday and his gas was at 94 in the D.R… I’m thinking that even if it’s close, they gotta make Colon the 5th guy & camp Nova in AAA.

    Once one hits the fan or goes DL…Nova moves up unless he is getting hammered in AAA & someone else is killing it (Noesi, Warren, Brackman or Phelps). In writing this, just realized…damn AAA will have some beast of a rotation.

    • J says:

      AA’s rotation ain’t that bad either. Betances, Banuelos, Stoneburner, Hall and Heyer. And likely Mitchell moving up mid year

    • Pasqua says:

      This is probably very, very plausible. Especially the hitting the fan / DL eventuality.

      They don’t need a savior, just somebody to hold down the fort. I’m all for letting the veterans try to accomplish that while letting the younger guys develop that much longer.

    • mbonzo says:

      Yankees have too many starting pitchers in AAA now.
      Noesi, Warren, Brackman, Phelps, Nova, Mitchell, Igawa

  10. Tom says:

    WOW its almost March and we are talking about Fat Boy Colon and Fred Garcia as starters. Could make for a long first half until we can make a move for King Felix. LOL

  11. Dream of Electric Sheeps says:

    I don’t see colon out of the pen. I see either freddy and colon install as 4 and 5 or the combo of freddy and nova. I would love to see Mitre off the team(unlikely to happen). I would venture one of them will break down if they do start the season as 4 and 5, the young core of phelps,warren, nova and possibly brackman would either replace them by merits or needs.

  12. Give The Kids A Shot says:

    I don’t get how they can say Brackman doesn’t have enough experience. He pitched North Carolina State University that’s not exactly a community college. David Price pitched for Vanderbilt and was in the bigs a year after being drafted granted he didn’t have Tommy John Surgery but it’s not like Brackman’s some kid out of high school. They drafted him and signed him to a MLB deal for a reason and he becomes a free agent in 2 years I don’t get why they don’t want to see a return on their investment.

    • “he becomes a free agent in 2 years”

      Yeah, that’s not true. Not even close to true.

    • pete says:

      David Price pitched 110.1 innings in 2006, 133.1 innings in 2007, and 144 innings in the minors before 14 more in the bullpen with the Rays in the regular season and 5.2 more in the postseason in 2008, totaling 163.2 innings.

      Then he started 2009 in the minors, where he threw 34.1 innings before throwing 128.1 more in the majors – 172.2 innings. Last year was the first year he started the year in the majors, after throwing four consecutive uninterrupted seasons as a full-time starter at a high level.

      Brackman threw 43, 28, and 78 innings, respectively, in 2005, 2006, and 2007 at NC State, and then had surgery. 2009 was his first season as a professional, and he threw 106.2 innings – most of them horrendous. In 2010 he threw 140 solid innings in A and AA, showing a lot of improvement in his peripheral performance. It stands to reason, then, that at least in terms of innings, he could follow a similar path to the ~170 innings he should throw this year as Price did in ’09, which is to say throw seven or eight starts in the minors and come up in June.

      But of course, even that is a long shot. Brackman, after all, is not Price. Not even close. Price was the best pitcher in the amateur world in 2007, striking out 194 batters at VU. He then dominated three levels of the minors AND was able to get major leaguers out with ease out of the bullpen in 2008. AND he was dominating the minors when they called him up in 2009. And he still was only slightly above average that year.

      Brackman, meanwhile, garnered meh results in college, was shitty in 2009, and threw up good peripherals but lackluster end results in high-A and double-A last year. He has yet to really dominate anywhere. Not saying he can’t, of course, but he’s not even close to being a safe bet to do so yet. Best case scenario is probably that he pitches in AAA until at least June, when he’ll be called up if and only if he is dominating AND there is at least one gaping hole in the major league rotation that none of the other guys has been able to properly fill.

      More likely, I think, is that Brackman pitches in AAA until August, then comes up for maybe a spot start or two, and then moves to the bullpen for the rest of the season. Then in 2012 he’ll have a very good shot at breaking camp with the team, but he’ll certainly have to battle it out in ST. If EVERYTHING goes well (and remember, things have the best chance of going right if they are not rushed), then you could see this rotation opening day 2014:

      CC/Hughes/Banuelos/Brackman/Betances.

      So please, just be patient.

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