Mar
14

2014 Season Preview: The Wildcard

By
(Presswire)

(Presswire)

I can’t think of another high-profile trade that went as bad as quickly as the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda blockbuster two years ago. Both teams have gotten nothing from the deal — an especially painful nothing considering the opportunity cost of trading a top prospect or then-23-year-old starter — as all four players involved have either disappointed or gotten hurt. Some have done both. The trade has gone so wrong for both sides that it’s actually kinda fascinating.

That is all about to change, knock on wood. Michael Pineda, who showed up to his first camp with the Yankees overweight and was arrested to DUI soon thereafter, is finally healthy following a May 2012 procedure to repair a torn labrum, the kind of injury that can derail a promising career. The now-25-year-old made his first Spring Training start of 2014 yesterday and looked very much like an effective pitcher, striking out five of eleven batters faced in 2.2 scoreless innings. He also looked pretty rusty, but that is to be expected after such a long layoff.

“The best thing is, my shoulder is feeling great. When my shoulder is feeling good, I can pitch, I can compete. I’m happy with that,” said Pineda to Mark Didtler following yesterday’s start. His fastball velocity is more upper-80s/low-90s right now, a far cry from the mid-to-high-90s he showed with the Mariners three years ago, but it is only March and he should add a few ticks as the season progresses. That he is already touching 93 is promising. As a fastball-slider pitcher, velocity is pretty important to Pineda.

Now for the kicker: we have no idea what to expect out of Pineda this summer. He looks good now, but how will he look facing actual big leaguers every fifth day? What happens once he get 50 or 100 or 150 innings under his belt? Can he hold his stuff for 100+ pitches per start? These are all questions we can’t answer. Remember, the Yankees said they expected Pineda back last June. That didn’t work out. They can’t count on him for anything. Whatever he provides has to be treated as gravy.

And yet, if the season started today, I’m pretty sure Pineda would be the fifth starter. He’d have to be, right? He’s healthy and throwing well enough, plus he has the highest ceiling of the fifth starter candidates by frickin’ far. Actually, forget about ceiling. Pineda might be the best pitcher for the 2014 season out of the lot, nevermind 2015 and beyond. I also think there’s a “let’s finally get something out of this trade” line of thinking as well. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but I do think that mentality exists.

Even though he’s on a staff with an unknown in Masahiro Tanaka and the enigmatic Ivan Nova, Pineda is the biggest wildcard in the rotation heading into 2014. Probably on the entire roster, really. He could be a non-factor like the last two seasons or he could be their best pitcher. Well, maybe not. That’s probably a stretch. Pineda could wind up being their second best starter though, legitimately too. Not in a “everyone else fell apart so he’s number two by default” way. That ability is there. It’s just unclear if we will actually see it this summer.

The Yankees sunk a ton of money into Tanaka this winter to be the future of their rotation, but that does not lessen Pineda’s importance to the franchise going forward. It would be a big blow to the organization if he is unable to re-establish himself this season. The farm system doesn’t have much impact pitching on the immediate horizon and free agency is becoming a less effective to build a roster with each passing year. Pineda can still be rotation solution in both the short and long-term, but until he shows he’s up to the task, the Yankees can’t count on him.

Categories : Players
  • https://twitter.com/rational_sports @rational_sports

    Very excited for Pineda this year. Possibilities are limitless. A little worried about him not making it through 32 starts, but I have very high hopes for him if he stays healthy. Everyone is talking about the Tanaka addition, but we can’t sleep on the guy who averaged more than 9K/9 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in his first and only full season.

    I like that expectations are down for him though. Keeps the pressure off.

    • Chris H

      He’s not getting 32 starts, he’ll be on super short leash, probably something like 120-150 innings total.

      • Eric Young

        6-man rotation:
        -Kuroda will be more likely to still have some gas in September.
        -Sabathia’s arm has clocked 2882 innings (221 avg)in his 13 big league years. A lighter workload won’t hurt – and could help) him.
        -Tanaka gets an easier adjustment from Japan to MLB.
        -Pineda can go further into the season even with a pitch limit.

        • OB/GYN Kenobi

          -Not happening

  • Jorge Steinbrenner

    I think the best I can say here is “fingers crossed.”

    So far, so VERY good.

  • Darren

    Man, I love, love, love optimism, fairytale endings, and full recoveries from injuries. But Pineda really shouldn’t be looked at as having the highest ceiling of any of the 5th starters anymore. His ceiling is unknown after the injury. He’s likely gonna be a different pitcher altogether. The competition should absolutely be judged on who looks better in camp, not who looked better two years ago.
    It’s already the middle of March and Pineda JUST pitched in his first game. Come on!

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      Based on what you’ve seen in the same timeframe, though, Darren, really, what is your 2014 prediction for Derek Jeter? ;)

      • Darren

        I humbly suggest that 20 years of data is a bit more of a sample than Pineda has accumulated.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner

          He wasn’t 40 and coming off an injury so bad that it kept him out of the lineup from the previous postseason to, practically, the beginning of the follwing season for those 20 years.

          I provide you with that information humbly as well, because we’re both a couple of humble dudes with nothing better to do right now.

          • Darren

            Hold on a sec. Pineda is a guy who had a half a season of success in the majors, had a major arm injury and hasn’t pitched in the show in 2 years. Do you really think he’s more of a sure thing than Jeter?

            Assuming Jeter stays healthy, safe to say even with the injury, it would still be shocking if he hit less than .240, right?

            Would you be shocked if at this point in time Pineda didn’t contribute at all? Because it seems just as likely that he ends up being an up and down 5th starter or never even breaks camp than it does that he’ll pitch well.

            As BenFong Torres would say, “Respectfully.”

            • Giancarlo Murphy

              With all due respect…

              Did you watch Jeter against the Orioles? We got “past a diving Jeter,” “over the outstretched arm of Jeter,” “nice pick by Jeter but the throw was off-line and late,” and what would have been another JIDP if Gardner hadn’t been running.

              When The Captain running out a groundout without hobbling is hailed as a great achievement, maybe it’s OK to take a playful jab, I don’t know, humbly?

    • Steve (different one)

      Well, his second game. Same as CC, Tanaka….

      • gageagainstthemachine

        It was his first start, not his first appearance. Not being a dick, but Mike did word it as “first Spring Training start”, so technically he was spot on.

        • Steve (different one)

          I was responding to the last sentence of Darren’s post.

          Not that I disagree with his premise, of course we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, just that that sentence made it sound like Pineda was materially behind everyone else and won’t be ready for opening day (which could still happen of course…)

    • jjyank

      It depends how you define “ceiling”. Your definition seems to be based on speculation. My definition of ceiling for Pineda hasn’t changed at all. The injury and surgery surely lessened the likelihood that he would reach his ceiling, but I think the possibility that he does reach it still exists. Until he goes out there an proves that he can’t get MLB batters out effectively, I’m going to keep rolling the dice on Pineda instead of guys in the Phelps/Warren mold.

      • TWTR

        I think, if his arm holds up, he can reach his former projected ceiling, even with reduced velo, in a different way, like with a plus changeup, improved command of all his pitches, along with an ability to pound the ball down in the zone more.

    • qwerty

      I think that’s what Mike meant. Even with his injury and his unknown future, he still has the highest ceiling of any yankee pitching prospect. Which is quite telling about the state of the yankee farm system if true.

  • chris

    I just can’t help thinking WHAT IF: Tanaka does as well as expected, Nova straightens himself out and Pineda becomes 3/4 of the pitcher he was projected to be. Then WHAT IF one of the young pitchers in the minors becomes decent, as in a solid #4. I mean… geez that’d be arguably the best rotation in baseball for YEARS!

    Just daydreaming guys haha.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner

      And, if CC can’t regain top-of-the-rotation form, even two of those guys doing what you say could go a VERY long way.

      This is why I like this rotation. Plenty of risk, but perhaps even more upside spread out.

  • TWTR

    As I have said, all things being equal, Pineda and Tex are the two biggest unknowns. If both perform reasonably well, this team will be pretty good.

  • W.B. Mason Williams

    ManBan will be the impact we need in 2015.

    DON’T SH*T ON MY PARADE AXISA!

    • chris

      Hahaha

    • vicki

      can’t help but notice you posted this at 2:55pm. manny himself may have shat on your parade.

      just so’s you knows i’m a manban fan and believer.

      • W.B. Mason Williams

        Eh, he’s still got a year.

  • KD

    “the enigmatic Ivan Nova”. what a perfect description.

  • will

    Even when pineda doesn’t have his A stuff he strikes guys out. That tells me he has the “it” factor of a good top of the line pitcher. Time will tell of course!

  • The Big Chikovsky

    Or he could just be someone struggling to maintain consistent mechanics and throw a baseball harder than 89mph. Never mind the HR problems and the development of his change up that were concerns PRE-injury… but hey, what do I know. That’s why he’s the wild card!!

    He did strike out a few minor league Orioles in Spring Training, after all. No one cares that he looked like garbage doing it; fighting his mechanics and struggling to throw the ball over the plate.

    • Jilly R.

      I wouldn’t say he looked like “garbage” at all. “Rusty,” as someone said, maybe so. “Garbage” is what we sometimes saw from Hughes. That wasn’t in evidence from Pineda.

  • John Duci

    I think the best plan would be to start him in AAA for April. If there’s going to be an innings limit like girardi said then do that so he can come up after April and pitch all the way through he playoffs. I have a feeling he is going to be really good so were going to want him down the stretch. Let him shake off the rust come up and shut shit down.

    • Wicomico Pinstripea

      I may or may not be a insane, but AAA innings count towards his innings limit.

      My sanity had nothing to do with this comment.

  • PunkPitch

    Yea, five innings of spring camp, and he’s the leading candidate for the 5th starter job. Good luck with that Michael – Both of you.

  • leftylarry

    Pineda knows how to pitch and if he can get it back up to sitting 91-92 and touching 94-95 by late June, no reason he can’t be a huge help and give us the starts we need.After all it’s been almost two years for him to heal up.
    Not being ready last year was probably a good thing.