Expected to be a World Series contender in 2020, the New York Yankees have already been dealt an abundance of bad news before the season has even started. Outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are injured and unexpected to be ready by opening day, while center fielder Aaron Hicks will miss the first half of the year after undergoing surgery in October.
Moreover, the team’s pitching depth will be tested with the loss of James Paxton and Luis Severino. Paxton is expected to miss three months following back surgery, while Severino is recovering from Tommy John surgery and will sit out the entire season.
New York overcame injuries to 30 of its players in 2019 to win 103 games in the regular season and make the playoffs. While its pitching rotation is bolstered by the addition of prized free agent Gerrit Cole, the team will need some of its younger pitchers to step up and fill the vacated starting roles in the absence of Severino and Paxton. Below are five pitchers who could do just that:
1. Jonathan Loaisiga
One of the early favorites to fill one of the two vacated starting rotation spots is Jonathan Loaisiga. The 25-year-old, right-handed pitcher from Nicaragua pitched five perfect innings and struck out nine batters through three outings to begin spring training and has improved his command over the offseason. He has particularly shown more control with his fastball.
“It was the priority to do that, to be able to execute that pitch and I think that being able to do that throughout Spring Training [helps with] eliminating walks – something that I also wanted to do,” Loaisiga said, through an interpreter, following his fourth outing of the spring on March 7. “It’s a matter of using that fastball and commanding it and having all the other pitches work off of that.”
Loaisiga pitched 31-and-two-third innings over 15 games in 2019 and recorded 37 strikeouts compared to 16 walks. He also allowed 31 hits, six of which were home runs, and recorded a 4.55 earned run average (ERA). He has been much more effective in the minor leagues with a win-loss record of 15-5 to go along with a 2.89 ERA and 164-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
2. Mike King
Mike King was named by general manager Brian Cashman as a pitcher who could contend for the fifth starter’s role in spring training. The 24-year-old pitched two innings for the Yankees in 2019, but spent the majority of the season in the minor leagues.
He began the year with the team’s Rookie affiliate in the Gulf Coast League and pitched at Single-A Staten Island, Double-A Trenton, and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Combined, King had a 5.48 ERA through 46 innings pitched, but was hindered by injuries. He was much more effective in 2018 with a record of 11-5 and 1.79 ERA through 161-and-one-third innings pitched.
King was selected by the Miami Marlins in the 12th round of the 2016 MLB Amateur Draft. The Boston College alumnus has started 58 of the 77 games in which he played in the minor leagues and, at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he has the physical build capable to support a starter’s role.
3. Jordan Montgomery
Jordan Montgomery made a positive impression in his rookie season with the Yankees in 2017. The 27-year-old, left-handed pitcher posted a 9-7 record in addition to a 3.88 ERA through 155-and-one-third innings pitched that season and finished sixth in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
However, he missed most of the following two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery. While he didn’t start spring training the way he would have liked, he had an impressive 11 strikeouts in his first seven innings pitched.
4. Luis Cessa
Acquired by the Yankees from the Detroit Tigers in 2015, Luis Cessa has since appeared in 86 games over the course of four seasons for the Yankees. The 27-year-old native of Mexico started 19 of those games, but pitched strictly out of the bullpen in 2019 and recorded a 4.11 ERA.
Through 232 innings pitched with the Yankees, Cessa has a 7-12 record in addition to a 4.50 ERA and 190 strikeouts compared to 75 walks. His strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests he has the potential to perform well as a starter, but the Yankees might prefer to keep him in the bullpen.
5. Clarke Schmidt
Although he’s regarded as a long shot to start this season, Clarke Schmidt has impressed through his first three games in spring with six strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. Like Montgomery, he missed a significant amount of time due to Tommy John surgery, but excelled in 2019.
Schmidt played for three different Yankees affiliates last season and had a 6-5 record to go along with a 3.47 ERA and 102 strikeouts through 90-and-two-third innings pitched. The University of South Carolina alumnus was selected by the Yankees in the first round of the 2017 MLB Amateur Draft and listed as the No. 62 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2020 season.