CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Masahiro Tanaka, and Ivan Nova will comprise 80% of the Yankee rotation. The Yankees are holding an open competition for the final spot. RHPs Michael Pienda, Adam Warren, and David Phelps will compete with LHP Vidal Nuno for the last spot. Each pitcher brings some positives and negatives to the Yankee rotation. Today, we’ll walk through each option to see what they bring to the rotation.

Option #1: Adam Warren, RHP

Background: The Yankees drafted Warren in the fourth round of the 2009 MLB Draft. Warren quickly made his way through the Yankee system and first appeared in 2012. Warren bounced back and forth between Triple A and the Majors during 2012 before becoming a mainstay last season. The 26-year-old Warren served primarily as a reliever, posting a 3-2 record with a 3.39 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 72 innings. Warren was given two late season starts when the Yankees were out of contention.

Stuff: Warren features five different pitches, a 2-seam, 4 -seam, cutter, curveball, and change-up. Warren’s fastball sits between 92-94 MPHs. Warren’s off-speed pitches need a lot of work. Warren’s pick-off move is quite good.

Outlook: Warren will likely remain in the bullpen. He seemed to perform well in high leverage situations and his secondary pitches aren’t good enough for the rotation.

Option #2: Vidal Nuno, LHP

Background: Unlike Warren, Nuno was not a drafted and bred Yankee farm hand. Nuno was drafted in the 48th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the Cleveland Indians. After struggling in Class A, Nuno was released and caught on in the Independent Leagues. After impressing Yankee scouts, the team signed him into their system. Nuno rocketed through the system and made his MLB debut in April 2013. Nuno made a hand full of starts and impressed with a few appearances out of the bullpen. Nuno’s season ended after suffering a groin injury in Triple A.

Stuff: Nuno is left-handed and throws from a 3/4 arm slot, which puts a lot of natural movement on his pitches. Nuno’s four-seamer isn’t overpowering, sitting between 87-92 MPH. Nuno also features a slider and a change-up. Nuno’s change-up has become a devastating out-pitch.

Outlook: Nuno has a great chance to win the fifth starter role. Nuno has shown the ability to stick in the majors and gives the Yankees a second lefty. Nuno uses a lot of guile and deception when he pitches, which is critical in the AL East.

Option #3: David Phelps, RHP

Background: The Yankees drafted Phelps in the 14th round of the 2008 MLB draft. Phelps had a very decorated minor league career, making several All-Star teams before making his MLB debut in 2012. Phelps initially appeared as RHP reliever. Towards the end of the 2012 season, Phelps began making starts and finished with a 3.34 ERA over 99 innings. Phelps struck out 96 hitters and walked only 34 batters, but gave up 14 HRs. During 2013, Phelps once again split his time between the bullpen and starting rotation. Phelps’ 2013 season finished as a disappointment as he posted a 6-5 record and 4.98 ERA. Phelps also missed a large chunk of the season due to a strained forearm.

Stuff: The 26-year-old Phelps features the same pitches as Warren. His fastballs sit in the low 90s and his cutter is used as his ‘out-pitch’ against righties.

Outlook: Phelps will win the fifth starter’s role if he can prove he can limit home runs. Phelps has given up 23 HRs over 200 innings in his first two seasons. His ERA has increased due to inconsistent performances and he must show the Yankees that can right the ship. Of all the candidates, Phelps has the most MLB experience, but his inconsistent performances work against him. Spring Training will be big for him.

Option #4: Michael Pineda, RHP

Background: The Yankees traded highly touted prospect, Jesus Montero, to the Mariners for Pineda prior to the 2012 season. Pineda made his MLB debut in 2011 and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. Despite a modest 9-10 record and a 3.77 ERA, Pineda struck out 171 hitters in 173 innings and averaged a 94.7 MPH fastball. In 2012, Pineda reported to Spring Training and started to suffer from tendinitis in his shoulder. During his rehab, Pineda suffered an anterior labral tear and had it surgically repaired. Pineda missed the entire 2012 season and half of the 2013 season. When he returned, Pineda posted a 2-1 record with a  3.32 ERA in ten starts. Pineda made his spring training debut on Friday against the Tigers. He struck out four Tigers in two innings, including AL MVP Miguel Cabrera.

Stuff: Pineda features three pitches, a four-seamer, slider, and change-up. During his recap in 2013, Pineda fastball ranged from 90-95 MPHs while sitting around 93-94 MPHs. His fastball has a lot of natural ‘cutting’ movement and if he returns to pre-injury form, it’ll grade out as a plus pitch. Pineda’s slider is his best pitch. It sits in the mid-80s and features a lot of late lateral movement. Pineda’s change-up is a work in progress, but he doesn’t feature it very often.

Outlook: The 25-year-old Pineda is a very large man, standing at 6’7″, 250 pounds which only adds to his intrigue. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs this spring and whether he can slowly build back into his pre-injury form. Curt Schilling had a similar procedure early in his career and was able to bounce back, so a return to form is possible. Many in the Yankee organization are hoping Pineda can seize a spot in the rotation.


Overall, Michael Pineda is the odds-on favorite to win the spot out of Spring Training. Pineda has the best stuff and the highest ceiling among the four starters. Phelps and Warren will likely open in the bullpen while Nuno could be a sneaky spot starter. Injuries always happen, so it’s likely each of these pitchers will make starts during the season. Enjoy the competition before the bell rings on April 1st!