From now until the Yankees settle on their five-man rotation, we'll be taking a weekly look at who's leading the race for the two spots behind CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and A.J. Burnett. This week: The pre-pre-season outlook.
1. Ivan Nova
Actual games begin on Saturday, at which point we can start to dissect the outings that will ultimately influence Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman's decision. (We choose not to put any stock in intra-squad live-BP appearances, which is good for Nova, who was rocked yesterday.) But for now, some think a spot in the rotation is Nova's to lose. Unlike some of the other candidates, Girardi's familiar with him: Nova cracked the rotation for a time last year, making seven starts in August and September. (In 42 innings of work last year — including three appearances out of the bullpen — he posted a 1-2 record and a 4.50 ERA.) Joe Girardi has said that the 24-year-old Nova needs to continue to develop, drawing a comparison to the strides Phil Hughes has made.
2. Freddy Garcia
In 157 innings for the White Sox last year, he posted a 12-6 record with a 4.64 ERA — generally better numbers than those produced by Javier Vazquez, who spent much of the year in the Yankees rotation. If nothing else, Garcia proved last year he could stay healthy enough to make 28 starts. (By comparison, Bartolo Colon hasn't pitched since 2009.) And for what it's worth, Jon Heyman says that Garcia has a leg up on the No. 4 spot in the rotation. Working against him during this competition: By his own admission, he's never been a strong spring-training pitcher.
3. Sergio Mitre
Girardi's familiar with Mitre, too, though presumably he's also familiar with his lifetime 5.27 ERA. That said, Baseball Prospectus's initial PECOTA projection likes him, or at least, likes him more than the other candidates, including Nova and Garcia. He'll pitch out of the bullpen the first time through the rotation next week.
4. Bartolo Colon
He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009, and reported to camp at 268 pounds (some of which he intends to lose during spring training). He'll start the Yankees spring opener on Saturday, in part because he pitched in winter ball, and Girardi says that'll give the starters who haven't pitched during the winter a bit more time to prepare.
5-8. Andrew Brackman, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren, and David Phelps
All four of these prospects are longshots to make rotation out of camp, but Brian Cashman has said that all are physically ready to pitch in the big-leagues this year, so they'll at least get a look. Brackman and Noesi are ranked seventh and ninth, respectively, on Baseball Prospectus's recent list of the organization's top prospects, and for what it's worth, the PECOTA projections that liked Mitre also liked Noesi. BP estimates that Warren won't be ready for the bigs until 2012, and Phelps is ranked way down at sixteenth on their list of the team's top prospects.