Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Currently, we know that the Yankees' bullpen will consist of Matt Thornton, Shawn Kelley, and David Robertson. Possibly David Phelps and Adam Warren, too.

Either way, the team still has a couple open slots and many options to fill them.

The Yankees have brought 15 relievers to spring training to vie for a spot in 2014. However, the Yankees best relief option may be in camp as a starter. According to Joel Sherman, Yankees executives believe that Triple-A starter Jose Ramirez has a future of most likely ending up in the bullpen.

Ramirez is the type of pitcher the Yankees look for in a closer or setup man; he has two plus pitches and has the ability to strikeout a lot of players, says Sherman.

And Sherman is right to bring up this possibility, as Ramirez doesn't seem to have the durability or consistency to be a starter. He spent a good portion of the 2013 season battling injuries; he's had shoulder, oblique and elbow injuries in his career.

These injuries are essentially the only reason people question his ability to start. As a starter his, three-pitch arsenal is good enough to be successful. His changeup and fastball are both plus offerings, and his slider is decent as well. With that said, his repertoire is better suited for the pen, because his slider is inconsistent. 

Ramirez's injuries may be related to his mechanics. Back in May, JD Sussman, of Fangraphs, scouted Ramirez and noted that "Ramirez’s delivery has noticeable effort and recoil. While he’s well-proportioned at 6-foot-3 and likely is more than the 190 pounds he’s listed at, Ramirez’s mechanics, along with his other issues, could ultimately push him to the pen."

While Sussman insisted that Ramirez still had a good chance to stick in the rotation, the possibility remains that they move him to the pen. This may scare Yankee fans as they witnessed the Bombers place Joba Chamberlain in the pen when he was clearly a starter. But the two situations couldn't be more different.

For one thing Ramirez doesn't have Joba's talent, but more importantly the Yankees don't really need Ramirez to be a starter. When the Yankees were wrestling with whether or not to start Joba they had little depth. Now the Yankees have four starters in Masarhiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova, and Manny Banuelos, that are all 27 or younger.

Plus they have CC Sabathia signed for several more seasons, and could always use David Phelps as a starter. Meaning that the Yankees already have 6 controllable starters for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, due to all the injuries Ramirez has sustained, players like Byran Mitchell, and Shane Greene aren't too far below Ramirez's level.

In other words, there are plenty of similar options to Ramirez if the Yankees move him to the pen, and the they may have an immediate need for him in that position.

As of now David Robertson is the only high leverage reliever the Yankees can trust. Kelley was good last year but doesn't really have a track record yet. If Ramirez is moved to the pen, the Yankees would be getting a second high leverage reliever.

While the Yankees can move him to the pen, they shouldn't do so until they are sure they need to. If Betances can play to his ability they may be able to keep Ramirez as a starter in Triple-A. Betances would give the team their second high leverage reliever, and make changing Ramirez's role less urgent.

Additionally the Yankees could still sign players like Ryan Madson, Andrew Bailey or Joel Hanrahan, for added depth.

I do not believe the Yankees or any other team should make a starter into a reliever, unless that starter completely fails in that role. Ramirez has yet to fail so it makes sense to keep him there unless they really need him.


Josh Sabo is a Minor League writer for Yanks Beat Blog.


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