By Luis Armando
The New York Yankees are in the position that they estimated would come eventually when the core four of their championship years would finally wither and die a heroic death into the books of the past. Only Derek Jeter, the lone sentinel remains, perhaps for his final turn.
Yet the Yankees, one series removed from a World Series appearance two seasons ago, saw a role reversal as injuries took more than its fair share of the roster in 2013. It crippled them. The strength of the team was in its starting pitching but in the stretch run it became obvious that this team lacked depth in its starters along with their effectiveness.
CC Sabathia, the ace, slid to average so quickly that it had a domino effect. Hiroki Kuroda, who became the ace, lost it in the stretch run while Phil Hughes inconsistency finally wore out even the Yankees patience. Many reasons have been given to why the Yankees minor leagues appear lacking. But the problem is not a change in philosophy. It was just a matter of chance.
The Yankees prepared for this day. They invested in draft picks and trades to collect young pitchers or grew them on their farm with the idea that they were the future. Despite the Yankees championship in 2009, the three pitchers that were to lead the way were Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Kennedy.
It all started with great promise. Two fireballers and a changeup pitcher that resembled Mike Mussina at times were what the Yankees possessed. In addition the Yankees had two teenage pitchers down in the farm who would add to this ensemble. But Hughes, number one draft pick overall, outside of a 2009 stint as the bridge has seen back injuries and a flat fastball hit way too often, way too far to hold a spot.
Joba was the closest thing to Mariano, a phenom in 2007 with a high octane fastball and a knee bending breaking ball that just had a life of its own. But off the field problems usually fueled by a lack of maturity has seen him often become too hittable as well.
Kennedy did end up winning 20 games. But for the Arizona Diamondbacks as he won the Cy Young and the Yankees got Curtis Granderson in a three way trade. Lefty Manny Banuelos and righty Dellin Betances were projected to be the one-two punch of the future, maybe by this season, but they have struggled in the minors, not looking anything like their potential implied. Michael Pineda, who they got for catcher Jesus Montero, was to bring a badly needed young power arm. But weight and shoulder problems have put him on the sidelines for two seasons now.
The Yankees success in the pitching area via their farm team has been found more easily in the relief corps. All is not lost though. They did produce Ivan Nova, who reestablished himself as no worse than the Yankees second best pitcher. Vidal Nuno is worth an extended look, and David Phelps has been a stubborn force no matter what his role. Yet with Hughes and Chamberlain playing the free agent market, the investment in youth looks well spent. After this season all three young future top line starters might be gone.