When thinking about the New York Yankees starting rotation, the first name that comes to mind is Masahiro Tanaka, the widely recognized ace of the rotation. However, last season, Tanaka experienced his ups and his downs, far from a sure thing on any given start. The most tenured starter on the team, C.C. Sabathia, thinks that the Yankees might produce a Cy Young winner this year, a pretty reasonable assertion. The major oddity in the statement, however, is that Sabathia was referring to the lesser-publicized and often criticized Michael Pineda, who came to New York from Seattle in a 2013 trade.
Over the past two seasons, the talented right-hander has shown signs of potential greatness with a live fastball and a nasty slider, but rough outings have seriously hurt his numbers and overall performance. In 2016, Pineda ended the season with a 4.82 ERA to accompany a 6-12 record in 32 starts. Less than exemplary. On the other hand, he posted a whopping 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, a career best. At certain times, Pineda can be flat-out unhittable, but a tendency to start games slow and make too many mistake pitches seriously limits his MLB potential.
So far this preseason, Michael Pineda has been impressive, giving Yankees fans hope that he can carry this performance into the season as possibly the most talented starter on the team. In three starts, Pineda has a 2-0 record with a 1.80 ERA and 14 strikeouts over 10 innings. His WHIP is a measly 0.40, and he has looked great. With Pineda, it seems that some days his arm is extremely live, producing fastballs with incredible movement and unhittable sliders while looking completely flat on other days when hitters seem to be able to do whatever they want at the plate. In the preseason, fans have seen lots of the former and hardly any of the latter. If he can carry this type of output into the regular season, he has the potential to be a 20-game winner for the Bronx Bombers and even a Cy Young candidate.
At the same time, Pineda has dealt with his fair share of injuries in the past. He did not play any games in either 2012 or 2013, but he has been able to stay much healthier as of recently. His presence has also been a really positive influence in the dugout according to many Yankees players. ESPN wrote a piece on how much Pineda tries to learn English through communication with his teammates and asking for advice, and he has seemed to really win the hearts of C.C. Sabathia and Dellin Betances. Those three pitchers, along with Tanaka, who has been lights-out this preseason, may be the deciding factor as to whether or not the New York Yankees achieve success this season.
The strong words of veteran Sabathia should absolutely put Pineda on everybody’s map this season as a player to watch. Regardless of C.C.’s words, Pineda is a really exciting pitcher to watch with electrifying stuff when he is pitching well. With more run support expected in 2017, Pineda could see an added boost to his record, but he will need to produce as well. With Pineda, it’s often hot or cold on any given night, but the Dominican pitcher will hope his stuff is as hot as his native country when the New York Yankees begin their pursuit of a 28th World Series in 2017.