It appears that a new era will dawn on the New York Yankees tonight, as 21 year-old Luis Severino will make his Major League debut under the bright lights of the new House. In the middle of a pennant race. Against the hated Boston Red Sox.
The young Dominican right-hander will likely be unfazed by the challenge, as he’s already improved with each successive promotion.
Armed with a fastball that touches 97 mph, a deceptive change-up, and an improving slider, Severino went 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 61.1 in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after pitching to a 3.00 ERA in 14 previous starts in Double-A Trenton.
“We are really, really excited for him,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “It shouldn’t be miscast, either. We’ll let him get his feet wet and see what he can do. He is a really exciting cat. I think he could have a very good career, but he is still young and he is still developing.”
Despite warts in the Yankees’ rotation, they stood pat at the Trading Deadline last week. Perhaps it was on purpose.
Severino’s rise has an even greater meaning for the Yankees organization. He is the latest chance for them to prove that they can successfully develop a successful starting pitcher from within to become part of their franchise’s core.
Since the debut of Andy Pettitte 20 years ago, the Yankees have continuously been unsuccessful at developing consistent starting pitchers from the farm system. In general, many of their top prospects have not panned out much at all.
It’s a consistent failure that has caused the team to underachieve, as they’ve won just one World Series since 2000 despite spending over $1 billion in player salary since. It’s a pestering failure that has caused the Yankees to miss the playoffs the previous two seasons. It’s a constant failure that has put them at a disadvantage against every other team that has managed to develop and hold onto top flight starting pitchers.
It’s not like they haven’t tried, however.
Just eight years ago, the Yankees had not one, but three top pitching prospects for whom they had sky high hopes for, just like they have now for Severino. However, Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy all turned out to be major disappointments.
Chamberlain struggled with his control and was permanently banished to the bullpen. He’s now in the Toronto organization after being let go by the Yankees and Detroit. After a brief success in the 2010 season, Hughes lost his fastball and his ability to keep the ball in the park, thus forcing him to retreat to wide open Target Field in Minnesota, where he has pitched better. Kennedy enjoyed brief success in Arizona, winning 21 games with a 2.88 ERA in 2011, but has mostly been a mediocre starter due to a lack of a plus fastball.
Really, the only productive starting pitcher the Yankees have developed in the last two decades is Ivan Nova, who has been either superb in some seasons or just bad in others.
The main issue is arguably the innings limit the Yankees are regularly obsessed with when handling their pitchers, rookie or veteran. They fiddled too much with Joba and Hughes’ inning count in their first go-arounds as Major League starters, and they paid the price.
The Yankees hope to find the formula for success in Severino. Despite an unusual delivery that hardly involves his lower body, he has all the goods to become a top of the rotation starter.
Now, it’s different. Despite having a reputation for moving their prospects through the system slower than most organizations, they’ve moved Severino up very quickly, and he has responded.
Despite previously setting an innings cap at 150 for Severino for the year, Cashman stated after announcing Severino’s call to the majors that the training wheels are off. They’re letting him take flight.
“There’s risk in throwing some of the young guys in the Atlantic Ocean and saying, ‘Time to swim,’” Cashman told Chad Jennings last week. “But that’s also something we’re not afraid of in some guys’ cases. We do like this team, and we have benefited from the use of a lot of the young guys throughout this season. We still look forward to these guys hopefully contributing to us.”
Without an innings limit, Severino could place himself into the Yankees’ plans for the rest of THIS season, not just next year. With holes in the rotation, he has the chance to become part of the Yankees’ quest to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 2012, and also be apart of a possible deep run in October.