For the fourth time in franchise history, the New York Yankees signed a starting pitcher to a contract worth more than $100 million. They came to terms with Carlos Rodon on a six-year, $162 million contract deal earlier this month.
The Yankees did not head into the offseason in dire need of a $100 million-plus starter. Their starting rotation was the backbone of their success in the 2022 season. From the emergence of Nestor Cortes Jr. to Gerrit Cole orchestrating arguably the most potent season of his run with the team, not many clubs had an answer for their starters throughout the campaign.
The Yankees’ rotation capped off regular season play ranking fourth in all baseball in team ERA (3.51) and fifth in total strikeouts (897).
With Rodon in the fold, the Yankees now boast the best rotation in the majors for two notable reasons.
Rodon’s fastball will add another dimension to the Yankees’ starting rotation
Rodon’s All-Star rise can be credited to his rejuvenated fastball. Opponents hit at least .250 against the lefty in five out of his first six years in the majors. In the last two seasons, very few hitters enjoyed any kind of success against the pitch.
Thanks to a slight increase in velocity coupled with the vast improvement in control, Rodon has been able to rely on his four-seam fastball to overpower hitters. He generated a combined 225 strikeouts from his fastball in the 2021 and 2022 seasons. More so, he notched a swinging strike percentage of at least 13.0 percent against the pitch in each of the previous two years.
Rodon is set to join a Yankees rotation that features two of the most efficient fastball pitchers in the American League today in Cole and Cortes. The two hurlers each were able to tally 100-plus strikeouts from their four-seam fastballs last year.
There are a multitude of hard-throwing starters in the sport today, and many others have made it a career of simply commanding the strike zone. Rodon boasts the best of both worlds. His fastball can not only rack up strikeouts with ease, but his command of the pitch both in and out of the strike zone can leave hitters dazed and confused at the plate.
Rodon’s stout success in RISP situations
It became a regular occurrence to see the Yankees escape jams last season. They allowed a .226 batting average in runners in scoring position at-bats, which ranked third in the majors behind the Los Angeles Dodgers (.196) and the Houston Astros (.216).
Fortunately for the reigning American League East champions, they added a left-handed pitcher who has regularly frustrated opposing batters in RISP situations.
In his lone campaign with the San Francisco Giants, Rodon allowed a .221 batting average with runners in scoring position and also recorded 56 total strikeouts in such at-bats. Overall, the opposing hitters posted a low .197 batting average against the two-time All-Star with men on base.
Rodon will be in for plenty of duels in his upcoming debut campaign in the AL East, and he sure will need to be cool, calm, and collected whenever he is met with trouble during an inning. Nevertheless, the lefty has proven to be one who can thrive in such situations, which he surely must mirror in the coming season with the AL East powerhouse.
In the big picture, the Yankees have assembled one of the most well-rounded rotations in MLB today, which is just what manager Aaron Boone hoped to see come to fruition in the offseason.
“You love the way it looks,” Boone said earlier this month. “It’s got a chance to be really, really special. Lots of talented pitchers. But again, we’re here in December, we gotta go out and do it. But I like potentially where we’re starting from and specifically starting games from.”
For Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, the competitiveness within the rotation is what will drive the unit in the coming year.
“The best starting rotations are the ones when you have a deep talented staff, and every day yesterday’s starter hands the ball off and the competitive spirit to his teammate and says, ‘Now top that,'” Cashman said during Rodon’s introductory press conference earlier this month.
“If you can get a collection of talented pitchers that have that type of ability and makeup, that’s when some magical things have a chance to happen.”
Every rotation has its own fair share of question marks. For the Yankees, there are health concerns with multiple starters, but overall, their rotation has what it takes to emerge as the most efficient one in the majors in the 2023 campaign.