Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The New York Yankees have seven starting pitchers going into 2012, and all of them could find themselves on fantasy rosters at some point, including the 39-year-old Andy Pettitte.
CC Sabathia is the ace of the Yankees staff and a fantasy ace, but the most effective way to choose one of the other six may be to throw their names in a hat and blindly pick one out.
Seriously, each of these guys has major question marks but also big-time potential, especially pitching with the always vaunted Yankees offense behind him.
So after CC, who's the best Yankee pitcher to own this year?
Michael Pineda may have been that pitcher, but he's already hurt, so that removes him from the immediate discussion. We'll file his name away for later.
Let's analyze the remaining five:
Hiroki Kuroda - Kuroda has been a solid starting pitcher for four seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his performance has probably gone somewhat unnoticed because of his 41-46 career record. Now that he's in New York, he'll be ignored no longer. He's posted a sub-4.00 ERA in all four seasons and his career WHIP is 1.19. However, toiling in the AL East is a major change from pitching in the NL West, so Kuroda could be in for an ERA adjustment this season. You also have to factor in Kuroda's move from the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium to the homer haven that is Yankee Stadium. Kuroda posted a career-low groundball-to-flyball ratio last season, giving up 0.87 G/F, so he could be in for a rude awakening when a seemingly harmless fly ball becomes a souvenir.
Ivan Nova - Nova came out of obscurity to go 16-4 last season, elevating him to No. 2 in the Yankees rotation by season's end. However, his ratios weren't fantastic, as he posted a 1.33 WHIP and a minuscule strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.72 K/BB). His 4.16 xFIP suggests that his 3.70 ERA should have been much higher. Nova has been hit hard this spring, giving up 31 hits and five homers in 22 1/3 innings. However, his K/BB is much improved, as he has posted 17 strikeouts and just three walks (though that number could be low because batters are clubbing pitches early in the count).
Phil Hughes - A dead arm caused Phil Hughes to have a nightmare 2011 season after he won 18 games in 2010. He finished with five wins and a 5.79 ERA. However, Hughes was not entirely awful after he returned in July. If you remove two starts in which he was shelled (seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings on July 22 and six earned runs in 2 2/3 innings on Aug. 25), Hughes had a 2.98 ERA in his other nine starts (totaling 54 1/3 innings). There was talk of using Hughes in the bullpen after he had success there in 2009, but his strong spring won him a rotation spot.
Freddy Garcia - Garcia, pitching on guts and guile more than talent last season, put together a near-miracle 12-win season with a 3.62 ERA in 25 starts. Like Nova, Garcia's 4.36 xFIP suggests his ERA should have been much higher. He has a rotation spot right now due to Pineda's injury, but it would be a shock if he lasted an entire season in New York's starting five.
Andy Pettitte - The real wild card in all this is the 39-year-old who came out of a one-year retirement to sign a deal with the Yankees. You know if he has anything at all left in the tank, New York will give him a go in the rotation. They didn't sign him to help the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Triple-A club get to the International League championship.
So what's the verdict?
Well, Pineda could still prove to be the most valuable Yankee starters after Sabathia when he returns, but he struggled with decreased velocity in spring training and was hit hard in the second half for Seattle last season.
Garcia is likely the first man out of the rotation and is due for a regression anyway. Ditto for Nova.
Kuroda and Pettitte are each pushing 40, and Kuroda has to adjust to a new league and ballpark in the toughest division in baseball.
That brings us to Hughes. The 25-year-old Californian who has seemingly been around forever, from his days as the highly touted future ace, to assuming a bullpen role in 2009, to last year's debacle.
Hughes may no longer be that future ace, but there is no reason the 6-foot-5 righty can't still be a fantasy force in the present.
That's right, in 2012, Hughes will put everything behind him and seize the role he was made to have all along.
There will be no restrictions, no innings limits, no usage rules and no dead arm. Just a 25-year-old ready to uncork his improved fastball and round out your fantasy staff.