Trenton Rotation Takes Shape
Just yesterday Josh Norris clued us in as to who will be taking the ball this year in Trenton. Some will come as no surprise, with lefties Nuk Turley and Matt Tracy getting the nod along with Zach Nuding. In an unexpected turn. Francisco Rondon, who had some eyes on him in spring training for his work out of the pen will be the third lefty with Caleb Cotham rounding out the rotation. The notable exception here is Jose Ramirez, who everybody talking, including Mariano Rivera. There’s been mention of an injury to Ramirez but I haven’t seen any specifics. In his second to last start in big league camp he was examined for what was believed to be a blister forming, and then proceeded to tank his following start. The blister theory would make sense. As we’ve seen this several times over the last few years, Nik Turley falling victim last year and missing time to a balky digit. Nardi Contreras, who is in charge of the international pitching scene pointed to the cold weather expected for the Trenton opener where they take on the Sea Dogs, Boston’s AA affiliate. Many of us can attest to the shoddy weather up here in the northeast, so keeping him away from the cold might not be a bad idea. Last year Manny Banuelos had difficulties acclimating, and he ended up with a pulled muscle. Whether or not you can directly attribute the injury to the temperatures could certainly be argued, but you can’t blame them for being cautious. We’ll take a quick look at the starting five that are breaking camp and on their way up north.
With a solid year under his belt Turley could be looked at as the staff ace. He did miss a bit of time due to a nagging blister on his pitching hand, but the 50th rounder continued to impress on the mound. Nik spent the year in Tampa, with one lone start in Trenton to cap off the year. He tossed 112 innings for the Yanks, posting a 2.89 ERA and solid peripherals in a 9.3 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9. Turley gained a couple of ticks on both his curve and fastball last season, and maintained his changeup, which has some good fade and depth to it and like his fastball he can command it well. He also added a slider to his mix that flashes plus potential. For the last Yankee picked in the draft, you can’t expect much more.
Another lefty, Tracy made his move from the pen last year and threw 99 innings for the Tampa club. He finished the year with a 3.27 ERA and decent strikeout totals with a 7.2 K/9 but his control wavered a bit, walking 5.4 every 9. Nik will throw both a four and two seamer with above average command in the low to mid 90’s. His two seam doesn’t have enormous movement, but he does control it well. Tracy’s secondary stuff (changeup, curveball) still needs polish, but he’s not afraid to throw them in any count. Further work on them would put him in another tier, so look for him to focus on commanding them this year. Tracy is adept at pounding the lower half of the zone with all of his pitches and keeps the ball in the yard, so he’s got some potential to make his way to the big leagues.
Zach logged 85.2 innings in Tampa last year and will get his shot at AA Trenton. Nuding pitched to a 3.89 ERA and limited the walks to 2.7/9, but his strikeouts were a bit lacking, knocking out fewer than 7 batters every 9. He’s always had a big fastball, sitting low to mid 90’s but reaching 98 at times. It’s a heavy ball that batters have a hard time getting the barrel on, and he generally keeps it in the lower half of the zone. Zach’s second best pitch is his slider, which he’s been working on to get a bit more movement on. It’s not yet a swing and miss type pitch but it has potential. He backs that up with a changeup, which again needs work, and if he is to be a successful starter he’s going to need it.
Rondon hasn’t started a game since 2009, but the crew likes him enough that they’re going to see what they can get out of him. With Rapada on the DL and Logan coming off of a season where he led the league in appearances you’d think they might push Rondon on to AAA to serve as a possible backup, but they do have Nuno in the fold and Cabral on the way back. Rondon spent time across three levels, pitching to a 3.93 ERA over 71 total innings. His strikeouts were outstanding, at 10.1/9, but he walks way too many, giving up 5.3 free passes every 9. He’s a fastball/slider guy, hitting the mid 90’s with his fastball that gets good glove side run to it but is also a bit harder to command. His power slider is also a plus pitch when he’s commanding it. His changeup has made some big strides lately, showing good depth and fade, and will play a big part in him succeeding as a starter.
Cotham is more or less a place holder until the weather warms up and Ramirez is ready. He’ll head back to the pen upon Jose’s return so they can better manage his innings. Caleb’s fastball sits in the low 90’s, but can ramp it up to 95 at times. His command of the pitch took a step forward last year as he got in a full seasons worth of work. His secondary stuff hasn’t quite returned to form yet, as his slider velocity is there but the movement isn’t. Cotham also sports an average to above average changeup that sits around 80, and should help him get through the lineups until Ramirez returns.