We’re now well into spring training and the candidates for the final slot in the rotation are separating themselves from the pack. Logic dictates that a youngster like Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain will open the season as a starter, but if the Yankees opt to evaluate the candidates based on their spring training performance, Alfredo Aceves is the clear winner and Sergio Mitre is still in the mix. If you are one of the fans that think Alfredo Aceves should be named the fifth starter, I recommend you stop reading this post. Then again, you probably did not read it based on the title.
The final spot in the rotation should be occupied by Hughes or Chamberlain. At this point, Hughes looks like the better option, but the spring is still young. Upside is something the front office will take into account, but there are other reasons why Ace should be sent to the pen. Joe Girardi will have to evaluate what would help the team more: a solid back-of-the-rotation pitcher who will make 25-32 starts or a stud reliever that will help preserve wins in 40-50 games. I’m inclined to go with the later. When you take upside into account, it becomes a no-brainer. As good as Aceves has been, Hughes and Chamberlain both have more potential. There is an excellent chance that one of them could finally realize that potential this year as a starter.
Plenty of teams have found success with a league-average fifth starter, especially when they have an extremely sturdy bullpen. If Hughes or Chamberlain performs above the league average lines, the Yanks will be in even better shape. Especially considering that one of them will probably also be joining Aceves in the pen. A relief corps anchored by Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Chamberlain/Hughes and Aceves is just way too strong to pass up. Especially if Chan Ho Park, Damaso Marte and Mark Melancon exceed expectations.