Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yankees' Chris Capuano: Rotation filler

The New York Yankees signed Chris Capuano to a one-year, $5 million contract to be the fifth starter for at least the beginning of the 2015 season. The role of the fifth starter is a tenuous one; falter and there is always a guy ready to take the spot. In Capuano’s case there are several.

Only a select few teams anticipate much from their fifth starter other than innings, and that’s probably the case for Capuano too. But in reality the Yankees might need Capuano to produce above what should be reasonably expected of someone in the spot due in part to the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the starting staff.

That said, Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild may have taken some stress off Capuano, by suggesting the club could go through the middle part of April and into May with a six-man rotation due to a stretch of 30 games in 31 days according to Bryan Hoch of Capuano could very well be the sixth guy with Adam Warren, Esmil Rogers, Bryan Mitchell and Chase Whitley competing for a rotation spot in Spring Training.

Regardless of his positioning, it seems that Capuano has an inside track on the other pitchers simply because he’s not a very good candidate to pitch in relief, and he’s going to cost the Yanks more than any of the other options. They can shoo away the money of course, but it’s pretty apparent that they feel he’ll have a part to play in the rotation along the way. If they wanted any of these younger guys ahead of him, they would not have bothered giving him a big league deal.

Capuano, 36, is anything but exciting. He’s been a run of the mill pitcher for most of his career, and he was simply getting pounded in Boston before they released him. He got picked up by the Colorado Rockies, and then his rights were sold to the Yankees after a few weeks.

To be fair, he was fairly steady in his two-plus months with the Yanks. He went 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA (3.85 FIP) with a 1.31 WHIP in 65.2 innings (12 starts). He struck out 7.5 batters per nine and walked 2.6 per game. The rate stats are right in line with his career numbers – 4.28 ERA (4.22 FIP), 1.34 WHIP, 7.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.

Again, this is nothing to write home about but is surely serviceable for the fifth or sixth starter in a rotation. The Yankees would like nothing more than to see its top four starters stay healthy and insert Ivan Nova into the rotation come June, but that’s asking a lot. Capuano is simply an insurance policy.

What can the southpaw provide?

The biggest difference between Steamer and ZiPS (via FanGraphs) is role. As mentioned above, Capuano is not a great fit in the bullpen, and Steamer does not see him used as such, while ZiPS to some degree. If he is not part of the rotation, Capuano seems to be an unnecessary part.

The performance estimates are what they are; exactly what any team would expect to receive from the last man toeing the rubber in a rotation. Capuano will only be expected to keep the team in ballgames long enough to get to the bullpen, and hope that the offense can put up five runs at the same time. If that happens, the Yankees might see some value from Capuano. If he is getting knocked around, and there is better answer in Warren, Rogers or one of the minor leaguers, it’s not difficult to see the Yanks let go of Capuano.

Capuano is without a doubt merely the last bit of filler for the rotation at this time. He’s got a leg up this spring based on his profile working better as a starter, and the club’s money invested. That said, make no mistake, this filler can easily be replaced.

Yankees logo courtesy of

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer and sports media strategist. Besides his work here, Christopher is a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly Closer Report column. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports, the FanSided network, Sportsideo and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.