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When a player is called up to make a couple of spot starts while a regular starter recovers from a minor injury they make for good streaming options but not real investments. That isn’t the case with Vidal Nuno who was recently called up to temporarily take Andy Pettitte‘s spot in the rotation while the veteran recovers from a back injury. In a rotation filled with 40-year-olds and underachievers, Nuno is going to get his chances.
Last season, the Yankees saw seven pitchers make 10-plus starts. This season, the Yankees’ rotation is made up of a 40-year-old Andy Pettitte who is already hurt, a 38-year-old Hiroki Kuroda who has also had to deal with injuries this season, Phil Hughes who has given up 10 home runs in 47 innings, and Ivan Nova who pitched so poorly before getting hurt it’s unlikely we see him again the rest of the way. David Phelps has taken over Nova’s spot in the rotation and while he’s looked solid he has yet to pitch more than 100 innings in a season.
Phil Hughes’ spot in the rotation is increasingly questionable, David Phelps is unproven, and two 40-year-olds are unlikely to hold up well over the course of a 162-game season. That’s not simply to make assumptions, it’s just what we are already seeing.
Enter Vidal Nuno, one of the most underrated minor league pitchers in the game. This is the second time this season that the Yanks have turned to Nuno to fill a starter slot even though no one had heard of him before the season. The fact that no one has is a complete failure of all of us sportswriter types, all he’s been doing is putting up a 2.85 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.5 K/9, and a 5.00 K/BB over his five-year minor league career.
This season he has stepped his game up so much that a call up was simply inevitable. Through four starts, Nuno has given up just four runs, 13 hits, and two walks while striking out 26 in 23 innings. Last season, Nuno went 10-6 with a 2.54 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 126 K in 138 innings. The previous year he went 9-4 with a 1.95 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 100 K in 106 innings. The point is, he’s been getting it done consistently at every level of the minors and if those numbers translate at all to the majors he can be an absolute fantasy monster.
We were hoping to see Nuno start Monday but the Yankees were rained out and his turn was skipped. So far the 25-year-old has made one start and two relief appearances this season, allowing one run (on a Nate McClouth solo homer), eight hits, and three walks over eight innings while striking out five. In his one start, Nuno pitched five scoreless innings against a fifth-ranked Cleveland Indians offense and surrendered just three hits and three walks while striking out three.
With his ability and proven track record, albeit it in the minors, the spots will open up for Nuno one way or another. His upcoming two starts should give us a better idea of just how good he can pitch at this level but owners who snatch him up now will be glad they did the next time a spot in the Yankee rotation inevitably opens up once again.
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