The fifth and final matchup is between Brad Penny and assorted others vs. Joba Chamberlain and fellow youngsters
It’s far from a guarantee that Penny will be in this spot for very long. The same can be said for Joba as well. Though both have the capability to be top rotation starters this season it really can’t be expected from either of them. For Penny the most important aspect of his game is health. He has a dominant fastball, though he doesn’t have overwhelming secondary stuff. But if that heater is out on the mound and he’s able to hurl strikes on a consistent basis then the Sox will be ecstatic with their minimal investment in Penny. If he doesn’t work out then they have either the stalwart John Smoltz on his way back from rehab or Clay Buchholz who is probably itching to prove himself after last year’s rough rookie season.
Joba on the other hand has slightly different concerns. Health is a big one for him, but in a different way. Aside from last season’s minor meltdown in his shoulder, Joba has proven to be healthy for awhile. But, like several other young Yankee pitchers, he hasn’t come anywhere near the innings levels that the Yankees want to see their big three at. The Yankees are saying Joba is going to get 30 starts which would lead one to conclude they want 180 innings out of him. If they could get that then they deserve a reward. It’s just unrealistic to expect that much out of arm that hasn’t been that taxed yet.
If Joba does slip up, then his first stop will probably be Triple A Scranton and in his stead will be Phil Hughes. Hughes has done several things better since his awful season last year. He has tweaked and improved his curve and he has begun to look to his a cut fastball on a regular basis and a change up on occasion. Beyond him there is Ian Kennedy and Kei Igawa…
Sorry I just threw up in my mouth a little.
Verdict: If this was question of upside and pure talent the Yankees would win. Even when Brad Penny was healthy he wasn’t dominant in the NL West, and the Yanks young guns have more talent than he ever did. Joba and Hughes both have more ability than Penny, but like him and Smoltz they both have durability questions. It’s a close call but I really like the Smoltz pick up for the Sox and I fully expect him to displace Penny when he comes back. Smoltz is a badass, even at age 41, and his experience and tenacity give him and the Red Sox a slight edge in this final slot over the upside an optimism of Joba and Hughes. Sox make it a game, but Yanks win 3-2.