Luis Severino

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino (40) looks up as he gets Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) to pop out for the first out of the 2nd inning as the New York Yankees host the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. 8/5/15

By Brendan Kuty

Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino says he could be the rotation ace.

Speaking with the YES Network’s Meredith Marakovits recently at the Yankees’ complex in his native Dominican Republic, Severino was asked if he believed he could assume the role as the No. 1.

“Of course,” he said. “I think I can be.”

Immediate reaction: While Severino is bright and seems to understand English reasonably well, he’s not exactly fluent. He’s also just 21 years old and hasn’t done a ton of on-camera interviews. So I don’t believe Severino was trying to deliver a statement that he’s the team’s best pitcher. Of course, he might be. He’s immensely talented. He’s young. He’s coachable, from what I understand. Severino, typically humble and soft spoken, was just being positive and showing confidence in his substantial abilities, at least I think.

Background: Severino entered the summer of 2015 as clearly the Yankees’ top prospect, having breezed through Double-A Trenton before dominating with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He stock continued to rise immediately after he was called up. In 11 starts, Severino went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA. He’ll enter 2016 as a key cog in the Yankees’ rotation, perhaps their most valuable asset.

Verdict: He’s not wrong. In a pitching rotation with a ton of health questions, Severino could establish himself as the ace, and sooner rather than later. The current presumed No. 1 and Opening Day starter, Masahiro Tanaka, has been good the last two years but he’s probably fallen just short of the performance level expected when the Yankees signed him to a seven-year, $155-million deal out of Japan. He’s also got a partial tear in his right elbow that could require Tommy John surgery at any time. Severino might not be far off from being the ace, which says something about his ability and the state of the Yankees’ starters.

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