A Look Ahead at the Yankees Bullpen

About a week ago, I wrote about the New York Yankees starting rotation for 2017. Today we will look at the bullpen. 2016 had what seemed like a cast of thousands from Opening Day until season’s end between trades, call-ups and God knows what. In the bullpen, this was most apparent. We can only hope 2017 will have less turnover on the roster. So let’s look at the bullpen.

– Aroldis Chapman – Arodis was traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the Yankees in the 2015/16 off-season after an incident at home between himself and his girlfriend. After he served his 30 day suspension, Chapman immediately took over as the closer from Andrew Miller, and racked up 20 saves in 21 chances before he was traded to the Chicago Cubs. After the Cubs won the World Series, Chapman filed for free agency and signed a 5 year, 86M contract to return to his closer role in the Bronx.

–  Dellin Betances – The laser-beam throwing Betances started 2016 pitching the 8th inning as setup man for Andrew Miller, and slid down to the 7th after Chapman finished serving his suspension. After Chapman and Miller were traded, Betances became the closer for the rest of 2016. He can run hot and cold, and when he’s not going well it’s usually because his mechanics are out of whack and his control suffers. Dellin is a monster of a man (6’8″) and that is generally what happens with guys of his size. Betances’ first month as closer went well, converting 7 of his first 8 chances, but the wheels started to come off after a 40 pitch outing against the Blue Jays on Sept. 6th. He was a mess for the last month of the season, his stat-line for September read: 8.1 IP, 11 H, 13 R, 10 ER, 8 BB, 13 K with an ERA of 10.80 and WHIP of 2.28. Many theories abounded why Betances struggled, from over-use to the pressure of closing. Streakiness has been a hallmark of his and no doubt Dellin will find himself again, and will get to do so in his familiar setup role for Aroldis Chapman.

– Tyler Clippard – Tyler Clippard was acquired on July 31st from Arizona for prospect Vicente Campos to supplement the pen after Chapman and Miller were traded. He performed quite well for New York, logging a 2.49 ERA and notching 2 saves. Clippard won’t dominate the way Betances and Chapman can, but is reliable nonetheless. The Yankees plan to have him pitch the 7th inning, setting the table for the aforementioned Betances and Chapman.

– Chasen Shreve –  Chasen Shreve has more ups and downs than an elevator in the Empire State Building. He was so reliable in 2015 until September of that season and the uneven performances continued in2016. Shreve made the ’16 club out of Spring training and had some good outings right out of the gate, but from late April to late in the month of May, he pitched to a tune of a 7.24 ERA. After a poor outing on May 25th, he was sent down to Triple-A Scranton to try and get things figured out. The Yankees recalled Shreve just before the All-Star break and the inconsistency continued, he finished the season 2-1, 5.18 ERA.

– Tommy Layne – The Yankees picked Layne up via free agency in early August after the Red Sox released him, and he did a nice job down the stretch, mostly as a situational LOOGY. There is nothing flashy about his stuff, but his funky delivery is tough on lefty hitters. He recently signed a one year deal for just over 1 million to return to the Bronx in 2017.

– Jonathan Holder – Holder, who has the perfect name for a setup man, joined the Yankees for the month of September after MLB rosters expanded to 40 players. He dominated his way up the minor league ladder in 2016, striking out 101 in 65.1 innings. In one mindblowing 4 inning performance with Triple-A Scranton, he allowed one hit and struck out 12(!). He will certainly get a long look in spring-training.

– Ben Heller – The 25 year old Heller came over from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade and had a cup of coffee in New York from late August through September. He made 8 appearances, mostly in lower leverage situations, and did a decent job. He will likely begin 2017 in Triple-A, but will eventually be back in the Bronx at some point.

– Richard Bleier – The lefty Bleier came up from Scranton at the end of May, and spent the rest of the season shuttling back and forth between Triple-A and the big club. He quietly did a very nice job with the Bombers, not allowing a run from July 8th through season’s end (1.96 ERA). Bleier will likely get a hard look from manager Joe Girardi to challenge Chasen Shreve for the second lefty spot in the bullpen.

– Johnny Barbato – The hard throwing righty Barbato made the 2016 squad out of spring training and started with a bang, allowing no runs and just 2 hits over 6 innings with 9 K’s. After that, it was bombs-away and he soon found himself back in Scranton. He was recalled due to injury at the major league level and made an appearance on 8/5, and was promptly lit up by the Indians for 3 hits, 3 runs and a walk. He finished the ’16 season in AAA but will get another look in the spring.

– Chad Green – The right-handed Green has electric stuff and will get a look as a starter first, but could also make the club in long relief. In 2016, he was either really, really good or he was really bad, with little in between. He will have to change that pattern if he wants to stay in the bigs.

Thanks for reading!

Next time: Position by position looks at the Yankees.

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Posted in MLB

A First Glance at the 2017 Yankees Rotation

Let’s take a look ahead at the New York Yankees 2017 starting rotation going into Spring Training (44 days until pitchers and catcher report!). The Yanks did very little during the Winter Meetings in December. They brought back Aroldis Chapman and signed former Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday to be the team’s primary DH.

Brian Cashman hasn’t added any starting pitchers as of this writing, although there has been much noise about the potential of trading for Jose Quintana of the Chicago White Sox (NO THANK YOU).

Let’s take a look at who the Yankees currently have (in no particular order):

– CC Sabathia – Don’t let CC’s win-loss record of 9-12 fool you. Sabathia had a better year than most anyone would have predicted, posting a respectable ERA of 3.91 and K’ed 152 in 179.2 innings. Sure, he had a few clunkers like any 36 year old starter does, but his overall stuff was crisper, and his change-up has become one of his best out-pitches. It’s hard to tell what to expect from CC in 2017, but the Yankees would gladly take a repeat of his 2016 season.

– Masahiro Tanaka – Like Sabathia, the 2017 Yankees would be happy with a repeat of Tanaka’s 2016 season. He finished with a record of 14-4, an ERA of 3.07 and a WHIP of 1.07. Sounds good, right? It is good, but Tanaka is pretty streaky. He allowed 2 earned runs or less in his first six starts. In his 2 starts following, his ERA shot up from 2.29 to 3.51. He pitched very well down the stretch in September, helping a much younger 2nd half Yankees team stay in the playoff hunt for the Wild Card. Tanaka can opt-out of his contract after the 2017 season. It will be interesting to see whether he will end up being traded by the July 31st trade-deadline if it appears he will exercise this opt-out clause.

– Micheal Pineda – Enigma. That’s the best way to describe Pineda. He has probably the best stuff in the Yankees current rotation, yet he still hasn’t found a way to be consistent with it. At the end of May, his record and ERA stood at 2-6, 6.92. He finished out the season 6-12 and “improved” the ERA to 4.82. His stuff has always been there, and he struck-out 207 in only 175.2 innings. He seems to lose concentration after getting 2 outs and that’s where a lot of the damage happened in 2016. 2017 will be a make or break season for Pineda.

– Luis Severino – After debuting in ’15 and seemingly setting Yankees Universe on fire, Severino began 2016 with a thud. In mid-May, his record sat at 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA when Brian Cashman mercifully sent him down to Triple-A Scranton. He regained his stuff and confidence and was recalled at the end of July, after Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman were traded. Severino made three relief appearances and dominated until he made 2 starts in August because injuries necessitated. He got lit up in those two starts and went back to the pen for the rest of ’16, save two more starts in the last week of the season. Sevy may be best suited for the bullpen, with his high-octane heat and nasty slider. He won’t make it as a starter with just two good pitches and a very mediocre change that he continually shakes off when his catcher calls for it.

– Luis Cessa – The 24 year old rookie from Mexico made his major league debut with the Yankees in April and shuttled back and forth between New York and Triple-A Scranton a few times until he was called up in August to stay for the remainder of the 2016 season. He went into the starting rotation in mid-August and made nine starts, with mixed results. Cessa won his first two starts in August and lost his final four decisions in September. I’m sure he will get a chance to make manager Joe Girardi’s starting rotation right out of spring training.

– Bryan Mitchell – Mitchell had been slated to make the Yankees team out of spring training in 2016 before suffering a grade three turf toe and fractured sesamoid bone in his foot at the tail end of the Grapefruit League. After he recovered, Mitchell returned to make five starts in September with uneven results. Over his last two starts of 2016, he allowed only 1 earned run over 13 innings. Like Cessa, Mitchell will get a crack at making the Yankees opening day roster as a starter.

– Adam Warren – Warren came back to the Yankees just before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline after he was jettisoned to the Cubs over the previous winter in the Starlin Castro deal. Adam didn’t have the easiest time in the Windy City, but in fairness to him, Joe Maddon couldn’t seem to settle on how to use him. In mid-June, Warren was sent to the Cubs’ Triple-A team in Iowa to get stretched out to be a starter only to return and make one start and then went back to the pen where hitters teed-off on him. After Adam was traded back to New York, he almost immediately returned to his usual reliable self. There’s no place like home. It was like he never left. Warren may get an opportunity to make the rotation, but he seems to do well in his place in the Yankees bullpen.

Posted in MLB