The New York Yankees lost, in the past few weeks, several top relievers. Tommy Kahnle signed elsewhere, Adam Ottavino was traded, Jonathan Holder was non-tendered, and Zack Britton, who remains with the organization unlike the others, suffered an elbow injury and will miss the next couple of months.
The Yankees did bring Darren Oâ€™Day and Justin Wilson in the free agency period, but they will need more help besides the usually formidable Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green pair. Thankfully, guys like Nick Nelson and Jonathan Loaisiga have looked good this spring so far, but there has been one happy surprise among the top performers.
Lucas Luetge, a soon-to-be 34-year-old veteran who hasnâ€™t pitched in the majors since 2015, is currently leading the Yankees in strikeouts with 11. In just five innings of work, Luetge has allowed no runs, two hits and one walk. He looks legit.
Could Luetge be the next great Yankeesâ€™ reliever?
But how has he achieved so much success during Grapefruit League play? Of course, the sample size is small and the New York Yankees know that. But there is one reason that leads us to believe his performance is sustainable: spin rate.
Recently, Mike Axisa posted an article detailing Luetgeâ€™s spin rate increase in all of his pitches. For those who donâ€™t know, the more spin rate a pitch has, the more it will move and, therefore, it will miss more bats.
Perhaps the Yankeesâ€™ Gas Station worked wonders for this veteran. The spin rate of his fastball is now 2,770 rpm, and it was 2,578 back in 2015 (the league average is 2,306.) For his curveball, the rate is 2,866 (it was 2,329 six years ago when he last played in the bigs, and the league average is 2,532.)
He is spinning his slider at 2,801 rpm, whereas it was 1,975 in 2015. The league average is 2,441.
â€œMy spring has gone better than I expected,â€ Luetge said to MLB,com. â€œYou always want to come in starting off good. I didnâ€™t know itâ€™d be this good with the strikeouts, but I just want to keep it rolling. Iâ€™ve been able to throw all my pitches for a strike, and my ball is moving a lot right now.â€
At this point, it is difficult to see the Yankees leaving him out of the Opening Day roster.