New York Yankees: Which of the internal options could step up in the bullpen?

New York Yankees, Jonathan Holder
Jun 24, 2019; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Jonathan Holder (56) is taken out of the game after giving up five runs against the Toronto Blue Jays during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees‘ bullpen would be in shambles if it wasn’t for Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and Zack Britton. It’s that simple. It’s sad to see a unit that used to have six or seven reliable arms not so long ago reduced to only three trustworthy relievers.

In fact, it was evident that New York Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone only trusted these three guys in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers absolutely need to shore up their bullpen if they are going to re-take the division crown in 2021.

They could consider free agent signings like Trevor May or Liam Hendriks, if they are willing to splash the cash. They could also scout the trade market to see if they can land a relief ace or at least a solid arm or two.

But, for the Yankees, it is also important to develop from within. They have some interesting arms in the roster, so who could make that leap into the circle of trust? Who could step up and claim a spot in that select group of relievers that the manager can use at any moment of the game?

Candidates to take the next step in the Yankees’ bullpen

Domingo German: The right-hander had a breakout in the first half of 2019, but then things started going wrong both on and off the field. He was suspended for the 2020 season and will return in 2021, but at what capacity? He has an explosive fastball and he can go all-out as a reliever, he has a plus curveball and a good changeup, and he’s significantly better the first time through the order (3.87 ERA) than the secondf (4.62) or third (7.38.) He could be a bullpen candidate.

Nick Nelson: The rookie finished with a 4.79 ERA in 2020, but if we take away an outing against the Phillies in which he was performing mop-up duty and the Yankees didn’t want to burn more pitchers (aka: he was left on the mound until he got the three outs to end the inning, allowing six runs in 1.2 frames) he would have finished with a 2.37 ERA. Nelson racked up the strikeouts and has a good, rising fastball, which is the ultimate weapon for relievers. He needs to take step forward with his control and command, though.

Jonathan Loaisiga: With Lasagna, the main issue is the lack of fastball command. He actually had a decent regular season (3.52 ERA, 4.41 FIP) but is too homer prone to be relied on a consistent basis. He still has considerable upside, though, but if he doesn’t cut the mistake pitches, he won’t realize it.

Adam Ottavino: The expensive 2019 free agent signing had a poor season by an ERA standpoint (5.89) but had a good FIP (3.52.) He wasn’t as bad as his ERA suggests, but his days as an elite weapon against tough righties seem to be over, and that’s not what the Yankees signed.

Luis Cessa: The righty had a good 3.32 ERA and a 3.79 FIP, but wasn’t particularly dominant (18.3 K%.) For some reason, the Yankees don’t seem to trust him in all spots and situations, but he could earn that status with an extended look on the strength of his good slider. He needs his fastball to miss more bats, though.

Jonathan Holder: He started the season strong, but ended it in disappointing fashion, with a 4.98 ERA and a 5.22 FIP. He’s been successful before, but his ceiling is not extremely high. The Yankees need a good season from him, though, to take the burden off the top guys.

Mike King: The groundball specialist is a decent pitcher, but the strikeout upside is just not there for him to be an elite option. He could be serviceable, though, if tried in the bullpen full-time by the New York Yankees.

The rookies: Miguel Yajure, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Brooks Kriske and Clarke Schmidt all have electrifying stuff, but it is a matter of one or several of them standing out in spring training. That could lead to a role in the big league bullpen.

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