The Yankees discovered a bullpen gem who hits free agency in 2029

mlb: new york yankees at tampa bay rays, ian hamilton
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees may have had their struggles during the 2023 season, but they unearthed a few diamonds in the rough—especially in their pitching staff. While general manager Brian Cashman failed to secure any high-profile hitters, he did discover Ian Hamilton. This 28-year-old right-handed pitcher (RHP) has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in the Yankees bullpen.

Hamilton is set to hit free agency only in 2029, and he will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2026. Given these contractual conditions, it’s conceivable that he may spend the bulk of his MLB career in pinstripes.

Hamilton, a budget-friendly addition, delivered an impressive .219 ERA, 11 strikeouts per nine innings, a 79.4% left-on-base rate, and a 56.8% ground-ball rate across 53.1 innings this season. Before his New York Yankees journey, Hamilton had brief stints with the Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, and Cleveland Guardians. Although he had only clocked about 15 MLB innings prior to this season, the Yankees’ pitching staff identified untapped potential in the right-hander.

Stats and Skills: Hamilton’s Dominance in Percentiles

Hamilton has performed exceptionally well in percentile rankings, signaling his elite skills. Specifically, his whiff rate stands at 35.2%, ranking him in the 95th percentile. Additionally, his strikeout rate places him in the 90th percentile. These impressive numbers are backed by his 94th percentile ground-ball rate at 57.6%. He also possesses a versatile arsenal of pitches, including a slider, sinker, and four-seam fastball, which he deploys effectively.

The ‘Slambio’: A Game-Changing Pitch

Unique to Hamilton is a pitch that the Yankees affectionately refer to as the “slambio”—a creative blend of a slider and a change-up. This pitch has been responsible for a 42.6% whiff rate and a 26.4% put-away rate during the current season. Moreover, it exhibits -73% horizontal movement compared to the average MLB pitcher. This distinctive characteristic allows the pitch to initially appear as a slider before diving vertically, effectively tricking opposing batters.

Versatility and Dependability: Hamilton’s Value to the Yankees

Hamilton has proven to be a versatile component of the Yankees’ bullpen. Whether it’s closing games, opening them, or coming in for middle-inning relief, he fits the bill. His reliability is the key attribute that sets him apart. Although he’s faced some injuries this year—understandable, considering he hasn’t thrown this many innings since 2021, when he pitched 59 innings for Minnesota’s Triple-A team—Hamilton has overcome these hurdles effectively.

In a tradition of developing high-quality relief pitchers, the Yankees may have found another star in Ian Hamilton. He not only has the stats but also the versatility and resilience that could elevate him to elite status in the coming seasons.

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