Mike King’s success in the bullpen leads to an interesting question for the Yankees over the course of this season. Should King fill in if there is to be an injury or spot start to give guys extended rest?
King’s dominance is no joke, and everyone by now should be well-aware of King’s abilities to come in and get guys out. He has been on a tear to start this season and has been used in every imaginable scenario for a reliever. Many have even started to call for Mike King being named the team’s starting closer. However, another decision is looming in the wings – should the circumstances require – and that is, do the Yankees try to put King back in a starting spot?
King himself has stated that he still wants to be a starting pitcher, and with how refined his repertoire has become over the past two seasons, there’s an argument to be had. King’s move to the bullpen is different than when Dellin Betances converted to a reliever, as King has a very good pitch mix, and Betances truly only had two.
While there is the old homage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” if King can be as dominant across 5 or 6 innings, why not take advantage of that. Corey Kluber’s influence and tips truly did wonders for our glorious King, and now it seems as if every single one of his pitches should be labeled as “filth.”
On the year, he’s been showcasing great command and pitch mix, as a 39% K-BB% speaks for itself. He’s been keying in on his sinker, as he throws it 40% of the time, but is able to toss in the four-seam fastball as well — at 22% of the time. On top of that, he’s thrown his changeup and slurve more than usual — with his slurve registering as his second most thrown pitch at 24% of the time… point is, King is able to go to seemingly any pitch, in any spot, with an oozing confidence. This season, King’s pitching grades are out of this world, at least according to Cameron Grove’s PitchingBot: 60 OVR, 65 STUFF, 55 COMMAND. *It is important to note that early in the year, the command is the least important thing, and of course, with all scouting grades, 60+ is seen as very good.
Over the past two seasons, King has compiled a few spot starts, and I imagine that he would be the first name the Yankees look to if they need a guy to fill in or want to give one of their starters an extra day’s worth of rest. As the season goes on, it’ll be crucial to properly manage innings and utilize pitchers down the stretch, so that come October, the arsenal is fully loaded.
Now, this is all hypothetical, I am a firm believer that King is an elite bullpen guy, but especially seeing some of the higher-touted Yankees prospects struggling in the minors, it is a great option to have. King’s got a sparkling 15.14 K/9 to go with a 0.84 ERA this season as a bullpen arm and is able to answer the call regardless of the moment. Across Medium and High Leverage situations this season, King has pitched 5.1 innings, only surrendering two hits whilst striking out 8. If he is to be tossed into that rotation spot that he has always aimed for, I wouldn’t be against it. It seems as though this iteration of King can be dominant in any role the team sees fit.