Yankees have a lowkey bullpen arm stepping up early this season

MLB: New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees currently have a top-five bullpen in baseball with a 2.40 ERA collectively. The four teams ahead of them are sub 2.00, but the Yankees have gotten the job done, leading them to a 10-3 record to open the season over the first four series.

They are gearing up to face off against the Cleveland Guardians on Friday, and they will support Clarke Schmidt as their primary starter. The bullpen may have to get involved and help if Schmidt can’t push past six innings, but with the unit well-rested over the past few days and getting a few quality starts against the Miami Marlins, it shouldn’t be a problem.

The Yankees Are Getting Great Value From Victor Gonzalez

I wanted to shine some light on one low-key arm that has been solid for the Yankees over the first few weeks of the 2024 campaign. 28-year-old Victor Gonzalez, who the Yankees brought over from the Los Angeles Dodgers, has been excellent over his first five appearances.

Tossing 4.2 innings, Gonzalez hosts a 1.93 ERA, including a 66.7% left-on-base rate and a 50% ground-ball rate. Gonzalez ranks in the 75th percentile in limiting hard-hit percentages and the 66th percentile in ground-ball rate. His average velocity is only 86.7 mph, ranking in the 73rd percentile, suggesting he generates weak contact.

Gonzalez features a sinker and change-up as his primary two pictures, dabbling with a slider on occasion. This season, over 14 pitches, Gonzalez hasn’t given up any contact on his change-up, but opposing batters are hitting .273 against his sinker, generating three hits over 14 plate appearances.

Pitching coach Matt Blake tends to find gems where others forget to look, so it’s no surprise that Gonzalez is offering substantial value early on, even if it means supporting the bullpen until some of the team’s more prominent arms recover from injury. His sinker generates 18 inches of break, 10% more than the average MLB pitcher.

Victor’s change-up averages 86.1 mph and 11% more horizontal movement than the average pitcher, so it is safe to say he has slightly above-average stuff, and the Yankees are capitalizing.

For now, the Yankees wait on Scott Effross, Lou Trivino, and Tommy Kahnle to return from injury. Still, none of them are left-handed arms, which gives Gonzalez a good opportunity to stick around in the bullpen for the duration of the season. Considering he’s only 28, there is upside left to be tapped, and the Yankees have control until 2027. They can continue to develop his stuff moving forward, potentially molding him into a key component in the bullpen.

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