Yankees’ newly acquired bullpen arm flashes signs of quality

mlb: chicago white sox at oakland athletics, keynan middleton, yankees
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

While the New York Yankees may have had a subdued trade deadline, General Manager Brian Cashman brought two bullpen arms on board. The acquisitions of Keynan Middleton from the Chicago White Sox and Spencer Howard from the Texas Rangers aim to enhance the Yankees’ bullpen, despite it already having the best ERA in the game.

Keynan Middleton: A Solid Addition

Middleton made his Yankees debut in Friday night’s match against the Houston Astros. He struck out two batters in a single inning, needing just 10 pitches. Middleton has previously logged a 3.96 ERA with 11.64 strikeouts per nine across 36.1 innings for the White Sox this season. With 194 MLB games under his belt, Middleton has accumulated 181 innings and recorded a 3.98 ERA.

Middleton, a relief pitcher with upside, could be the target for Coach Matt Blake’s next project. Utilizing a change-up, slider, and fastball combination, Middleton’s change-up has a .217 batting average against this year with a 35.3% whiff rate and 21.3% put-away rate.

The Power of Middleton’s Four-Seam Fastball

His four-seam fastball has proven particularly effective, generating a .133 batting average against with a 33.8% whiff rate. With impressive velocity reaching up to 96 mph, the right-handed pitcher could prove a great value addition for the Yankees, especially during his contract year.

Middleton, who signed a one-year, $1 million deal, will become a free agent after the 2023 season. However, the Yankees may be able to secure his services again on a cost-effective contract.

Middleton’s Performance Against the Astros

In the game against the Astros, Middleton threw 10 pitches, including six sliders, two fastballs, and two change-ups. Despite his slider being his weakest pitch this year, it featured predominantly, likely to exploit specific hitting matchups.

Interestingly, of his 10 pitches, only three were clearly in the strike zone. However, he still managed to achieve two strikeouts.

Assessing Yankees’ Trade Deadline Strategy

The Yankees’ strategy of investing solely in bullpen pieces at the deadline has been a source of some frustration, given the team’s need for a significant offensive boost.

Unfortunately, the right deals didn’t present themselves to Cashman, leaving the Yankees in limbo between buying and selling. The upcoming off-season will be intriguing for the team as they look to restructure and position themselves more competitively for 2024 and beyond.

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