Yankees should refuse to trade one rising pitcher

mlb: game one-new york yankees at boston red sox, michael king
Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees, while eyeing international star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, also have a developing talent within their ranks. Michael King, a 28-year-old right-handed pitcher, has shown promise in the bullpen and may be ready to transition to the starting rotation full-time after a strong performance in the 2023 season.

King’s Impressive 2023 Season

King delivered a career-high 104.2 innings in 2023, overcoming a previous elbow injury. His impressive statistics include a 2.75 ERA, a 3.13 FIP, and an average of 10.92 strikeouts per nine innings. He also maintained an 81.1% left-on-base rate and a 42.8% ground ball rate, showcasing his ability to effectively manage innings.

“I think I have even more reinforcement in there [the elbow],” King said . “Knock on wood, I had zero issues the whole year. … I’m looking forward to seeing how we go 150-plus innings.”

mlb: milwaukee brewers at new york yankees, michael king
Sep 9, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees relief pitcher Michael King (34) pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Standout Performances as a Starter

King’s statistics as a starter are particularly notable. He achieved a 2.02 ERA and a 2.41 FIP over 35.2 innings, with an 86.2% left-on-base rate and a 34.8% ground ball rate. One of his standout performances was against the Toronto Blue Jays, where he struck out 13 batters over seven innings.

“I’d say [it went] probably better than anyone anticipated — not to discount his ability, but you just never know when you start opening up how the stuff’s going to look,” pitching coach Matt Blake said following the end of the 2023 season.

With starters typically commanding higher salaries, King is positioned to potentially secure a lucrative long-term deal. His potential to become an ace-level pitcher is evident, but he will need to increase his innings pitched to reach this status.

Diving into King’s advanced metrics, he ranks highly in strikeout rate and hard-hit rate. His off-speed run value is particularly impressive, indicating the effectiveness of his breaking pitches. His pitch arsenal includes a sinker, sweeper, four-seam fastball, and change-up, with his four-seam fastball being particularly effective.

Future Prospects with the Yankees

As King continues to develop, the Yankees face the decision of whether to leverage him in a trade or to keep him and build around his talents. While he could be an attractive piece in a trade for a player like Juan Soto, the Yankees might be better served by retaining one of their top-rising pitchers, especially given the rotation’s unreliability last year.

The Yankees should consider continuing King’s development, recognizing his potential as he surpasses the 100-inning mark without signs of decline. Unless an irresistible trade offer presents itself, King should remain a key part of the Yankees’ pitching plans for the upcoming season.

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