New York Yankees Analysis: Yankee 2021 bullpen starting to firm up

New York Yankees, Zack Britton

The New York Yankees were pretty much a non-participant in the baseball Winter Meetings. Their main priorities, although they may have been addressed, there were no results. They didn’t re-sign DJ LeMahieu and didn’t add a much-needed starting pitcher. The only real good news coming out of the meetings is that no team made an offer good enough to steal DJ LeMahieu away from the Yankees as of yet. Still, that remains to be seen.

The only area that may be firming up and giving us a look at the 2021 season is in the Yankee bullpen. Here is what we do know. Tommy Kahnle will miss most if not all of the 2021 season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The top five listed below will carry most of the 2021 load coming out of the bullpen. But if there is anything close to a 162 game season, those stalwarts will need a lot of help. After such a short season this year, the Yankees will have to be careful with all of them, being cautious with how many innings each pitch to prevent injuries. If the Yankees don’t add a number two or three starter that can go deep into games, that will put even more stress on the bullpen.

Although the bullpen may be shaping up, the New York Yankees still need a bullpen arm that can be Tommy Kahnle-like. Especially with an Adam Ottavino, the Yankees find it questionable if he can return to the reliever he was in 2018.

Aroldis Chapman:

Aroldis Chapman is Aroldis Chapman, you know what you’re going to get, and that is not a Mariano Rivera-like closer. He generally gets the job done but scares the hell out of you doing it.  Last season he lost a bit of velocity but is still overpowering. Another question with Chapman is how he has given away the winning run in the postseason for the last two seasons in a row.

Zack Britton:

You may see Zack Britton take a more leading role in closing games this season. He will definitely be the setup man for Chapman. Britton was really impressed last season when in place of Chapman, who had tested positive for the coronavirus, Britton eight straight saves and ended the 60 game season with an ERA of 1.89 in 20 games. There is no question, Britton outpitched Chapman during the last season. Chapman pitched in 13 games with an ERA of 3.09.

Chad Green:

Chad Green will again be an integral part of the bullpen. The season may see him open games, be a middle reliever, and even a setup man. Green is manager Aaron Boone’s most versatile reliever. Green had a very similar year to his performance in 2019; although he improved his ERA to 3.51, he also saved a game for the Yankees this past season. Chad Green will surely play a big part in the 2021 season.

Luis Cessa:

The Yankees tendered Luis Cessa an offer for a contract this year and good reason. Although Cessa’s 2020 campaign was not as good as his best year in, 2019 he is still a workhorse that can be generally counted on in mid relief. You may find his role being shared with the just re-signed Nestor Cortes Jr. They are very similar pitchers.

Adam Ottavino:

Unfortunately, Adam Ottavino is a huge question about whether he will be effective during 2021, especially considering it may very well be a longer season than in 2020. Ottavino lost steam as the 2019 season progressed. In this shortened season, he lost steam even quicker to the point that he was nearly useless. Ottavino pitched 18.1 innings giving up more than a hit per inning with an elevated 5.89 ERA. He followed that up, turning into a disaster in the postseason. He pitched 2/3 of an inning using 16 pitches, walking one, not getting an out, and given up a run for an ERA of 13.50.

Ottavino, like Kahnle, is most often used as a late-inning setup to the setup man. With Kahnle out of the season and Ottavino in question, the Yankees really need that one more quality arm to firm up the season’s bullpen.

The Yankees have several arms they will have to depend upon. One of the biggest pitching questions is what role Jonathan Loisiga will play. He pitched in twelve games, including three games as a starter. Loaisiga, although not consistent, has shown brilliance at times. He had a 3-0 record last season with an ERA of 3.52. What happens with the starting rotation may play a role in where Loaisiga pitches in 2021.

Because of an expected season going for 100 to 162 games and the stress this will put on the bullpen, the Yankees will have to watch how many innings each reliever pitches so that they won’t be worn out for the hopeful postseason.  Brook Kriske, Nick Nelson, Ben Heller, Miguel Yaujer, and newly acquired Nestor Cortes Jr. will be called up to help out.

Again according to what happens with the starting pitching, Clarke Schmidt, Micheal King, Albert Abreu may be used as starters or could aid the relievers. It is most likely that Jordan Montgomery and Deivi Garcia will find their place among the starters no matter what happens.

New York Yankees News: Yankees sign Nestor Cortes Jr., and old friend lefty pitcher

New York Yankees, Nestor Cortes Jr.

The New York Yankees made only one move during the Winter Meetings period, and it wasn’t all that newsworthy. Nevertheless, it was a special day for Nestor Cortez Jr. it was his 26th birthday, and he signed with the New York Yankees. Cortez is a mostly lefty reliever that has been with the Yankees twice before.

The Yankees drafted Cortez out of high school in the 2013 draft. He signed and made his professional debut with The Gulf Coast Yankees of the Rookie League. In 2014, he returned going 1–2 with a 2.27 ERA in 11 games (two starts). Cortés spent 2015 with the Pulaski Yankees, where he compiled a 6–3 record with a 2.26 ERA in 12 games (ten starts). In 2016, he pitched for the Charleston River Dogs. 2016 was a busy year for Cortez Jr. as he worked his way up the Yankee Minor League system, first with the Class A Tampa team, then the Trenton Thunder, and ended up at the AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre Rail Riders.

With the Rail Riders in 2016, he was 7–4 with a 2.06 ERA in 30 games (13 starts).  After the 2017 season, the New York Yankee bullpen was strongest in all of baseball. That being the case, they did not protect Cortes Jr. from the 2017 rule 5 draft. The Baltimore Orioles took advantage of that and picked him up from the Yankees. After pitching for the Orioles in the minor, they promoted him to the majors. He made his Major League debut on March 31, 2018. That year he pitched only 4.2 innings with an ERA of 7.71.

Nestor Cortes Jr.’s second stint with the New York Yankees. On April 13, 2018, he was returned to the New York Yankees. He played in one game for the Trenton Thunder before returning to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, combining for a 6–6 record and a 3.68 ERA in 24 games. Before the 2019 season, the Yankees invited Nestor to spring training with the big club at George M Steinbrenner Field; he pitched well but did not make the team and started the 2019 season back in Scranton.

The Yankees promoted him to the major leagues on May 9. On June 15, he earned his first Major League win, striking out 7 batters and allowing 2 earned runs in 5 innings. 2019 turned out to be his workhorse season in his career. He pitched over 66 innings, mostly in relief, although he did have one start. Although his 5-1 record was impressive, his ERA of 5.67 wasn’t. Again Cortes Jr. found himself on the short end of the stick. The Yankees were not wanting for an extra hand in the bullpen, and he was traded to the Seattle Mariners.

Cortes Jr. was a horrible flop for the Seattle team. He pitched in relief for 4.2 innings in five games with an incredible 15.26 ERA.  Cortes found himself on the injured list on August 15 with a left elbow impingement, and he missed the remainder of the regular season as a result of the injury. When he returned from the IL, he was dropped from the 40 man roster and elected free agency.

Now Nestor is a Yankee again for the third time and has said on Instagram that he is delighted to be back with the team. In the Yankee move, you have to assume that general manager Brian Cashman has knowledge that his poor showing in 2019 was because of his arm injury. This is surely not a blockbuster announcement but does give manager Aaron Boone another option in the bullpen that will be missing Tommy Kahnle all season while he is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The Yankees also know that the big stage at Yankee Stadium is not a problem for Cortes Jr.

 

 

 

New York Yankees trade Nestor Cortes Jr. to the Mariners

New York Yankees, Nestor Cortes Jr.

The New York Yankees finalized a minor trade on Monday afternoon, sending Nestor Cortes Jr. to the Mariners in exchange for international signing bonus pool money.

Cortes pitched in 33 games for the Yankees last season, featuring primarily out of the bullpen with the exception of one outlying start. He logged a 5-1 record with a 5.67 ERA and 69 strikeouts over 66 2/3 innings. Cortes Jr. was an interesting pitcher, using different arm angles to confuse batters and keep his pitches unpredictable.

Unfortunately, his ERA attests to his efficiency on the mound, making this a solid deal for the Yanks, who are heavily involved in the International farm systems.

The biggest concern for the New York Yankees after the trade deadline

New York Yankees, Adam Ottavino

The New York Yankees primary struggle has been with the starting pitching rotation. J.A. Happ struggled against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night, allowing six runs over 5.0 innings pitched. This has been a frequent occurrence for the once trustworthy pitcher.

Having several others on the injured list including CC Sabathia and Luis Severino have limited the success of the rotation as a whole. However, the Yankees have won eight of their last nine games after the July 31 trade deadline.

While the starting rotation has struggled this season, the Yankees might be in for a significant hurdle in regards to their relief pitching. The over usage of the relievers could cause issues down the road with fatigue. The Yankees have relied on the relievers to supplement the deficiencies of the starters.

Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, Zack Britton, Nestor Cortes Jr., and Aroldis Chapman have all been frequent fliers this season on the mound.

Ultimately, the Bombers need their starters to go more innings and produce more quality performance is to ensure that their relievers don’t take the brunt of the damage. Hopefully, they will see the return of Dellin Betances this season as well as Severino, their primary ace. While there is no specific timetable for return, it is expected they will make their debut at some point before the playoffs would be ideal since the quality of teams they will face will elevate exponentially.

Severino has finally begun pitching off amount, five months after learning he would miss a majority of the 2019 regular season. If he can re-join the team and succeed it could give a boost to the other starters who have been picking up the slack in his absence.

Additionally, there have been reports of Yankees minor-league star Deivi Garcia being called up to the majors to help as a relief option. General manager Brian Cashman stated that Garcia would not be used in a starting role to do his inexperience. He can contribute in the bullpen, though.

New York Yankees: Gary Sanchez To The IL With Groin Strain

New York Yankees, Gary Sanchez

The New York Yankees announced today that catcher Gary Sanchez will be heading to the 10-day IL with a groin strain. Sanchez has really struggled of late, and is batting just .102 in July.

Austin Romine will be the starting catcher for now, as Kyle Higashioka has been recalled from AAA to fill the open roster spot as the back-up. Higashioka is 3-for-15 in the majors this year, and is batting .268 with 16 home runs and 40 RBI in the minors.

Additionally, Jonathan Holder was sent back to AAA and Nestor Cortes Jr. will fill his spot. Holder appeared in the series opener against Minnesota, pitching a scoreless inning. Cortes Jr. was likely recalled because he is fresher.

The Sanchez injury isn’t anything the Yankees can’t overcome, and hopefully he will be back to his normal self once he comes back.

New York Yankees: The Man Behind A Lot Of The Bullpen Success

New York Yankees, Chad Green

The New York Yankees have had a dominant bullpen this year, and a lot of the success is attributed to a man that we barely know. Meet Tommy Phelps, the pitching coach for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders.

Phelps has had an enormous impact on the Yankees bullpen this year. He has worked with Nestor Cortes Jr., David Hale, and Steven Tarpley and all three have pitched great in the majors.

Cortes Jr. has pitched 37 and 1/3 innings for the Yankees this year, and has a 4.34 ERA and a 3-0 record. He has often seen several innings of work in bullpen games to transition from the starter (Chad Green) to high leverage guys.

Speaking of Green, Phelps also fixed Chad Green after an awful start to the season. After an ERA of over 16.00 at the end of April, Green has bounced back and has only given up two runs since the end of May.

David Hale has had a breakout season in 2019, and has even seen some high leverage situations. He is also 3-0, and his ERA is just 2.23 over 32 and 1/3 innings.

Stephen Tarpley has an ERA over 7.00, but has emerged as a cheat code to lefties. Lefties have just a .059 average against Tarpley, while righties bat almost .400 against him. Pitching to righties needs to improve, but Tarpley dominates against lefty-heavy lineups.

Jonathan Holder also got off to an awful start to 2019, and is currently in AAA to get fixed like did. He has pitched well of late for the Railriders, and we may see Holder back in the Yankee bullpen soon.

Tommy Phelps has done a fantastic job with pitchers in AAA this season, and his impact has been significantly felt on the Yankees this year.

New York Yankees to make deal for starting pitcher before the trade deadline

Are the New York Yankees interested in trading for Blue Jays pitcher, Marcus Stroman?

It’s only a matter of time before the New York Yankees strike a deal to bring a starting pitcher to the Bronx, it’s just a matter of who. Rumors of options like Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Marcus Stroman and more have plastered headlines the past few weeks.

July 31st marks the trade deadline which is three weeks away and at some point, the Bombers should bring in another pitcher to add to a rotation that seems to be constantly affected by injuries.

What are the New York Yankees going to do?

General manager Brian Cashman commented on the current state of the rotation and if snagging a pitcher would be beneficial, according to his interview on MLB Network:

“Our interest is improving our pitching,” Cashman said. “Certainly the target would be to continue to reinforce the rotation because obviously that’s where the majority of your innings are going to have to come from, and we have a long way to go. Those innings are vitally important. We’re going to target starting pitching, and if not, we’re going to continue to reinforce the bullpen. Bottom line is just trying to add quality to what we already have.”

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The Yankees have been supplementing the loss of pitching with mid-inning relief pitchers. Nestor Cortes Jr., Luis Cessa, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle have been leaned on heavily to pick up the slack.

Still surviving without Luis Severino, who went down with shoulder inflammation during spring training, has succumbed to multiple setbacks. The Yanks rushed him back and it ultimately backfired setting his timetable for return back several months.

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However, he could begin throwing again this weekend, which would begin a long road to a return. Late August seems to be a possible time frame.

CC Sabathia, James Paxton, and Domingo German are all currently dealing with individual injuries. Finding another starter to help fill the gaps has become a necessity.

New York Yankees: Kendrys Morales To The IL

The New York Yankees have traded for Kendrys Morales.

The New York Yankees announced that Kendrys Morales was placed on the IL with a calf strain. Additionally, Mike Tauchman and Nestor Cortes Jr. were called up to fill empty roster spots.

Morales

We aren’t really sure why Morales is on the IL, but we can guess that he injured it sometime during game one of the doubleheader with the Mets.

Morales has been awful for the Yankees. He has the lowest average on the team at .194, and has played terrible defense. All of that adds up to a -0.8 WAR.

Let’s Tauch About It! (Look, Another Crummy Mike Tauchman Joke)

Mike Tauchman is back in the bigs after some time in AAA, and is reappearing in his hometown of Chicago. Tauchman has a .211 average in 95 major league at-bats, and is batting .296 with AAA Scranton.

The Yankees also recalled Nestor Cortes Jr, but he’s been a frequent rider on the Scranton Shuttle of late.

While Morales is down, the Yankees will be rolling with an extra outfielder. Doing so gives more playing time to their all-star infield, while hopefully taking Clint Frazier out of the field more to work on his defense.

Now is probably a good place to state that Gary Sanchez, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, DJ LeMahieu, and Gio Urshela will all be all-stars if they continue to get votes at the rate they are now. If voting ended today, Sanchez and Voit would be starters, too. (Vote here)

But, the injury of Kendrys Morales has no negative impact for the Yankees. If anything, it just helps the Yankees, getting him and his sub .200 average out of the lineup.

Poor Bullpen Management Finally Bites New York Yankees Against Tampa

New York Yankees, Zack BRitton

On Saturday, the New York Yankees fell to the Tampa Bay Rays by a score of 7-2.

However, the score was close for most of the game. A few decisions regarding the bullpen over the last few days may of been the reason for the lopsided loss.

A fresh-ish Kahnle

A lot of people were left asking why Tommy Kahnle didn’t pitch on Saturday. His ERA has been one of the best in baseball, sitting at 1.13.

Kahnle was used on Thursday and Friday, but got it done so efficiently that he threw just 18 total pitches over an inning each outing. He would of likely been fine to pitch a third day in a row.

Green was available

The Yankees also mentioned before the Tampa series began that reliever Chad Green was about ready to rejoin the team from Scranton during the weekend. The plan is that Green would not appear in anymore AAA games, and his next outing would be an MLB outing.

If the Yankees needed a fresh arm, I don’t understand why you don’t just call him up. He could potentially give you two innings with his revamped stuff.

Why inning-by-inning doesn’t always work.

With guys pitching an inning a night, it allows them to pitch multiple nights in a row. If a pitcher throws multiple innings in an outing, they likely become unavailable the next night.

Well, the Yankees threw all of their big guys on Thursday and Friday, those being Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, and Aroldis Chapman.

You know that if you have several close games in a row, you will want to have you best pitchers throw, right?

In the Yankees mindset, if there would be three close games in a row, it would be on the low-leverage guys to get the job done.

Instead of throwing all four big guys for two nights in a row, plan so you have say Kahnle and Chapman throw one night, and have throw Britton and Ottavino the next, each pitcher throwing two innings. So each pitcher would throw two innings, then get a night off. Then, stick a low-leverage guy in there if you get a short start or are forced to do so in a long game. But, extra innings games often see all of your high leverage pitchers anyway.

Since the Yankees had none of their good arms ready on Saturday, Jonathan Holder and Nestor Cortes Jr. came in and combined to give up five runs over three innings.

Maybe if Aaron Boone had better bullpen management, the Yankees would be able to win a few more games. The management of his bullpen is one of the two things holding the team back, the other obviously being injuries.