It is no surprise that the Yankees have one of the best bullpens in the game heading into 2020, but who are their best arms?
Over the past several years, the bullpen has become one of the more predominant “innovations.” It is now almost a necessity to have a good bullpen in order to succeed. The Yankees over the last few years have had historically good bullpens. They had the consensus best closer of all time in Mariano Rivera and another legendary relief pitcher in Goose Gossage. Like I said before, the Yankees bullpen is one of their biggest strengths. Who are the best pitchers in the bullpen?
Before I start with the rankings, I just want to mention a couple of statistics I will be using in the rankings before we get started, so you understand what I am saying in the numbers. To start, Expected Earned Run Average (xERA) is essentially Expected Weighted on Base Average (xwOBA) on the ERA scale. To summarize what xwOBA is, it measures the quality of contact, without measuring results.
8. Tyler Lyons
2020 ZiPS Projected Stats: 4.39 ERA, 4.41 FIP, 10.54 K/9, 3.29 BB/9, 1.54 HR/9 0.3 pfWAR
With Tyler Lyons, there really is not much to say. He was DFA’d by the Cardinals last season and picked up by the Yankees in August. He pitched relatively well in the playoffs, and he did have a 4.15 xFIP and a 3.47 SIERA, but his 6.06 FIP cannot warrant him being any higher.
7. Jonathan Holder
2020 ZiPS Projected Stats: 4.45 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 9.64 K/9, 3.12 BB/9, 1.48 HR/9, 0.5 pfWAR
Hated enthusiastically by many Yankee fans, Holder had a down year in 2019. His 3.78 xERA was not bad at all, but it was a down year relative to 2018, where he had a 3.52 xERA, 3.04 FIP, and a 1.2 fWAR. He is certainly overhated by Yankee fans and would be higher on a lot of team’s bullpen lists. However, because the Yankees bullpen is so strong, Holder falls in at #7 for me.
6. Luis Cessa
2020 ZiPS Projected Stats: 4.70 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 8.30 K/9, 3.40 BB/9, 1.50 HR/9, 0.7 pfWAR
I am a huge Luis Cessa fan. My twitter name is Luis Cessa Stan. I was extremely close to putting him over the guy who will be next on my list. In 2019, Cessa was alright. He had a 3.80 xERA, 4.51 xFIP, and a 0.1 fWAR. I think the biggest plus with Cessa is his slider. The horizontal break on his slider is -3.9 vs. average, and his vertical break is 38.6 inches of drop. His whiff% is just above average at 29.6, and his barrel% is above average as well at 5.1. I think Luis Cessa is a great potential breakout candidate for the upcoming 2020 season.
5. Adam Ottavino
2020 ZiPS Projected Stats: 3.49 ERA, 3.89 FIP, 12.74 K/9, 5.31 BB/9, 1.06 HR/9, 0.7 pfWAR
Unlike Cessa, I am not a fan of Adam Ottavino. Although in 2019 his ERA was 1.90, which is very good, but he had a 4.32 xFIP, and a 14.2 BB% which are all not encouraging signs. His 3.18 xERA was not bad either, and either was his 3.40 pCRA. Overall, if Ottavino can get more command of his pitches, he has the makings to jump ahead of the next player on my list.
4. Zack Britton
2020 ZiPS Projected Stats: 3.48 ERA, 3.72 FIP, 8.19 K/9, 4.53 BB/9, 0.52 HR/9, 0.6 pfWAR
Like Ottavino, Britton’s stellar ERA is rather deceiving, as last year he had a 3.74 FIP, 3.59 xFIP, 3.81 SIERA, 3.23 xERA, and a 4.82 pCRA. His 12.6 BB% also was not great, so I am a bit concerned that he might regress, especially due to his lack of control. Overall, Britton comes in at #4 behind these next three relief pitchers, who I would consider elite.
3. Tommy Kahnle
2020 ZiPS Projected Stats: 3.42 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 12.61 K/9, 3.90 BB/9, 1.14 HR/9, 0.8 pfWAR
2018 was definitely a down year for Kahnle, as he was hiding an injury throughout the entire year. However, in 2019 Kahnle was elite. Although he had a 3.33 FIP, 2.69 xFIP, 2.79 SIERA, 2.97 xERA, and a 1.1 fWAR. I think he can take an even bigger step forward, similar to his 2017 season where he had a 1.53 FIP, 2.53 xERA, 2.25 SIERA, and a 2.1 fWAR. Overall, Kahnle is one of my favorite players on the Yankees, as he comes in at #3 in my bullpen rankings.
2. Chad Green
2020 ZiPS Projected Stats: 3.27 ERA, 3.46 FIP, 12.11 K/9, 2.66 BB/9, 1.33 HR/9, 1.7 pfWAR
Coming in at #2, we have Chad Green. Green had somewhat of a down year, as his start to the season was not great. After spending some time in Triple-A and taking on the opener role, he was spectacular. He had a 2.60 ERA, 3.74 xFIP, and a 28.0 K-BB%. One thing that someone could find alarming is that he had a 4.63 FIP, and a 4.79 xFIP in high leverage situations. However, I do think he can go back to his 2018 form, where he was much better.
1. Aroldis Chapman
2020 ZiPS Projected Stats: 2.61 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 14.46 K/9, 4.35 BB/9, 0.87 HR/9, 1.2 pfWAR
Coming in at #1 is Aroldis Chapman. The legendary closer had another fantastic season last season, racking up a 2.1 fWAR in 57.0 innings pitched. We all know how dominant Chapman has been in a Yankee uniform and expect him to keep that production up for the near future.