2015 Statistics: AA/AAA: 1.27 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, 42.2 IP
2016 Contract Status: 40-man roster, pre-arb
James Pazos never seemed to be a priority when it came to the Yankees calling up prospects. Joe Girardi has given him a tangential look in spring training before, but the left-hander has never made much of an impression for very long. Drafted in 2012, he moved through the system slower than most college relievers. He never seemed to have much of an issue at any level, but his control problems seemed to hold him back just enough to keep him out of the big league picture, at least until September 2015.
This year just so happened to be one of Pazos' best, maintaining a career-low 1.27 ERA and 10.3 K/9 in 42.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. With a 3.27 K/BB, he seemed like someone who could be of some use to the major league team. Unfortunately for him, the Yankees were more than set on lefty relievers with Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson pitching well in the first half of the season and Chris Capuano and Jacob Lindgren also floating around. After the failure of Chris Carpenter and the move of Adam Warren to the rotation, it was right-handed pitching the team needed, which is why we saw so much of Nick Goody, Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, and Caleb Cotham instead.
It wasn't until Chasen Shreve fell apart at the end of the season that a need for another lefty really came up. With Lindgren out for the remainder of the season, it fell to Pazos to replace Shreve as the second lefty in the bullpen and he ended up doing a pretty decent job for the short sample size he was given. While every other call-up proved to be ineffective, Pazos was able to pitch five scoreless innings over 11 games as a left-on-left matchup reliever. He did well enough that the Yankees decided to place him on their playoff roster for the Wild Card Game, even after Joe Girardi seemed determined to fix Shreve right up to the last week of the season.
Now that he's on the 40-man roster, Pazos won't be eligible for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. Heading into his age-25 season, he's still young and could make it as a member of a big league team. The Yankees have plenty of relief options down on the farm, so there's no guarantee he has a place right away. He probably heads into spring training as insurance for Shreve, in case he still can't get anyone out. He might stick around for a bit, but it won't be a surprise if the Yankees end up jettisoning him in favor of someone a little more valuable. Between Wilson, Shreve, Lindgren, and Tyler Webb, the Yankees are likely set in the left-handed reliever department. That being said, I wouldn't give up on Pazos becoming a regular middle relief option for the Yankees next year just yet.