Ever since coming to the Yankees along with Chad Green before the 2016 season, Luis Cessa has been a fan favorite—punching bag, that is. Constantly flipped between Scranton and New York, the rotation and the bullpen, the 27-year-old never truly has shined in pinstripes. Although there’s a lot of value in a guy who can fill a variety of roles semi-competently, fans hoped to see him enter the game as little as possible.
In 2019, his first season as a full-time reliever, that began to change.
2019 Statistics*: 81 IP, 4.11 ERA, 4.87 FIP, 108 ERA+, 8.3 K/9, 3.4 BB/9, 1.309 WHIP
2020 Contract Status*: last year of pre-arbitration control; earliest free agency after 2023
While the pitching line appears unremarkable, it does not tell the full story. To begin, Cessa’s season was remarkably inconsistent, with his month-by-month ERA of 4.15 in April, 2.13 in May, 7.04 in June, 1.50 in July, 4.24 in August, and 4.91 in September. Additionally, in 22 of his 43 appearances, he held opposing hitters scoreless, accounting for 44 of his 81 innings. When Cessa got hot, he could be unhittable. Unfortunately for the Yankees, despite the hope that keeping him in one role might induce some consistency, he remained one of their streakiest pitchers.
Even so, Cessa provideded the Yankees with something that they lacked at times this season: a reliever able to provide multiple quality innings. Albeit only serving as the bulk pitcher in one game—a 12-8 victory over the Red Sox on June 30, in which he tosed four scoreless innings Cessa was a vital member of the bullpen game group. He frequently bridged the middle innings after the bulk man, and on occasion, he saved the bullpen’s big arms in blowouts by eating up innings.
He followed up his season with two big performances out of the bullpen in the ALCS, shutting down Houston’s offense by pitching two scoreless innings apiece in Games Three and Six. This came after he was a no-show in the ALDS.
With a 40-man roster crunch likely coming, and a small army of relievers in the Yankees system, Luis Cessa remains a possible non-tender candidate for the team. Given the strides he has shown this season and the importance of having a reliable innings eater in the bullpen, however, expect to see him back around for fifth season in pinstripes in 2020.
*statistics from Baseball Reference, contract information from Spotrac