On Saturday, the Yankees made the official announcement that they were going to be bringing Brett Gardner back for his 13th season in pinstripes. In a somewhat surprising move, the team designated Stephen Tarpley for assignment to make room on the roster for Gardner. Tarpley was ineffective for most, if not all of the 2019 season, but he did show some promise at times. Because he most likely won’t be back with the team next year, it now gives some Yankees prospects a clear path to break in to the league.
Tarpley, a 26-year-old southpaw, made his major league debut in 2018 where he made a good impression and showed he has the potential be a lefty weapon out of the bullpen in the future. However, his 2019 season did not go as planned. He pitched to a 6.93 ERA and 5.69 FIP, and allowed opponents to hit .330 against him. He had impressive seasons in the minors in 2017 and 2018, but he wasn’t able to translate his work to the next level in the big leagues.
Besides not performing to the best of his abilities, one of the factors leading to the decision to DFA Tarpley was the “three-batter minimum” rule change being put in place this upcoming season. The rule requires pitchers to either face a minimum of three batters in an appearance or pitch to the end of a half-inning, with exceptions for injuries. Because Tarpley was mainly used as a lefty specialist, the Yankees had to take this rule into account. Unfortunately for him, this will seemingly spell the end of his career in the Bronx, at least for now.
With Tarpley being designated for assignment, his spot in the bullpen has opened for the taking. Prospects like Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt and Albert Abreu have the opportunity to break into the league by winning a back-end role in the Yankees bullpen. Yes, all three of those names are potential starting pitchers, but like many others have done, they can get a feel for the game at the major league level if they enter out of the ‘pen.
In a possible attempt to be called-up last September, Garcia did get a good amount of work in relief. He’s currently the Yankees top prospect. If he’s able to win the back-end relief role out of spring training, it would help his growth as a pitcher being only 20-years-old, rather than throwing him out into the fire as a starting pitcher.
Another young arm that can get the call-up to the Bronx soon is Albert Abreu. He is 24-years-old and is expected to make it to the majors this season, according to MLB.com. The main issue with Abreu is his command of his pitches. Getting some reps in the bullpen before making a push towards the starting rotation could help him work on locating his pitches better. Although, with a fastball like his that can touch the upper-90s, the bullpen could be the best fit for him.
Clarke Schmidt has received a lot of buzz this offseason. He has gotten great recognition and some see him as the pitching prospect with the best chance to make the major league roster this year. If not, he could still force his way onto the team with continued success in the minors. He’s highly regarded as an intelligent pitcher and 2020 could be his coming out party.