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Yankees 2020 Roster Report Cards: Rookie Arms

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The Yankees tapped into their young arms in 2020, but the results were far from conclusive.

American League Division Series Game 3: New York Yankees v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Yankees were forced to test their pitching depth repeatedly this past season. Injuries to James Paxton, Tommy Kahnle, Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton all impacted the Yankees’ pitching depth during the season. As the Yankees were quiet at the trade deadline, the Scranton shuttle was put to frequent use to keep the pitching staff in good shape. Riding that shuttle was a handful of rookie-pitchers who made their MLB debuts with varying results. Let’s take a look at five young arms who debuted with the Yankees in 2020.

Nick Nelson

Grade: C+

2020 Stats: 11 G, 20.2 IP, 4.79 ERA, 5.56 FIP, 8.7 K/9, 4.8 BB/9, -0.1 bWAR, -0.2 fWAR

2021 Contract Status: Pre-Arbitration, three minor-league option years remaining.

Notified of his promotion to the majors as the Yankees were playing their second game of the season, Nick Nelson recorded the most appearances of any rookie on the team. Nelson’s stat line is not very impressive, but he was a victim of the 2020 small sample size in many ways.

Torched for six earned runs in just 1.2 innings during his second outing of the season, Nelson’s statistics never recovered to show the quality innings that he gave the team. Outside of that one terrible outing Nelson pitched 19 innings, striking out 18, with a 2.37 ERA. He was a very steady piece for the Yankees out of the bullpen. He was able to build on that by tossing two innings of one-hit ball with a pair of strikeouts in the playoffs against Tampa.

If the Yankees choose to continue using Nelson in a bullpen role, there is a good chance he leaves spring training with the team in 2021, or is at least one of the first players called up. If they move him back to the starting rotation, Nelson will likely be spending much of his time in Triple-A.

Brooks Kriske

Grade: I

2020 Stats: 4 G, 3.2 IP, 14.73 ERA, 8.10 FIP, 19.6 K/9, 17.6 BB/9, -0.4 bWAR, -0.1 fWAR

2021 Contract Status: Pre-Arbitration, two minor-league options remaining.

Called up at the same time as Nick Nelson early in the season, Kriske was unable to carve out a consistent role in the Yankees bullpen due to his lack of command. He struck out 36% of the batters he faced, but walked at least one batter in each of his four appearances while throwing two wild pitches. Kriske had never pitched above the Double-A level prior to the season, and will likely benefit from a full season of facing Triple-A hitters.

Miguel Yajure

Grade: I

2020 Stats: 3 G, 7.0 IP, 1.29 ERA, 5.33 FIP, 10.29 K/9, 6.43 BB/9, 0.2 bWAR, 0.0 fWAR

2021 Contract Status: Pre-Arbitration, two minor-league options remaining

The Yankees 2019 minor league pitcher of the year performed well during his brief look at the major league level this year. Rated as having the best control in the Yankees system by Baseball America and registering a 1.9 BB/9 rate in 2019, his high walk rate was the only real knock against Yajure in 2020. He will likely be in either Double-A Somerset or Triple-A Scranton working as a starter next season.

Clarke Schmidt

Grade: I

2020 Stats: 3 G, 6.1 IP, 7.11 ERA, 4.30 FIP, 9.95 K/9, 7.11 BB/9, -0.1 bWAR, 0.1 fWAR

2021 Contract Status: Pre-Arbitration, three minor-league option years remaining.

Perhaps the most anticipated debut of the season belonged to one of the Yankees top prospects in Clarke Schmidt. Fans saw some impressive flashes of potential during Schmidt’s outings, but the overall results show that their is still some work to be done. Schmidt will likely start the season with Triple-A Scranton and almost certainly be up with the Yankees for a significant portion of 2021.

Albert Abreu

Grade: I

2020 Stats: 2 G, 1.1 IP, 20.25 ERA, 16.69 FIP, 13.50 K/9, 13.50 BB/9, -0.3 bWAR, -0.2 fWAR

2021 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration, no minor-league options remaining

It is hard to learn much from a player in just 1.1 innings, but in many ways Abreu lived up to his scouting reports. He flashed the elite stuff that scouts have loved for years but also showed the poor command of his pitches that made them less effective. He worked from the bullpen, which is likely where his future role will be after coming through the system as a starter.

The Yankees received some timely contributions from their young pitching arms this year while others struggled in very small sample sizes. It was hard to draw firm conclusions on the future of many of young arms deployed in 2020, but most of the debuting players offered promising signs that they have a lot to offer the organization moving forward.