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Yankees 2020 Roster Report Cards: Miscellaneous Relievers

The Yankees’ bullpen is in a state of flux. They were dying for one of their lesser arms to grab the bull by the horns. They didn’t get it from these three guys.

New York Yankees v New York Mets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

As we wrap up our Report Card series, we enter the more obscure realms of players to appear for the Yankees in 2020. On the docket for today: a miscellany of low-leverage relievers. This trio of bullpen arms received minimal playing time, and therefore all merited incomplete grades. Regardless, let’s look at their performances in limited action.

David Hale

Grade: I

2020 Statistics (with Yankees): five games, 6.0 IP, 3.00 ERA, 2.36 FIP, 3.32 xFIP, 10.5 K/9, 4.5 BB/9, 0.1 fWAR

2021 Contract Status: Avoided arbitration, signed through 2021, $850,000 with Phillies

Hale was quietly one of the more effective multi-innings relievers for the Yankees over the last three seasons. He pitched to a 2.98 ERA and 3.55 FIP in 54.1 innings from 2018 to 2020. He did this by limiting home runs - less than one surrendered per nine - and inducing a ground ball rate of 48.3% with the Yankees.

Hale continued this steady performance in 2020, though it was not enough to keep him in pinstripes. He was designated for assignment on August 17th to clear a roster space for Aroldis Chapman, who was returning from the COVID-19 restricted list. The Yankees traded him to the Phillies four days later for reliever Addison Russ. Hale was not quite as steady in Philadelphia, with an elevated 4.09 ERA and 4.55 FIP in 11 innings, but given the historically bad state of their bullpen, Philly saw fit to keep him around for at least another season.

Ben Heller

Grade: I

2020 Statistics: six games, 6.0 IP, 3.00 ERA, 7.52 FIP, 5.44 xFIP, 9.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, -0.1 fWAR

2021 Contract Status: Avoided arbitration, signed through 2021, $625,000

2020 was another mostly-lost season for the injury-plagued righty, as a biceps injury limited Heller to only six appearances. Heller has seen much of his potential sapped by injury since breaking into the league in 2016, including missing all of 2018 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Nonetheless, the Yankees renewed their faith in him, signing him to a one year contract to avoid arbitration.

Heller has always possessed strikeout stuff, averaging just over 10.0 K/9 across the last two seasons, he just has trouble keeping the ball in the ballpark. This was especially true in 2020, when he gave up two long balls in six innings innings of work. Also worrying is the loss of velocity on his fastball, which is down almost three mph from his debut season, causing one to question whether the litany of injuries have diminished his stuff.

Tyler Lyons

Grade: I

2020 Statistics: one game, 1.2 IP, 21.60 ERA, 6.79 FIP, 9.11 xFIP, 0 K/9, 5.4 BB/9, 0 fWAR

2021 Contract Status: Under team control, not on 40-man roster

There’s not much to say about Lyons’ 2020 performance other than he was a non-factor for the Yankees. Originally acquired from the Pirates in 2019, he was part of the group of September call-ups that ate innings in the final few weeks of the regular season to give the postseason contributors some much-needed rest. He gave up four earned runs in his lone appearance of the 2020 season, and was promptly outrighted to the alternate site two days later.

There is always a need for back-end relievers to eat up the garbage time innings. Unfortunately, the Yankees only managed a grand total of 13.2 innings out of this trio. Hale is no longer with the organization, Heller has yet to make a positive impact, and it remains to be seen what role if any Lyons will play going forward. The Yankees would love to gain more meaningful contributions from the two who remain with the team, but expectations are low.