Entering the season with expanded 30-man rosters, Michael King was a strong bet to start the season with the Yankees in 2020 season. The Yankees 2018 minor league pitcher of the year had rebounded from an elbow injury during spring training to make his major league debut near the end of the 2019 season. King broke camp with the Yankees and has remained with the big league club the entire way this season. As the Yankees look for ways to maximize their talent, breaking down King’s splits could be the key to getting the most out of his performance.
Working as both a starter and reliever, King has pitched 22 innings for the Yankees this season. In both pitching roles the Yankees have asked King to give them valuable innings, as both their starting rotation and bullpen have faltered at times. In his first six outings King pitched at least three innings but was often stretched a few batters too far, resulting in his 6.14 ERA and negative WAR so far this year.
Many young pitchers struggle to get through major league lineups multiple times and King is no different. King has faced 38 hitters for a second time this season and they are slashing .294/.368/.500 off him. From an OPS perspective, he is turning hitters into Xander Bogaerts the second time through the order. This is after limiting opponents to a .200 BAA while facing them the first time.
While proving to be vulnerable to opponents the second time through, King has shown that he is more than a one inning pitcher. He has done his best work from pitches 26-50 of his outings, limiting opponents to a .547 OPS.
There are some more bright spots for King if you dig into his statcast data. Opponents average just an 85.6 mph exit velocity off him, which puts him in the 90th percentile of all major league pitchers. His hard hit percentage puts him even slightly higher in the 93rd percentile.
Over the course of a normal and longer season, the Yankees would likely be inclined to continue pushing King with the expectation that he could continue to learn his way through opposing lineups. With the short 2020 season — and the Yankees struggles over the last month — the time has come for them to focus on what their players do best.
King can be deployed effectively in a multi-inning role, but Aaron Boone and the staff need to be cognizant of were King has repeatedly found trouble. In their attempts to find innings from a struggling pitching staff the Yankees have left King out there several batters too long on multiple occasions.
Michael King can still develop into a viable major league starter in the near future, but he is not there yet. His last hurdle will be developing the tools, both mental and physical, to maneuver through strong major league lineups more than once. With the Yankees struggling to win games they need to put King in his best position to help the team, and as of right now that does not include a second time through the opponent’s batting order.