The Yankees had a strong pitching season overall in 2021. They finished fourth in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) with 22.3, and had the sixth-lowest ERA with 3.76 even though they experienced many significant injuries.
However, there were still some disappointing performers, and others who impressed but couldn’t contribute more for one reason or another. These five hurlers have the tools to succeed, but need one or more things to fully click to cement a break out. In some cases, health is the only requisite, while others need to develop another pitch or just throw strikes consistently.
These five Yankees are poised to take the next step in the 2022 campaign.
It seems like he has been around forever, but Schmidt was only drafted in 2017 and lost a year to Tommy John surgery. He doesn’t have many professional innings under his belt. With him, it’s all about health and consistency.
Between 2020 and 2021, he only threw 12.2 innings at the major league level, which is certainly not enough to draw any conclusions. He could definitely take a step forward in 2022 with a normal offseason, further removed from the elbow injury that stole most of his 2021.
He has 25.2 good Triple-A innings in 2021 to build from, in which he had a 2.10 ERA and struck out 11.2 hitters per nine frames. He is one to watch in 2022.
Ridings impressed with easy upper-90s gas during five relief outings in August. Not only did he average around 97 mph with the heater (according to Statcast, he actually has a four-seamer and a sinker), but he threw 19 sliders and had a bonkers 80 percent whiff rate.
Ridings was such a sudden appearance that he will need to validate his strong 2021 numbers (1.24 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 29 innings between Double-A and Triple-A; 1.80 ERA in five MLB frames) over a much larger sample. A mystery injury kept him out of action since August, but he should theoretically enter the 2022 spring training with a clean bill of health and a chance to fight for a bullpen spot.
Control is the main problem for Albert Abreu. He handed out 5.9 free passes per nine innings in 16.2 Triple-A frames, and 4.7 BB/9 in 36.2 MLB innings. This isn’t necessarily an easy fix, but there has always been talent in Abreu’s right arm.
He had some good stretches in 2021. For example, during a span of 21 frames between August 2 and September 16, he ran a 3.00 ERA with 22 strikeouts. But occasional walk and homer issues make him prone to big innings. He will need to correct those issues if he wants to fully break out.
Luis Gil’s potential is extremely exciting, but he showed in 2021 that he’s just not quite there yet. There is no shame in that, and the Yankees can probably afford to have him open the 2022 campaign in Triple-A, a level that, despite his electrifying showings in the majors this year, he still hasn’t mastered.
Gil has big fastball velocity (88th percentile) and spin (90th percentile), which gives him a nice ceiling and big bat-missing ability. There are two problems at present: walks (5.92 per nine in Triple-A and 5.83 in MLB) and the development of his changeup.
The pitch had a .529 xwOBA in 2021, and he threw it only 7.3 percent of the time. He needs to hone his arsenal to fully unlock his vast potential. He is a breakout candidate for 2022 if he makes strides with it his repertoire.
At this point, we know the deal with Deivi. Until he shows he can consistently throw the ball in the strike zone, he can’t be considered for a spot on the big league staff. García handed out 6.8 walks per nine innings over 90.2 Triple-A frames in 2021, which is untenable.
However, let’s utilize some perspective. He is still 22-years-old, and has a pedigree as a legitimate top prospect. Writing him off because he struggled for a season would be foolish, but he does need to show some progress in 2022.
After the failed 2021 campaign, the Yankees will likely come up with a plan that better suits Deivi’s talents, and it’s not that hard to imagine him having a bounceback season. If he can manage it, he could fine himself back in the Yankees’ major league plans sooner rather than later.