When Brian Cashman traded Justin Wilson to Detroit during the winter of 2015 for two minor league pitchers, some reporters questioned the move. The lefty was coming off a strong 2015 campaign, but the Yankees were searching for starting rotation depth by acquiring Luis Cessa and Chad Green. Both pitchers have become regulars on the Yankees’ pitching staff and while they have not carved out their roles in the rotation, Green has become one of the most reliable relievers in baseball over the last four seasons.
After struggling as a starter in 2016, Green found his footing in the Yankees bullpen and is ninth among MLB relievers in fWAR since 2017. He has accomplished this while working in a variety of roles, shifting from long relief to high-leverage and late-game situations, while also even being effectively deployed as an opener. With the departure of Adam Ottavino and Tommy Kahnle, it is possible that Green’s role will change again this year, but he will certainly be counted on to bridge the middle innings to Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman at the end of the game.
2020 Stats: 25.2 IP, 3.51 ERA, 4.17 FIP, 0.82 WHIP, 1 SV, 11.2 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 1.8 HR/9, 0.4 bWAR, 0.2 fWAR
2021 FanGraphs Depth Chart Projections: 63 IP, 3.39 ERA, 3.53 FIP, 2 SV, 11.94 K/9, 2.72 BB/9, 1.2 fWAR
While not his best statistical season, Green continued to be an elite pitcher in 2020 and had impressive underlying metrics. He ranked in the 95th percentile of major league pitchers for hard hit rate, and was even high in categories such as xERA, xBA, and xwOBA.
Since emerging as a bullpen weapon, Green has heavily utilized his four-seam fastball. He has thrown the pitch at least 66.1 percent of the time every year since 2017, and that continued with a 73.9 percent usage rate in 2020. The fastball is extremely effective due to its average 95.5 mph velocity combined with some of the best spin rates in baseball.
Armed with one great pitch, Green has continued to work on his complimentary pitches. Over the years, he has used a slider and — at times — a split finger for his main secondary offerings, but that changed in 2020. Green scraped the slider and moved to a curveball, which he used nearly 25 percent of the time last season.
Green was not affected by the three-batter minimum rule that debuted in 2020, as he has never had a big gap in his platoon splits. Perhaps that’s a credit to his background as a minor league starter. Green also helps himself by remaining stingy with control, maintaining a 2.34 BB/9 rate for his career.
Following the losses of Ottavino and Kahnle, the Yankees brought Wilson back and also added Darren O’Day to give Aaron Boone a level of flexibility with the bullpen. Boone will have to decide how he wants to deploy Green, as even as recently as last season, he made a stretch of two-plus inning appearances to start the year before switching to a shorter but more frequent role.
Chad Green has been one of the best relievers in baseball since 2017 and the Yankees should be confident that he is going to provide them valuable innings again this year. Armed with an elite fastball, Green can fill whatever role the Yankees need him in, no matter if it is short, long, or opening a game.