The Yankees are coming off of an embarrassing performance against the rival Red Sox in which Boston swept New York in three games at Fenway Park. The Yankee bats and arms were dismal, scoring just 7 runs in the series while surrendering 18 on the mound. It was not a pretty series for the Bombers, as they also saw themselves drop to fourth place in the American League East.
During the trip to Boston, the Yankees saw a few familiar faces — some of which included Adam Ottavino, Garrett Whitlock, and ... Jacoby Ellsbury? Anyway, Ottavino and Whitlock both had their ways with the Yankees lineup, as Otto threw a total of 2.1 innings during the series with three strikeouts, and Whitlock tossed 3.2 total frames recording four K’s. Seeing old faces in new uniforms had me wondering what other former members of the 2020 Yankees organization have been up to this year, so let’s have a look around the league!
After the New York native pitched two seasons in the Bronx, the Yankees dealt him to the Red Sox in what was a salary dump for New York. During his first few weeks as a member of the Red Sox, Ottavino had a tough stretch. He owned nearly a 5.00 ERA after nine appearances, including two blown saves.
Since mid-April, however, Ottavino has turned it around big time. The righty now sports a 2.81 ERA, and is in the top of the league in many categories. He’s in the top four percent of the league in barrel percentage, exit velocity, expected slugging, and hard hit percentage.
While Ottavino does struggle to get batters to chase and still walks a lot of his opponents, the Yankees bullpen could have benefited from what he’s done this year — especially considering how the ‘pen has been ravaged by injuries. Trading Ottavino, especially to the now-first place Boston Red Sox, seems like something the Yankees would want to redo.
Sticking in Beantown, Whitlock has been lights out for the Red Sox this year. In December 2020, the Red Sox selected the right-hander in the Rule 5 Draft after being in the Yankees organization since 2017.
Whitlock pitched well in spring for Boston, made the Opening Day roster without issue, and here we are. In 38 innings pitched, the 25-year-old has a 1.42 ERA, 3.01 FIP, and 40 strikeouts. He’s mainly a sinkerball pitcher and throws it around 95-96 mph on average, but does also have a power fastball. Like Ottavino, Whitlock especially excels on limiting the amount of barrels against him, which will obviously lead to success.
Another bullpen piece that the Yanks could desperately use is now in the hands of the Red Sox, and what makes this one tougher to swallow is that the Yankees risked losing Whitlock in December all for the privilege of keeping lesser young players on the 40-man roster, like Brooks Kriske. This is Whitlock’s rookie season in the league, so if this is really the pitcher he turns out to be, he has a lot of potential and even more service time remaining before free agency.
Ah, yes. Our old friend Masa. He’s obviously been back in Japan playing for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. In 10 games this year, Tanaka has a 3.18 ERA over 65 frames. His 54 strikeouts are good for the fifth-most on the team, even though he had to miss some time early in the year with a leg injury. With Corey Kluber’s longer-term IL stint and the lack of valuable innings from Jameson Taillon, Tanaka could’ve been a reliable arm behind Gerrit Cole this season.
Vintage Masahiro Tanaka splitter. (141 kph) pic.twitter.com/jBzhpxb3Ef— Lucas (@DBITLefty) May 1, 2021
On a side note: Tanaka was one of 24 players named to Japan’s national baseball team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Congratulations to him!
After pitching for two seasons in the Bronx and leaving on a bad note, Happ signed a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins. We can safely say that the Yankees don’t regret letting him walk. In 14 starts this year, Happ has pitched to a 5.83 ERA and it’s extremely hard to find a positive about him. Just look at all the blue on his MLB Percentile Rankings.
Yikes! While Ottavino and Whitlock are able to keep their barrel percentages low, Happ is in the bottom seven percent of the league in that category and in the bottom six percent for expected slugging. There’s not much to say about his performance this year except that J.A. is probably not to Happ-y about the way he’s pitched.
Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras
Finally, we have the two most notable prospects of the four minor leaguers who were traded over the offseason to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Taillon.
Yajure hasn’t seen much time in the majors yet, but has a 3.86 ERA in 9.1 innings during his two spot starts in 2021. The 23-year-old started the year in Triple-A, but has only made three starts as he was sidelined with right elbow discomfort, though he is currently working his way back.
Meanwhile, Roansy Contreras has been a workhorse for the Pirates in Double-A. He’s tossed 45 innings in eight starts for the Altoona Curve with impressive 2.00 ERA and 12.80 K/9. Just a few weeks ago, Contreras was named as a top Minor League performer, as he rebounded from his worst start of the season where he surrounded five runs in four innings to strike out eight over six shutout frames.
At just 21, Contreras could be a real problem for the rest of the league and was just named to Baseball America’s top-100 prospects list on Monday. Here are some highlights of him from earlier in the year:
PIT RHP Roansy Contreras has been great this year. Gave up 4 runs, 1 earned, today without walking anyone and striking out 7. Do you want to see all of the strikeouts? I thought so. pic.twitter.com/sPiZVm1kwi— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) June 23, 2021
Do you miss any of the names above? Would any of these former Yankees have made a big impact on the outlook of this dismal 2021 season? Let us know in the comments below!