Everyone — Yankees fan or not — knows just how impactful hitters like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are to any lineup, let alone one that hits for power. And while their importance (plus others like Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, and even a player like Harrison Bader) speaks volumes, the Yankees wouldn’t continue to win the American League East without the help of their very strong bullpen.
Michael King and Wandy Peralta are most likely the easiest to pick out of the bunch as the most effective relievers in the Yankees lineup. They consistently eat innings (unfortunately for King, he went down with an injury, but before it he was arguably the best reliever in MLB), and most importantly, they keep runs from getting across the plate. But one player in the bullpen who is continuously underrated is Ron Marinaccio, the 27-year-old from Toms River, New Jersey. Those who followed New York in 2022 are very familiar with the right-hander at this point, but he’s been a bit overlooked by the league writ large.
Last season, despite suffering an injury in a game at the end of the season (one that left him out for the rest of the regular season and postseason) in early October, Marinaccio performed very well. In 40 games and 44 innings pitched, he had a 2.05 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 4.06 xFIP, and 0.4 fWAR. He also posted a 30.9-percent strikeout rate, which ranked third on the Yankees behind the aforementioned King and consensus ace Gerrit Cole.
Below are Marinaccio’s MLB Percentile Rankings per Baseball Savant for the 2022 season.
As evidenced by the rankings, Marinaccio does have good fastball velocity and spin, which is encouraging, especially considering his high strikeout rate. However, his biggest flaw last season was his walk rate, which came second to the beleaguered Aroldis Chapman among players with 40 games played or more at 13.3 percent.
Marinaccio has a three-pitch mix with a four-seam fastball, changeup, and slider. The fastball and changeup are easily his two most used pitches at 44.3 percent and 37.9 percent respectively. The changeup is the primary putaway pitch in his arsenal, with his 2022 putaway rate coming in at 33 percent. The whiff rate on the pitch by the end of the season was sitting at 40.9 percent and a K-rate of 36.3 percent.
It’s not hard to find clips of Marinaccio using his changeup to strike players out, like he did here against the Baltimore Orioles.
For more on Marinaccio’s dazzling changeup and slider, check out the linked work of my fellow writers, Esteban and Peter. They did an excellent job of explaining the rookie’s aplomb with the two pitches.
There are plenty of things that Marinaccio can focus on heading into 2023 to make his year just as strong as this one, like continuing to lean on that changeup and his fastball to put batters away. His slider could certainly become lethal as well considering it has an above-average amount of horizontal break relative to the average. It would keep hitters guessing, and the almost 30-percent whiff rate on the pitch could be used as evidence for him to use it slightly more.
Early Steamer projections for next year have Marinaccio’s ERA closer to 4.00 than they do 2.00, which is slightly concerning, especially considering where he was in xFIP at the season’s end as well. But even though he cooled down in late August and early September, we saw some great stuff from him over the course of 2022, including 19 straight innings pitched of no-run, one-hit ball from May 22nd through July 28th — hence his A- grade in our report card series. (Other yet-to-be-released projections might paint a sunnier picture anyway.)
The Yankees are going to need the bullpen to step up again in 2023, and with new blood potentially coming in, a player like Marinaccio is going to be important. He has the potential to be a valued member of a ‘pen that will feature some uncertainty regardless of any changes the team might make in the offseason.