It was not a universally popular move when the Yankees traded relief pitcher Justin Wilson, who was coming off a strong season for the team, for a pair of young pitchers that had yet to make their major league debuts. In return for Wilson, the Yankees received two pitchers who would become regulars for the team over the next few years. Luis Cessa has now moved on from the Yankees. The other prospect from that deal, Chad Green, has gone on to become one of the better relievers in baseball since settling into the role during the 2017 season.
2021 Stats: 83.2 IP, 3.12 ERA, 3.59 FIP, 0.88 WHIP, 10.65 K/9, 1.83 BB/9, 1.51 HR/9, 1.6 fWAR
2022 ZiPS Projections: 73.7 IP, 3.54 ERA, 3.62 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 11.73 K/9, 2.57 BB/9, 1.51 HR/9, 1.2 fWAR
Green comes into 2022 after setting a career high for innings pitched this past season. Despite being a workhorse out of the bullpen for the Yankees over the last five seasons, he still continued to strike out 31 percent of the batters he faced in 2021, while racking up a significant amount of fWAR for a relief pitcher.
In 2021, Green adjusted his pitch usage, decreasing his four-seam fastball usage by around 10 percent. It is still his go to pitch, as he uses it 65 percent of the time. It has the elite velocity and spin rate that makes it an effective weapon.
While decreasing his fastball usage, Green also increased the use of his curveball by 10 percent, up to 34.5 percent of the time. Despite focusing on two pitches, the league has largely not caught up to Green, as he finished 2021 with 8.1 scoreless innings in his last seven games.
While Green ranks low in some categories, his ability to miss bats covers for those flaws. Green also helps himself by not walking many hitters. Since 2017, he has a 2.1 BB/9 rate that ranks him near the top of pitchers in the game.
His value is also displayed in his versatility. The Yankees used Green as an opener extensively in 2019, but have moved away from that over the past two years. He has displayed the ability to come in early in a game and cover multiple innings, throwing two or more innings in 12 over his 2021 outings. Green also took over the closer role briefly in 2021, earning six saves on the season.
This coming season, he is most likely to be deployed as the Yankees’ high-leverage fireman reliever. He worked mostly in the seventh and eighth inning during the 2021 season, and that will likely remain the case. Zack Britton will be on the injured list for most of 2022, which will leave the Yankees with a late inning hole to fill ,and Green is a natural candidate to bridge that gap to Aroldis Chapman. The emergence of Clay Holmes as a weapon in the Yankees bullpen could allow Aaron Boone to go to Green earlier in the game than he has in the past, but we will see how the “circle of trust” develops as the year goes on.
Chad Green has been one of the Yankees’ most reliable relievers since moving to the role in 2017. There are no indications that he is set for a decline, as his fastball and curveball mix have continued to make him one of the more consistent relievers in the game.