The Yankees’ bullpen depth is currently being tested. With Chad Green’s season-ending injury and Aroldis Chapman and Jonathan Loáisiga struggling, the relief corps is suddenly looking much less deep than it once did. It’s still a top unit, but recent developments have raised some questions.
Clay Holmes and Michael King are really the only trustworthy guys right now, even though Lucas Luetge (despite his high ERA) and Wandy Peralta haven’t been bad. But for the Yankees to boast that incredibly talented and deep bullpen again, more than just Holmes and King will need to bring their A-game — especially because even King has been much less untouchable in May.
Who else needs to step up with the bullpen getting dinged? The top name who really comes to mind and needs to start contributing in a much more positive manner is Loáisiga. The sinkerballer, who had 2.4 fWAR in 57 games last season, has been worth -0.3 fWAR across 18 games in 2022. His 7.02 ERA, 5.10 FIP, and 13.7 percent walk rate in 16.2 frames have been among the Yankees’ biggest issues this season.
New York entered the season with full trust in Loáisiga in high-leverage situations. That hasn’t been warranted this year, and he hasn’t been able to revert the situation after roughly a month and a half of baseball (his command, and his sinker, in particular, are not in top form yet). Loáisiga has already given up three long balls this year, which is as many as he gave up in 70.2 innings in 2021. He is the one who most needs to step up and speak loudly with his performance, as he proved last season that he can be one of the best relievers in the league.*
*Update: Loáisiga was placed on the injured list with shoulder discomfort shortly after this post went live. So his 2022 remains in limbo.
Aroldis Chapman came into the season as a question mark. At times, he couldn’t even throw strikes last year, and that trend has continued in 2022. He has a 15.2-percent walk rate in 14 frames, and a 3.86 ERA (4.96 FIP) to go with it. He is currently out with an Achilles injury, which may or may not have affected his performance. The Yankees could really use a rebound from Chapman when his IL stint comes to a close. The best-case scenario sees Chapman reining in his wildness and playing well once he returns to health.
Another potential solution for the Yankees’ bullpen, one that is probably not being discussed enough, is using Domingo Germán as a reliever when he is ready to return. Manager Aaron Boone said earlier this month that he will be stretched out as a starter, and it made sense a couple of weeks ago. It still makes some sense now, given that you can always use more starting pitching depth, but with bullpen pieces going down with injuries and failing to perform adequately, Germán to the pen is a more logical fit.
Germán has a career 3.42 ERA as a reliever in 47.1 innings, with 62 strikeouts and a .273 wOBA. As a starter, he has a 4.71 ERA in 294 frames, with a .318 wOBA. A bullpen role is probably more forgiving for Germán’s profile: spotty command, big fastball velocity but not ideal shape, and solid secondaries.
Clarke Schmidt is another name that comes to mind when discussing potential candidates to take a step forward performance-wise with so many bullpen casualties. His stuff has looked good when he has been used, and he has a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings in the majors this season. As John discussed earlier today, he’s been used a little too sparingly, most recently sitting nine days between appearances until his extra-innings win on Tuesday night.
Which bullpen member is most likely to step up to fill the void? Whenever he returns, Loáisiga is a natural candidate to bounce back, and Schmidt a natural one to take a step forward if given the opportunity. Pay attention to Germán’s future role, and even that of JP Sears, who will get the spot start today, but could be deployed in the bullpen again as well.
If the Yankees’ bullpen is going to remain elite, someone will need to step up on the mound and earn Boone’s trust. Thankfully, the organization is filled with pitchers who have a chance to be that person.