As we have said many times, bullpen help isn’t the Yankees biggest need. If they can get the best version of Jonathan Loáisiga and help Aroldis Chapman regain some consistency, they should have an elite unit headlined by Clay Holmes, Michael King, Wandy Peralta, Lucas Luetge, and another group of potential contributors like Albert Abreu, JP Sears, and Clarke Schmidt. Of course, Zack Britton, Miguel Castro, and Ron Marinaccio’s health status will also dictate some of the bullpen dynamics.
Despite their depth, the Yankees love the idea of a super-bullpen: a deep unit with several men that they can trust in just about any situation. Of course there will always be a pecking order, but the more trustworthy guys they have in their relief corps, the better.
Enter Scott Effross. He may not be a household name, but the Chicago Cubs reliever has dominated the competition this year with a 2.93 ERA and a fantastic 1.99 FIP in 40 innings. Having struck out 30.4 percent of the hitters he has faced and walked only 5.6 percent, he is third on the Cubs with a 1.2 fWAR. He is the real deal.
His performance this season, while surprising, hasn’t come completely out of the blue — the 28-year-old had already shown an elevated strikeout rate last year in 14.2 innings with the Cubs’ big league team. Before the pandemic season (2020), Effross had several seasons with ERAs over 5.00 in the minors. In 2021, however, he had very good showings in Double-A (2.89 ERA) and Triple-A (3.64 ERA) and with more whiffs. That earned himself a call-up, and in those aforementioned 14.2 frames he had a 3.68 ERA and a 3.31 FIP with a 31 percent strikeout rate.
Effross is a sinker-slider guy, not as overpowering as Holmes in terms of velocity, but the movement on his pitches in insane. Just take a look at this:
Scott Effross, Slider and Sinker, Overlay.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 11, 2022
He throws his sinker 36.5 percent of the time, but he goes to his slider more often (41.1 percent). Those two pitches earn him whiffs and weak contact, the perfect combo for a late-inning reliever and a pitcher in general. He complements his arsenal with a usable changeup (13.6 percent, 27.3 percent whiff rate) and a show-me four-seam fastball (8.8 percent).
His Statcast profile is awfully encouraging for a guy with such little velocity:
While Holmes and Castro usually touch 100 with their turbo sinkers, Effross’ averages 90.1 miles per hour. However, the combination of pitch movement, his side-arm delivery, and the uncomfortable visual profile for the hitter — having to deal with that nasty slider and sinker combo thrown at the same arm slot is surely not easy — makes his stuff play, not to mention his impeccable control and good command.
There are a few situations to consider, though. The rebuilding Cubs would have little to no incentive to trade him, because he has five and a half seasons of team control — he will hit free agency after the 2027 campaign. An organization like the Cubs that can’t quite contend this year but will almost surely aim for next year should find a reliever like Effross extremely valuable: he is extremely cheap, he is very good, and while he isn’t a hotshot prospect, he is not old.
Chicago will probably ask the Yankees for something they won’t feel comfortable trading, given the aforementioned situation, and a deal might be unlikely to take place as a result. It’s not impossible, though, and it would be fun to imagine him in the Yankees’ elite bullpen.