clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Even if Robertson leaves, Yankees bullpen will remain a strength in 2015

New, comments

Comparing the Yankees against the best bullpens in the AL reveals that, with some luck, the pen should stay one of the team’s major advantages.

Rich Schultz

While the Yankees hopefully will not lose now "proven" closer David Robertson in the offseason, even if they do, the bullpen will remain one of the best in the AL.  With Dellin Betances , Adam Warren, and Shawn Kelley, the team will still have quality arms that can shut down offenses late in the game.  While keeping Robertson would put this group over the top and make it elite, even without him, the pen will no doubt be one of the strengths of the 2015 Yankees.

Betances' development is certainly a big part of this.  Betances was without a doubt one of the best stories of a somewhat disappointing season.  If Robertson were to leave, Betances would more than likely end up in the closer role, and his 2014 stats suggest he'd be more than capable.  He posted a 13.50 K/9, 1.40 ERA, 1.64 FIP, and a 3.2 fWAR (almost double Robertson's) in 2014.  What a beast.

However, moving Betances to the ninth inning presents the same problem as moving Robertson there last year did: how best to bridge the gap between starter and stud closer?  While Betances stepped up in the eighth inning last year, Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley should do the same in 2015.  Warren has improved greatly over his first two major league seasons, posting a FIP of 2.89 and a K/BB ratio of 3.17 last season after posting a 4.32 FIP and a 2.13 K/BB ratio in 2013 (in an almost identical number of innings).  There's no reason to think he won't continue to improve next season and become a dominant arm out of the bullpen.  Shawn Kelley should also be quite a weapon out of the bullpen next year.  While his ERA in 2014 ended up at an unsightly 4.53, his peripherals show he should expect some better luck and greater success next year.  With a K/BB of 3.35, a HR/9 of 0.87 (better than Robertson's), and a FIP of 3.02, Kelley should continue to grow into a dependable and effective relief pitcher.  Joe Girardi should regularly be able to depend on him in the seventh inning of close games in 2015.

With some potentially major reinforcements coming up from the minors, the Yankees pen should remain one of the team's biggest weapons in 2015.  When comparing it to the best bullpens in the AL, it also becomes clear that the Yankees should have a major advantage next season.

Seattle's bullpen led the league last year in FIP, and they should remain strong again next year.  Led by Fernando Rodney (who, while a bit volatile, remains a solid closer) and stocked with young arms, their pen will again be a force to be reckoned with.  Still, so many of their contributors out of the pen this year were rookies or very young, so there's a chance some will face some regression as the league acclimates to their stuff.

Kansas City should return the same dominant three-man unit that has worked so well this offseason in Wade Davis, Greg Holland, and Kelvin Herrera (Davis has a team option - the other two are arbitration eligible). However, after that, they have very little depth, and Davis had a career year this year.  He should fall back to Earth a bit next year, and while Holland has shown the past couple years he is one of the better closers in the league, there is little chance this unit will be as dominant as in 2014.

The rest of the league's bullpens will be a step behind - Los Angeles looks to be good again, with Joe Smith and perhaps Huston Street back (depending on if the team picks up his option).  Still, they will probably take at least one step back, as Fernando Salas and Kevin Jensen both over performed last season and will more than likely regress a bit.  Boston will have a solid pen, although if Koji Uehara retires, perhaps not as good as the past two seasons.  Baltimore will also be good at the back end again with Zach Britton and Darren O'Day, but if Andrew Miller leaves, there's quite a drop off after those two.

All in all, the Yankees should, with Kansas City and Seattle (along with perhaps the A's and Angels), have one of the best bullpens in the American League last year.  If they bring Robertson back into the fold, D-Rob, Betances, Warren, and Kelly - with David Phelps and Chase Whitley (who, while he fell off last year, has quietly been quite solid across all levels of the minors since being drafted in 2010) for mop-up duty - will form an elite set of relief arms.  Even if Robertson leaves, this pen will be a major strength of next season's team (especially with Lindgren on the way).

Now if they could just sign a bat so this bullpen could have leads to protect...yeah, that'd be great.