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Yankees 2015 Roster Report Card: Nathan Eovaldi

Nathan Eovaldi's 2015 season was all over the place.

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Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: B

2015 Statistics: 27 GS, 154.1 IP, 14-3, 4.20 ERA, 3.42 FIP, 1.451 WHIP, 7.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

2016 Contract Status: Arbitration Eligible, projected to get a big raise

Prior to the season, I wrote a very optimistic piece asking the following question: how good can Nathan Eovaldi be? There were times this season that the 25-year old made me look like a genius. There were other times where he was a bit frustrating, but I think his overall performance made this trade a big win for the Bombers, and I'm looking forward to the rest of his career in pinstripes.

Nathan Edward Eovaldi, one of only two major leaguers from Alvin, Texas (yep, Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan too), was drafted out of Alvin High School by the Dodgers in the 11th round of the 2008 draft. Impressed with his live arm, the Dodgers raced him through their system, and he made his major league debut at age 21 in 2011. The following year, he joined the Dodgers' rotation full time on May 29, and pitched in the big leagues the rest of the season, although not with the Dodgers. Looking to bolster their playoff chances, the Dodgers swung a big trade with the Marlins, sending Eovaldi and Scott McGough to Miami for former Yankees LOOGY Randy Choate and current Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez.

Over the next two-and-a-half seasons, Eovaldi was a bit of a puzzle for the Marlins. His arm is absolutely electric, as he regularly approaches and tops 100 mph with relative ease, but he never developed a shutdown secondary pitch, relying instead on a slider that averaged 87.18 mph and a curveball that came in at 76.8 mph, neither of which had much bite. This led to hitters quickly adjusting to his heater, which made him the most hittable big league pitcher in 2014 (223 hits allowed in 199.2 innings). The Yankees thought pitching coach Larry Rothschild could tap into Eovaldi's full potential and take him to the next level, so they sent David Phelps, Martin Prado and cash to Miami for Eovaldi, Garrett Jones and Domingo German last December.

Eovaldi had a monster spring training, which got everyone's hopes up that he could be in for a big season. After all, he had played around with a new pitch, the splitter, in his final month with the Marlins, and the results had been very impressive. The popular opinion was that, if he could really commit to using that splitter, his 100 mph heat would become that much more effective, and he could put up a huge year in the Bronx.

Unfortunately, it took Eovaldi way too long to really start trusting his newfound splitter, and it probably cost him that potential monster season I was expecting. Early in the season, he still shied away from it, and his numbers were pretty similar to those from previous seasons. Through his first thirteen starts, some luck got him a 5-2 record, but his numbers were a bit ghastly, as his ERA was 5.12 and he had an outing in which he gave up nine runs in less than an inning. He was allowing tons of hits (97 in 70.1 innings) and, other than during April, his strikeouts were still extremely low for such a hard thrower (just 6.3 K/9). In late June, it seemed that Eovaldi, Larry Rothschild and Brian McCann made a concentrated effort to really lean on the splitter. Eovaldi started throwing it 40% of the time, and it was like a light switch was turned on. His ERA dropped to 3.43 over his next 14 starts, and his K/9 jumped to 7.6 during that time. He couldn't avoid the injury bug, though. Eovaldi only made one September start before straining something in his elbow and getting shut down for the rest of the season.

Overall, Eovaldi did a lot of good things this year. Even counting the months where he didn't seem to trust his splitter, he still put up a career high of 7.1 K/9. He kept the ball in the ballpark, only allowing 10 home runs in 154.1 innings, which was right in line with his career averages. There were some negatives too. Although he was less hittable in the second half, he's still far too hittable, having allowed 175 hits in his 154.1 innings this season, and his walks were up to 2.9 per nine innings this season (up from 1.9 last year). That's still a very acceptable number, and the second best of his career, but I'd be curious to see if the new pitch had anything to do with that. Finally, he also got hurt, which is something the Yankees were counting on not happening when they acquired him.

That being said, he's apparently fine now, and would have been available out of the bullpen had the Yankees made the ALDS. Side note: How scary would he be out of the bullpen? 100+ heater and a splitter? Yes, please. I am not saying I want him in the bullpen, because he is and should be a starter, but man that would have been fun for one or two series.

It was definitely tough to grade Eovaldi. At certain cross-sections of the season, he would have earned a D. At others, an A+. Then there's the fact that he missed the last month too. I went with a B because he showed how dominant he can be when he trusts that splitter, which I think he will only learn to trust more and more as the years go by. I think next year could be the year he really breaks out, and I look forward to seeing if I'm right or wrong.