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Yankees 2015 Roster Report Card: Justin Wilson

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After being traded to the Yankees during the offseason, Justin Wilson ended up being one of the best relievers out of the bullpen.

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Grade: A

2015 Statistics: 61 IP, 9.74 K/9, 2.95 BB/9, 3.10 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 1.13 WHIP

2016 Contract Status: Eligible for arbitration

Justin Wilson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Fresno State University in 2008. He worked his way through the Pirates' farm system as a starting pitcher, averaging a 3.83 ERA and 4.5 BB/9 across all levels. Eventually the Pirates decided to convert Wilson to a reliever due to his command issues. He made his major league debut at the end of the 2012 season, but didn't stay in the majors full time until 2013 when he posted a 2.08 ERA through 73.2 innings pitched. Wilson's 2014 season wasn't quite as good, but he was able to increase his strikeouts per nine innings from 7.21 to 9.15. Last offseason, Brian Cashman kicked things off by trading backup catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates in exchange for Wilson in a move to shore up the bullpen, and Wilson ended up being one of the Yankees' best relievers in 2015.

The Yankees' bullpen received quite a makeover over the offseason after the likes of David Robertson and Shawn Kelley departed. Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson quickly became Joe Girardi's most trusted relievers to bridge the gap between the starting pitcher and the eighth and ninth innings when the team could turn to Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Wilson is a lefty, but Girardi didn't limit him to a LOOGY role, and he was effective against left and right-handed batters, with lefties batting .236 against him and righties batting just .213. Though he has struggled with command in the past, Wilson got better as the season went on. Not only did he walk less batters in the second half (six in the second half compared to 14 in the first half), but he also increased his strikeouts per nine innings from 8.73 to 10.93. When Shreve ran out of gas during the last few weeks of the season, Wilson became the best reliever in the bullpen behind Miller and Betances. This ended up being the best season of his career in terms of K/9, BB/9, HR/9 (0.44) and fWAR (1.5).

Since Shreve completely fell apart at the end of the season, Wilson should start the season as the third best reliever in the bullpen. The Yankees have shown some interest in the idea of trading Miller, and if that happens then Betances should take over the role of closer with Wilson becoming the setup man. There are a lot of question marks in the bullpen since none of the Triple-A relievers made much of a positive impact throughout the season, but Wilson has pitched consistently well over the past few seasons and the Yankees should expect more of the same next year.