2015 Statistics: 27 G, 160.2 IP, 8.74 K/9, 1.18 BB/9, 14.7% HR/FB, 4.37 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 3.5 fWAR
2016 Contract Status: Arbitration Eligible
Michael Pineda became a Yankee after the 2011 season when Brian Cashman parted with prized catching prospect Jesus Montero in exchange for the young hurler from Seattle. After finally getting to see Pineda perform in the Bronx last season, he became an even bigger part of the rotation in 2015. While he wasn't completely able to avoid injuries - which have hindered him throughout his Yankees career - he still managed to see action in almost 30 games, and finished the season as the Yankees most valuable pitcher overall this year.
Pineda started the year off great, posting a 3.64 ERA and a 2.69 FIP through the first half. The highlight of his season (and indeed, his career) came on May 10th, as he struck out 16 Orioles hitters in just seven innings, flashing the wipeout slider that has long been one of his most devastating weapons. He continued to show great command, walking just 1.10 hitters per nine innings in the first half of the season. Combined with his high strikeout rate (9.39 K/9 in the first half), and his ability to avoid home runs (0.85 HR/9), Pineda was one of the best pitchers in the majors after three months of baseball, picking up the slack for a Yankees rotation enduring the May-long absence of Masahiro Tanaka and the early struggles of Nathan Eovaldi.
However, Pineda hit a wall in the second half. While he missed most of August on the disabled list, when he did pitch, he was not himself. He posted a 5.80 ERA and a 4.61 FIP after the All-Star Break as his home run numbers spiked and his strikeout numbers predictably plummeted. He pitched erratically, mixing a good start here and there with complete implosions in which he'd give up six or seven runs. It, of course, came at the worst time of the year for the Yankees, who were struggling to hold off the surging Toronto Blue Jays and eventually had CC Sabathia and Eovaldi fall out of the rotation. Pineda finished off the year by surrendering 11 earned runs in his final two starts of the year, looking like a shell of the dominant pitcher we'd seen early in the season.
Despite his struggles down the stretch (which brought his grade down a bit), Pineda showed his tremendous repertoire this year, along with the ability to stay relatively healthy over the six-month long major league season. This makes his year quite a success - he's still only 26, and if he can approach 200 innings in 2016 and 2017, the Yankees will have one of the best AL pitchers on their staff. He still has great command, and, when he's on, his fastball and slider give him some of the most dominant stuff in the league, as well as the upside of a true ace. While it would have been nice for Pineda to end the season as strongly as he began, his untapped potential and relative youth should give Yankee fans a lot of hope for the future. The best of Pineda should be still to come, and if he keeps improving, as he did this year, he will be a terror to face for even the best lineups in the majors in 2016.