The Yankees have three of the best relievers in baseball this year, but disappointing contributions from an mediocre lineup of relievers have sunk them so far. Despite the second-most valuable bullpen in 2016, they also have a middle-of-the-road ERA and their FIP is third-worst in the league. Relievers like Chasen Shreve and Kirby Yates have been disappointments, and several others have been felled by injury. If the Yankees want to reinforce their bullpen at some point this season, they might have to look at a few prospects who they never saw coming.
Drafted as a left-handed reliever in 2012, Enns was converted into a starting pitcher in 2013. After a shaky start to his new role, he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, and it looked like the experiment would be over. However, he returned with a strong showing in 2015 and started the 2016 season in Double-A Trenton. This year he won Player of the Month after he allowed zero runs in April. Overall, he's maintained a 1.93 ERA and 3.10 FIP with impressive peripherals of 9.61 K/9 and 3.86 BB/9 in 70 innings. He was named an Eastern League All-Star, and for his efforts he was promoted to Scranton.
The Yankees have seen success in recent years when converting their relievers into starting pitchers. Chase Whitley would be the most obvious example, but Chance Adams is also having a good year after making the switch. Despite his success, Enns likely isn't destined for a long career in the rotation. He only throws 89-92 mph, and has never seen much more than that in the bullpen either. His slider and changeup both sit in the 80s too, making him more of a finesse guy than a power pitcher.
To me, he has future swingman written all over him. The Yankees could use him in the rotation for a few starts, or stick him in the bullpen and let him pitch a few innings of relief. Ivan Nova will be a free agent at the end of the year, and Enns could fit right into the role he had out of the bullpen. New York will have to place him on the 40-man roster this winter if they want to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. They left him unprotected last year, but after the season he has had, they should really reconsider. I could see him getting a few innings in the second half, especially if the team falls further out of contention, before getting a real chance in 2017.
Wotherspoon looked like a long shot as a 20th round pick in 2014, but he's performed at every level and in every role that the Yankees have put him in. After being drafted he worked out of the bullpen, but he was placed in the rotation for the 2015 season and he did a good job maintaining a 3.84 ERA with a 10.35 K/9 in 84.1 innings of work. He was made a reliever again this year at the age of 24, almost completely skipping High-A Tampa to pitch in Trenton to a 3.89 ERA and 3.21 FIP with a 10.13 K/9 in 34.2 innings. He's now pitching in Triple-A with a 1.65 ERA, but his K/9 has dropped to 6.06 in just 16.1 innings.
Obviously, those strikeout numbers will have to be monitored, but he's still getting results and is capable of pitching multiple innings per appearance–sometimes going as many as four innings in an outing. I would say he'd be more in line with a 2017 call-up, but there's definitely a chance he gets a chance if someone goes down with an injury, especially considering the riff raff the Yankees have been toting out there. He's likely destined for middle relief duty, but if he can keep the strikeout numbers up over multiple innings, he could be an intriguing piece going forward.
Here's a name I never thought I'd be talking about in the context of making a major league appearance. An international signing from Mexico before the 2012 season, Gallegos flunked out as a starter by 2014, but has actually managed to thrive in the bullpen. After an impressive 2015 where he maintained a 1.35 ERA and 2.13 FIP with excellent peripherals, he was let loose on the upper minors this year, and the results have been inspiring. He currently has a 1.41 ERA with a 12.5 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 over 44.2 innings, leading me to believe the Yankees might have something here.
The 24-year-old right-hander was pegged as a preseason Pinstripe Alley sleeper pick, but he has never been given much attention. Now though, it might be time to give him some, especially when the people above him on the depth chart aren't really doing much better. He throws in the mid-90s, and more impressively, he has a 1.7 BB/9 over the course of his career. If he can continue to strike people out and walk no one, he should get more than a cup of coffee in the major league bullpen as early as this year.
We've all been disappointed in what the middle relievers of this organization have had to offer, but there is plenty of promise coming through the system right now. Hopefully this group has better luck than the current group.