Category: Yankee Trade Targets Page 1 of 3

Yankees Trade Target: Kevin Gausman

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Might as well continue looking at former Orioles’ prospects. First, it was Dylan Bundy. Today, Kevin Gausman. The Yankees have reportedly called the Giants about the right-hander. Another report indicates that the two sides have discussed a trade for a week. Aside from simply needing another starter ASAP, let’s see why Gausman has caught the Yankees’ eye.

Background & Performance

Gausman was the 4th overall selection in the 2012 draft out of LSU. The Dodgers drafted him in the sixth round in 2010 out of high school, but he did not sign. By the way, you may have heard that Gausman was high school teammates with ex-Yankee Greg Bird. The former first baseman of the future was Gausman’s catcher at that time.

The Orioles hoped for Gausman and Bundy to develop into a formidable 1-2 punch atop the team’s rotation, but that never materialized. Gausman put together some OK seasons in Baltimore, but never lived up to his billing. The now 29 year-old righty was a consensus front-end top-100 prospect and didn’t take long to reach the big leagues. He first came up in 2013, just a year after he was drafted.

By ERA+, Gausman was perfectly average during his career with the O’s. He threw 763 2/3 innings and recorded a 4.22 ERA and 4.16 FIP. There were a couple of solid seasons mixed in there, particularly 2014 (3.57 ERA in 113 1/3 IP) and 2016 (3.61 ERA in 179 2/3 IP), but he was often inconsistent. The Orioles traded him to Atlanta at the 2018 trade deadline.

Gausman thrived for the Braves after the deal. He made 10 starts and posted a 2.87 ERA and 3.78 FIP. However, he really struggled last season with Atlanta (6.19 ERA in 16 starts) and was waived mid-summer. Cincinnati claimed him to pitch mostly in relief the rest of the year. The Reds non-tendered him in the offseason. That’s where San Francisco came in. The Giants signed Gausman to a one-year, $9 million deal. In six games (five starts), the righty has a 4.65 ERA and 3.12 FIP in 31 innings.

Still hittable despite more strikeouts

Gausman has been confounding for his entire career. He’s got the high velocity fastball and a good splitter, but he’s very hittable. Even in a year when he’s posted career-best strikeout and walk rates (31.6 and 4.5 percent, respectively), he’s allowed 34 hits in 31 innings. 5 of those hits have left the ballpark.

This is where FIP can be a bit misleading. Yes, it’s a very good 3.12 mark this season on the back of his excellent strikeout-to-walk ratio. But while he’s missed more bats, hitters are still making the most of their contact against him. That’s why it’s no real surprise that Baseball Prospectus’s pitching metric du jour, DRA, actually thinks Gausman’s gotten exactly what he’s deserved (4.65 DRA). To corroborate, take a look at where he stands in a few Statcast metrics by percentile:

  • Exit Velocity: 60th percentile
  • Hard Hit Percentage: 62nd
  • Barrel Percentage: 20th
  • xwOBA: 57th
  • xBA: 43rd
  • xSLG: 39th

You’ll notice that his exit velocity and hard hit percentage marks actually aren’t bad. That might be noise, though. Gausman has typically been below average in those categories in prior seasons. Nonetheless, it’s the other items that are more concerning: barrel percentage, xBA, and xSLG. It’s reasonable to assume that his batted profile is the culprit.

via Statcast

Gausman has a hard time keeping the ball on the ground, this year especially so. Batters have a ground ball rate of 34.5 percent this season, down from 40.7 percent last year and 46.6 percent in 2018. That’s not a good trend with such a poor barrel rate against.

With all this in mind, I feel pretty comfortable throwing FIP out the door when it comes to Gausman. More strikeouts and fewer walks are great, for sure. It can certainly help mitigate some of the less than ideal contact he allows. But if he’s going to keep allowing barreled balls, especially in a transition from Oracle Park to Yankee Stadium, it’s not going to work.

Contract

Gausman’s earning roughly a third of his $9 million salary as a result of the short season. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and is purely a rental.

What would a trade look like?

Trading for 5 or 6 Gausman starts really shouldn’t cost the Yankees much. If anything, it should be salary relief for the Giants. Maybe a fringy prospect as a kicker. This is probably why he’s already been connected to New York — Brian Cashman won’t have to give up much to get him. MTPS: 2017 11th rounder Shawn Semple for Gausman.

Yankees Trade Target: Mike Clevinger

Even though Cleveland is in the thick of the postseason picture, it’s quite possible that the team is ready to part ways with one of its star pitchers, Mike Clevinger. The 29 year-old righty has been bandied about in recent rumors. This comes after Clevinger broke COVID-19 protocols, was placed on the restricted list, and ultimately optioned to the Alternate Site. More on that (and other baggage) in a bit.

Clevinger would be the top pitcher on the trade block if truly available. Brian Cashman undoubtedly will make (or already has made) a call to Cleveland’s front office about him. After all, the Yankees’ rotation could use the boost.

Background & Performance

The Angels drafted Clevinger in the fourth round of the 2011 amateur draft. He wasn’t a big time prospect with the Halos, who dealt him to Cleveland in 2014 for Vinnie Pestano. Pretty bad return in retrospect, though at that time, Clevinger had yet to make it past High-A.

Things turned around fairly quickly for the righty in a new organization. Clevinger became emblematic of Cleveland’s knack for developing pitchers, in fact. He posted gaudy numbers in Double-A and Triple-A in 2015 and 2016, respectively. He also made the show in 2016, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Clevinger became a stalwart in Cleveland’s rotation. A late bloomer at 26 years-old, sure, but better late than never.

In 447 2/3 innings dating back to ’17, Clevinger owns a 2.96 ERA and 3.32 FIP. He’s fanned 28.3 percent of batters and allowed fewer than one homer per nine. His walk rate (9.1 percent) is a tad high in that span, but really not all that bad. Clevinger also went from averaging 92.5 MPH on his fastball to 95.4 last year (he’s down to 94.4 this season, for what it’s worth). The righty’s secondaries are pretty terrific too: he can miss bats with his slider, curveball and changeup. On top of the good stuff, he’s been excellent at limiting hard contact (95th percentile exit velocity in 2019, for example).

If acquired, Clevinger would immediately become the Yankees’ number two starter. This isn’t a case of pursuing someone like Dylan Bundy who’s starting to show flashes after a career of mediocrity. Clevinger is that good. Yet, even with the big numbers and impressive development, he may not be worth the headache. Let’s take a look at why.

Considerable Baggage

You’re probably aware of Clevinger’s recent disregard for the league’s COVID-19 protocols. It’s not just that he broke team curfew: he also tried to get away with it after the teammate he was out with, Zach Plesac, got busted. Clevinger flew home with his teammates knowing that he was just as guilty as Plesac.

Clevinger’s teammates were not too happy, and understandably so. That Francisco Lindor quote above speaks for itself. Cleveland held a team meeting about the situation that effectively resulted in Clevinger’s (and Plesac’s) demotion to the Alternate Site. It’s going to be difficult for those two to regain the trust of their teammates if and when they return.

Clevinger’s recent actions aren’t the only not so pretty things about him either. He also had a Twitter spat with MLB Network’s Robert Flores after Cleveland was eliminated from the postseason in 2018. In the grand scheme of things, Clevinger’s reaction was arguably harmless. But at the same time, it gave lens to his short temper. The whole “can he handle the New York media?” trope is pretty played out, but I have to admit that this is disconcerting.

There’s also this:

Professional athletes cheating on spouses/significant others isn’t a surprise. If that alone was disqualifying for wanting a player on your favorite team, you’d probably have a hard time putting a squad together. That said, there are other more troubling allegations above, particularly involving his children. We’re never going to be able to get to the bottom of what happened between he and his family, but I can’t say I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt considering his other behavior noted above.

Injury History

Clevinger had Tommy John surgery while in the Angels organization and missed most of 2012 and 2013 as a result. That’s pretty far past him now and his arm health has been fine ever since. However, other issues cropped up in 2019. Clevinger was on the injured list from April 9 to June 17 with a high grade back strain. He also missed some time after that return start due to an ankle sprain.

Further, Clevinger had knee surgery back in February that was all but forgotten as a result of the pandemic. He’d have missed a fairly significant chunk of the regular season had it gone on as originally scheduled.

Contract

Clevinger is under team control through the 2022 season. However, there’s a chance that he won’t hit free agency until after the 2023 season depending on how long he remains at the Alternate Site. A trade to the Yankees (or other team) would almost certainly end that possibility. In any event, Clevinger’s pay will increase substantially going forward. Before pro-rated salaries took effect this year, Clevinger signed for $5 million in his first arbitration season. He’ll probably be in the eight-figure range in 2021.

What would a trade look like?

Pitchers of Clevinger’s caliber aren’t available via trade very often. Of course, there are some underlying issues that probably bring down his trade value. For better or worse, these are the types of players the Yankees like to pursue.

I originally was going to reference the Sonny Gray and Chris Archer trades here, but those comps don’t make sense. Cleveland isn’t a traditional seller right now at 17-12. If they trade Clevinger, they’re going to want to try to offset his loss at the major league level. There’s one obvious place to do so. The team’s 112 runs scored is 23rd in all of MLB and Cleveland’s outfield have a league-worst 45 wRC+. I think you know where I’m going here. Clint Frazier, Miguel Andújar, and Mike Tauchman will be of interest. It’ll probably take at least one of those three and prospects to make a Clevinger trade happen.

Yankees Trade Target: Dylan Bundy

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I know, I know. We’ve seen plenty of Dylan Bundy before with Baltimore when he was not very good. But since the Angels acquired him this offseason and tinkered with his pitch mix, the former top prospect has blossomed. It’s fair to wonder if the Angels would actually deal Bundy, since the Halos have been looking for pitching for what seems like ages. Yet, even with expanded playoffs this year, it looks like the Angels may waste another of Mike Trout’s prime seasons and miss October baseball. At 8-16 and with ever-declining playoff odds, it may be time to sell.

Background & Performance

The Orioles drafted Bundy with the fourth overall selection in the 2011 draft and instantly was one of the top pitching prospects in the league. He made top-100 lists annually from 2012 through 2016, ranking as high as the second-best prospect on Baseball America and MLB.com.

Bundy actually debuted in 2012 as a 19 year-old, but that was just a cameo. He was one of the last (maybe the last, though I’m not sure where to confirm) draftees to receive a Major League contract before the league barred that practice. A barrage of injuries held him back in subsequent years, and Bundy wouldn’t resurface in the big leagues again until 2016.

The now 27 year-old right had a lackluster run in the Orioles’ rotation for a few years: in just over 614 innings, he recorded a 4.67 ERA (94 ERA+). His big problem was the longball. Bundy gave up 114 dingers, or 1.7 per nine innings with the Birds. His worst was 2018, when he surrendered 41 homers in 171 2/3 frames. Yikes.

Bundy never lived up to the hype while with the O’s. Health may have played a big factor in that, but that didn’t stop the Angels from pursuing the former uber-prospect this past offseason. LA’s faith in Bundy has been rewarded thus far. In five starts, he has a 2.48 ERA in 32 2/3 innings. It may be a small sample size, but he’s suppressing hard contact, limiting walks, striking out more batters, and keeping the ball in the yard. That’s a recipe for success.

Pitch mix

Injuries and wear-and-tear sapped Bundy of the power fastball from his prospect days, but that didn’t stop him from leaning on it heavily with Baltimore. He was able to spin it at an above average clip, but it never really played because of a lack of velocity (~91 MPH) and Bundy’s control-over-command profile. It’s one thing to throw a high-spin fastball over the heart of the plate if you’re Chad Green. It’s another if you can’t reach the mid-to-upper nineties with it. So, the Angels had Bundy mix things up.

Overall, Bundy’s now throwing his slider (30.5 percent) more than any other pitch. He’s basically bumped up the pitch’s usage by 10 percent and dropped his fastball usage in tandem. It makes sense: his slider has been a nasty pitch for a long time. Hitters have whiffed 47.4 percent of the time against the pitch and have a .190 xwOBA against it during Bundy’s career. Here’s what the pitch looks like:

The righty has also found some success with his changeup, which he actually started to ramp up usage of last year. It’s a pitch that gets above average movement and is nearly a 10 MPH difference compared to his fastball. It’s whiff rate has been above 30 percent since last year, too. Here’s a good changeup:

The pitch mix change has been pretty drastic against both sides of hitters, but it’s most noticeable vs. righties.

He’s basically spamming his slider against them and it’s working. Righties are hitting .080/.148/.100 vs. Bundy thus far. They hit .239/.315/.472 against him last season. Now, let’s look at his approach vs. lefties.

Bundy’s throwing more sliders to lefties too, but he’s also bumped up his changeup usage. Last year, lefties hit .274/.329/.452 vs. Bundy. This year, it’s .227/.292/.455.

Ultimately, it looks like the slider-heavy approach to righties is paying off dividends. He’s still searching for some more success against lefties, but perhaps that’ll require him to move further away from his fastball. In any event, Bundy’s looking a lot better this year. Judging him on five starts is a little risky, but we do have something we can pinpoint his success to.

Injury History

There’s no shortage of trouble here:

  • 2013: Tommy John Surgery
  • 2014: Lat Strain
  • 2015: Shoulder Strain
  • 2018: Ankle sprain
  • 2019: Knee tendinitis

In spite of those injuries, Bundy has basically pitched full seasons at the Major League level annually since 2017. He made 28 starts that year, 31 in 2018, and 30 last year.

Contract

Bundy will be a free agent after the 2021 season. If he keeps up his current performance, he’s certain to get a nice raise over the $5 million he signed for this season (which is now prorated, of course). With one more year of control, adding Bundy to the Yankees’ rotation could help not just this year, but next season too. Remember, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton are free agents. JA Happ may be too. Luis Severino will likely be back in mid-2021. Clearly, there’s a need for another starter.

What would a trade look like?

The Angels acquired two years of Bundy for four pitching prospects: Isaac Mattson (Triple-A reliever with high K-rate), Zach Peek (’19 6th rd.), Kyle Bradish (’18 4th rd.), and Kyle Brnovich (’19 8th rd.). Even though the Yankees would acquire one-plus seasons of Bundy, I’d imagine the Angels would expect a better haul now.

The most recent trade of a starter with one and change years of control happened last year when the Reds acquired Trevor Bauer in a three-team deal. They gave up Yasiel Puig and prospects Taylor Trammell and Scott Moss. I don’t think that’s comparable here, however. Cincy gave up a lot and Bauer had a bit more of a track record of success.

A few days before the Bauer deal, the Mets picked up a year-plus of Marcus Stroman for prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods-Richardson. Again, this is a case of a pitcher with a better track record than Bundy being traded for two good pitching prospects. Nonetheless, I’d say this is much closer to a potential Bundy exchange than the Bauer deal is.

Kay, who debuted with Toronto last year, is a starter who had reached Triple-A prior to the trade. He was never a top-100 caliber prospect, but still a promising back-end rotational arm. Woods-Richardson hadn’t hit the top-100 with the Mets, but is now a consensus top-100 arm. He hadn’t surpassed A-ball with the Mets before the swap. Kay needed to be added to the 40-man last year, whereas Woods-Richardson isn’t Rule 5 eligible until December 2022.

So, from the Yankees’ perspective: a near-MLB ready (or ready-ready) arm and a low-A pitching prospect with upside seems like a reasonable ask from Anaheim, especially since they really need pitching help. My trade proposal sucks, but: Nick Nelson and Beck Way?

Yankees Trade Target: Jeff Hoffman

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Yesterday it was Chris Stratton. Today’s edition of failed starter turned reliever who the Yankees should trade for is Jeff Hoffman. The Rockies have tried Hoffman in the rotation in each of the last four seasons, but things just haven’t worked out. It’s not easy pitching at Coors Field, you know. Colorado’s trying Hoffman in the bullpen this year.

There could be a couple of impetuses to a trade with the Rockies right now. For one, Colorado’s 12-6 and in first place of the NL West. Subtracting from the Major League roster might not make sense. Two, the Yankees have made the Rockies look pretty bad in recent years. The Rockies were fleeced in the Mike Tauchman trade and DJ LeMahieu has excelled in pinstripes. Now, that didn’t stop them from making a minor trade last summer (Joe Harvey for minor leaguer Alfredo Garcia).

Background & Performance

Hoffman’s professional career began with the Blue Jays. Toronto drafted him with the ninth overall selection in the 2014 draft out of East Carolina University. The Jays didn’t hold onto him for long, though: the team dealt Hoffman to the Rockies the next summer as part of the Troy Tulowitzki deal.

Hoffman was a consensus top-100 prospect from 2015 through 2017, though he first debuted in the majors in mid-2016. He’s prety much been up-and-down from Triple-A ever since, and hasn’t been able to put things together. In 209 1/3 innings, Hoffman has a 6.11 ERA, 5.67 FIP, 18.7 percent strikeout rate, and 10.4 percent walk rate. He’s also allowed 43 (!!!) home runs. Almost all of that (191 innings) have come as a starter. All of his minor league options were exhausted in that time.

That brings us to 2020. Colorado has stuck him in relief to start the year, basically Hoffman’s last resort before getting DFA’d. So far, so good. He’s yet to allow a run in 6 1/3 innings spread across three appearances while also surrendering just three baserunners. I’m not going to jump to conclusions based on three relief outings because the results are completely meaningless. What I will do is say that Hoffman appears to have a bit of promise in relief if you look deeper.

Intriguing Underlying Metrics

Before I nerd out like I did with Stratton yesterday, I want to go to the video first in order to get a sense of Hoffman’s three pitch mix.

Hoffman averaged 95 MPH on his four-seamer that he’s thrown just under 54 percent of the time this year. It’s topped out at 96.6 on the gun. Here’s a good one:

He also throws a curveball, which historically has been his go to secondary offering. This year, he’s thrown it 19.7 percent of the time.

That’s pretty. But the pitch I really want to focus on today is his changeup, which I think has a ton of potential for him. This year, for the first time in his career, it’s eclipsed his curveball usage. He’s tried to pull the string 26.3 percent of offerings.

I just love the one that sent Kole Calhoun’s bat flying.

With the videos out of the way, let’s dig into the details. Both his fastball and curveball spin at above average rates, albeit nothing dramatic. It’s his changeup, however, that stands out in terms of it’s extremely low spin rate (which is fine for a changeup, generally).

At 1,296 RPM, Hoffman’s changeup has the 13th-lowest spin in the league this season. For reference, changeup wizard Tommy Kahnle sat just above 1,400 RPM this year. For Hoffman, this is a big drop in spin from last season on the pitch (1,425 RPM a year ago). It’s an even more significant drop from 2018 and prior, when it was north of 2,100 RPM. That’s a huge difference!

Perhaps it has something to do with tweaked mechanics. As a result, Hoffman is getting five inches of vertical movement above average on the pitch. In spite of the significant changes to the pitch, his changeup velocity is mostly unchanged (around 85 MPH).

Further, it appears that his changeup has potential to pair with his heater really well. There’s almost no difference between his fastball (in red below) and changeup (green) in terms of horizontal movement, meaning both pitches drop on the same plane.

It also really helps that the pair of pitches’ release points are nearly identical.

So, the fastball and change come out of the same chute, drop on the same vertical plane, but one comes in 10 miles per hour slower and falls another 17 inches. Have fun with that!

I’d argue that Hoffman should go the way of Kahnle and essentially rely on fastballs and changeups and see what happens. Not that he can’t throw his yakker either — it’s not bad in its own regard — but it seems to me that his fastball/change combo could be lethal.

Now, there is reason to be hesitant of course. Hoffman has been pretty dang bad at the Major League level for quite a while, save for this year’s incredibly small sample size. It’s not like his minor league numbers speak volumes, either. On top of that, his control is suspect. He’s got a career walk rate north of 10 percent, comfortably worse than league average. You can tell he doesn’t really know where the ball is going from his pitch charts this year, too:

This is a big reason why Hoffman didn’t cut it as a starter. It might work as a reliever, however. He can get away with mistakes given the quality of his stuff, particularly if he leans on his changeup more often (at least in my mind).

Injury History

I mentioned this before, but Hoffman dealt with shoulder inflammation back in 2018. That’s not the first of his arm troubles, either. In college, Hoffman tore his UCL during his junior season and had Tommy John surgery. He’s been OK since the shoulder scare a couple years ago, but it certainly remains in the back of everyone’s mind.

Contract

Hoffman had a bit over one year of service time and makes near the league minimum. That puts him under team control for five seasons (including this year). However, Hoffman has no more minor league options remaining so he has to stick on the big league roster or otherwise be put through waivers.

What would a trade look like?

Again, this is tricky because the Rockies are in contention and may be realizing that Hoffman could be a good bullpen arm. But uh, the Rockies are weird and have a propensity for head scratching moves. There’s also the chance that Colorado falls apart as we get closer to the deadline, of course. In any case, I compiled a few comparable trades that have happened this year:

PitcherService TimeOptions RemainingIn exchange for…
Ariel Jurado1.0521PTBNL/Cash
James Hoyt1.1081Cash
Austin Pruitt1.1250Prospects RHP Peyton Battenfield and OF Cal Stevenson
Austin Brice2.1010Prospect 2B Angeudis Santos

I tried to boil things down to pitchers with one year (or more) of service time and zero options. Obviously, not everyone on the list above is out of options. However, I think the Austin Pruitt trade could be a good comp to what it’d take for Hoffman. Like Hoffman, Pruitt has no options remaining and five years of control left. The Rays acquired two low level prospects from the Astros in return for Pruitt.

Peyton Battenfield was the Astros’ 9th rounder in 2019 and Cal Stevenson was the Blue Jays’ 10th round choice a year before. Both are 23 and at different tranches of A-ball. Neither appear to be significant prospects, though they aren’t non-prospects either.

For the Yankees, that might be 23 year-old OF Brandon Lockridge, the org’s fifth rounder in 2018 who has topped out in Charleston. Maybe the arm in the deal could be LHP Alfredo Garia, who the Yankees actually acquired from Colorado for Joe Harvey last summer. Garcia is rule 5 eligible this winter and doesn’t seem like a guy the Yankees will protect anyway. My trade proposal sucks though, as you know.

Now, a more fun trade might be sending power-hitting 1B Chris Gittens to the Rockies. Daniel Murphy is currently Colorado’s first baseman and won’t be there for long, whereas Gittens has been rule 5 eligible since last year and probably needs a chance elsewhere. He was the Eastern League MVP in 2019 and would probably bash 40 homers in Colorado, albeit with a ton of strikeouts. That’s a win-win for both the Yankees and Rockies, no?

Yankees Trade Target: Chris Stratton

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The trade deadline is almost here (already!). We’re just 17 games into this season, and yet, trades will be off the table come August 31st. There’s not much time for the Yankees to decide what or who they want to pursue, but one area that the organization clearly emphasizes is a deep bullpen. And with Tommy Kahnle down for the season, the team could use a reinforcement in relief. Over the next few weeks, we’ll profile players the Yankees could go after (not just relievers, by the way). Today, we start with someone you’ll probably deem an obscure target: Pirates’ right-hander Chris Stratton.

Background & Performance

The 29 year-old Stratton has a chance to be another example of a failed starter turned good reliever. The Giants drafted Stratton as a starter out of Mississippi State in the first round of the 2012 draft. It took him a while to climb the minor league ranks, but by mid-2016, Stratton debuted for San Francisco in relief. He spent some more time in the minors in 2017, but finally got a real opportunity in the Giants’ rotation come late-2017.

Stratton was decent in the rotation for the Giants: in 193 innings as a starter between 2017 and 2018, he recorded a 4.24 ERA and 4.28 FIP. Good enough for the ever-needing Angels to trade for and install in its 2019 starting rotation. Unfortunately, it took just five starts (7.04 ERA) for the Halos to give up on him. To the bullpen he went, and eventually, to Pittsburgh by mid-May.

The Pirates didn’t bother with Stratton as a starter last summer. He went into the ‘pen in a long relief role, and did well. In 28 games and 46 2/3 innings, Stratton recorded a 3.66 ERA and 4.11 FIP. His strikeout rate jumped to 23.5 percent and his fastball velocity creeped up to the 93-94 range. He was still nothing to write home about, but it was a step in the right direction.

Fast forward to 2020 and things start to get more interesting. Now, we’re talking about an extremely small sample size of seven games and nine innings. But in those opportunities, Stratton has been very good. And it’s not just his results that have popped out, but also a few underlying things that make him worth a look for the Yankees. First however, the stats. He’s posted a stellar 37.1 percent strikeout rate along with a respectable 8.6 percent walk rate en route to a 2.89 ERA and 1.21 FIP. Save for his most recent outing (three innings against Detroit), Stratton’s worked mostly in short stints.

Intriguing Underlying Metrics

What makes this admittedly limited track record sustainable? His breaking balls look pretty nasty. Let’s get a high level overview of his arsenal:

Pitch (count)Avg. VeloSpinWhiff %
Fastball (68)93.52,61332.1
Slider (49)87.02,89218.2
Curve (28)80.53,06163.6

The spin and whiff rates on those breakers, particularly the curve, are enticing. Those spin rates are elite too. Here’s where they rank this year

  • Fastball: 11th
  • Slider: 15th
  • Curve: 6th

Perhaps he’s found more results-based success this year because he’s leaned into throwing them more:

Stratton’s had elite spin rates on his breaking pitches for a few years now, so the pitch mix change makes sense. That said, it may also make more sense for him to use his curve (19 percent usage) more than his slider (33 percent). He’s garnered more whiffs on the curve than slider this season and in past seasons, for one. xStats favor the curve too. A reason for this may be that Stratton more efficiently spins his curve than his slider.

Active spin — which is the spin that directly contributes to movement — is very important in conjunction with spin rate. Stratton could stand to do better in that regard. It’s pretty high for both his fastball and curve (above 70 percent active spin), but his high spin rate on his slider is doing very little for him (24.4 percent active spin).

One other note: Stratton’s throwing his curveball and slider harder this year. His curve is up 3.4 MPH and his slider is up 2.5 MPH. I don’t have much to add on that, other than I surmise it’s helped his pitches be a little less loopy than prior seasons.

Enough numbers, let’s get a good look at him in action. Take a look at some of these curveballs:

And for good measure, a nice back door curve:

Now, let’s watch a couple of sliders.

I still prefer his curve, but clearly, either will play.

Now, for all the emphasis I’ve placed on Stratton’s breakers, we should touch on his fastball too. It’s improved quite a bit this year. While he’s not a flamethrower, he’s bumped his average velocity up from 92.2 to 93.5 MPH. If he needs it, Stratton can reach back for 95 as well. Lastly, his spin rate on the pitch jumped compared to last year. It was just under 2,500 RPM last season, but this year, it’s at 2,613.

No one will mistake Stratton’s heater for, say, Chad Green’s. But the added spin and velocity is undoubtedly making a difference, while also throwing it less often makes it harder to sit on.

Injury History

There’s not too much here. What’s better: nothing arm related. He hit the injured list twice last year with the similar issues: right side discomfort and right side inflammation. In other words, oblique problems. In total, Stratton spent time on the injured list from May 25 to June 18 and August 29 to September 17. This year? So far so good.

Contract

With just over two years of service entering 2020, Stratton is on a near league-minimum deal this season but is arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason. So, he’ll get a little more expensive, albeit not too much. It’s also worth noting that he’s out of options and can’t go to the minors. Finally, he won’t be a free agent until after 2023.

What would a trade look like?

I really have no idea. As much as I like Stratton’s underlying stuff, I don’t think I’d give up much based on a small sample of games. I don’t expect it would take anything big to make something workm either. Pittsburgh isn’t contending anytime soon and are surely hesitant to start paying anyone as they go through the arbitration process. They’re as cheap as it gets.

Now that we’re in trade season again, a reminder is in order: your (and my) trade proposal sucks. Nonetheless, let’s put something out there. I think a good place to start is scanning impending Rule 5 eligible minor leaguers that the Yankees may not want to protect, but also not lose for nothing. Roster Resource lays out who’ll be eligible pretty plainly. Would Hoy Jun Park or Isiah Gilliam do the trick? I’ll say yes.

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