It’s a mostly thankless role, but someone has to do it. Chance Adams, Nestor Cortes, and David Hale were all summoned from the minors at various points this season to serve as extra arms in the Yankees’ bullpen. Let’s take a quick look at how each pitcher did and what lies ahead for them in 2020.
The Yankees recalled Adams from Triple-A four separate times this season. In each instance he never stuck for an extended period until September callups. Around all of those promotions and demotions, Adams had an ugly 8.53 ERA (6.53 FIP) in 25 1/3 innings, all in relief. He pitched better in Scranton’s rotation, but it wasn’t anything special either. In 18 games (15 starts), the 25 year-old righty had a 4.63 ERA (5.07 FIP) in 81 2/3 innings. 2019 is now Adams’ second consecutive poor season.
After ascending the minor league ranks with relative ease after being the team’s 5th rounder in 2015, Adams seemed like a potential back of the rotation arm. 2017 was his peak — he threw just over 150 frames between Double and Triple-A and had a 2.45 ERA (3.70 FIP).
Now, Adams is running out of time to recover with the Yankees. He still has one more option remaining, so he could split time between Triple-A and the majors next year. However, because of back-to-back rough years, he could be on the 40-man cutting block. The Yankees probably would have a hard time keeping him if they tried to slip him through waivers because Adams has an somewhat interesting Statcast profile, particularly his curveball:
Nasty Nestor came out of nowhere this season. The Yankees previously left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft before the 2018 season and the Orioles gave him a shot. Baltimore returned him and there was really no threat of him getting picked again in 2019. And, there was seemingly little chance of him being in the majors at all this year. Then, the injury plague struck the Yanks. The Bombers sent him up and down between the majors and minors seven times by late July, but his eighth promotion proved to be the charm.
Between the numerous callups, Cortes was pretty effective for an extended stretch. A lot of it was surely smoke and mirrors, as his end of year stat line is not so great. But, there was a stretch of 41 1/3 innings in which had a 3.81 ERA from May 26th through August 9th. And as you know, there were a number of shuttle trips between the Bronx and Scranton during that period. Much of that success occurred as the bulk innings guy for Chad Green, who was oft-used as an opener.
Unfortunately, Cortes lost his magic touch to close the year. He allowed at least one run in 10 of his final 13 appearances, which helped balloon is end of year ERA to 5.80. The crafty lefty isn’t someone who blows hitters away, so it was a matter of time until the league figured him out. At least it was fun to watch him succeed while it lasted, though. He arm angles, quick pitch, and slow windups were a treat when he was on.
Nestor Cortes Jr. , Messing with Timing. ? pic.twitter.com/9TTK5d4KuN— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 26, 2019
And for good measure, check out all these release points from his last outing of the season:
Cortes is another fringe 40-man roster guy who could lose his spot over the winter. However, there’s a chance the Yankees may be able to hold on to him. His upside isn’t so high that a number of teams would try to claim him. The Yanks would have to pass him through outright waivers to keep him in the organization should they cut him from the 40-man.
Saved the best of this post’s crew for last. Hale bounced between the Yankees, Twins, and back to the Yankees in 2018, but was able to settle in with the Bombers this year. The righty was a non-roster invitee to spring training and began the season in Triple-A’s rotation. But by mid-May, the big leagues came calling.
Hale only pitched 37 2/3 innings with the Yankees. Like the rest of the roster, he wasn’t impervious to the injury bug. But those innings were quite effective: he had a 3.11 ERA and 3.32 FIP despite only striking out 5.5 batters per nine. How? Thanks to good control (1.67 walks per nine) and his ability to keep the ball in the yard (0.48 homers per nine), he limited damage. He also only allowed an 86.5 MPH exit velocity and .277 xWOBA. A lumbar spine strain put him on the shelf in late July and he never returned.
The Yankees designated Hale for assignment when Aaron Hicks returned for the postseason. In lieu of accepting an outright assignment, the righty elected free agency. Still, I’d assume there’s a decent chance he’s back with the team next spring on another minor league deal. It doesn’t seem likely he can land a guaranteed major league job despite his success in 2019.