Who is new Yankees reliever Junior Fernández?

While Aaron Judge and to a lesser extent Anthony Rizzo have dominated the Yankees sizzling range this winter, the bullpen entered the postseason a little bit of a query mark. Although the lack of Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman to free company is not precisely a loss — and should even be counted as an enchancment — the present reduction corps of Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Jonathan Loaísigia, and Michael King want some reinforcement if the Yankees need to proceed having one of many league’s premier bullpens.

Well, it isn’t a confirmed arm, however Brian Cashman ran to bolster the bullpen yesterday by claiming Junior Fernández off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Entering into his age-26 season, Fernández is nonetheless a 12 months out from being arbitration eligible and won’t attain free company till after the 2027. But whereas 4 years of group management is actually good for the entrance workplace’s long-term planning, it is his pitch arsenal — and most significantly, the adjustments he has made to it in 2022 — that ought to get Yankees followers excited.

Since making his main league debut in 2019 with the St. Louis Cardinals, with whom he signed as a world free agent in 2014, Fernández has modified up his repertoire just a few occasions. In 2019, he threw his changeup barely extra (31.7 p.c) than his slider (26.5) and sinker (26.1), along with his fastball coming in a distant fourth (15.6). In simply three innings in 2020, he leaned on his fastball, throwing it a whopping 55.7 p.c of the time, whereas abandoning his sinker utterly. 2021 noticed him cut back his fastball utilization barely to 43.3 as he was primarily a fastball/changeup pitcher who threw a slider with some consistency. Across these three years, Fernández didn’t appear to be a serious league pitcher, as he posted a 6.62 ERA (5.45 FIP) and 1.78 WHIP in 35.1 innings.

Then, in 2022, Fernández reinvented himself. Not solely did he convey again the sinker he had deserted, he turned it into his major weapon. Now averaging 98.7 mph with a median launch angle of -2 levels, it was thrown 42 p.c of the time. He threw the slider nearly twice as a lot as he did in 2021 (as much as 35.1 p.c from 21.2), whereas decreasing his four-seam fastball and changeup to pitches that he simply peppered in (12.6 and 10.2 p.c, respectively).

The outcomes converse for themselves. Although his 2.41 ERA in 18.2 innings is a little bit of a mirage — he had a 5.79 FIP, 1.607 WHIP, and 14.3 BB% — he has morphed into…effectively, the precise sort of pitcher that the Yankees have became gold with pitching coach Matt “King Midas” Blake.

A number of pitchers throw sinkers, however what number of can hit triple digits with it? Not many — in actual fact, solely 5 pitchers had a quicker sinker than Fernández did in 2022.

Obviously, a quick sinker doesn’t assure success (see Chapman, Aroldis), however Brusdar Graterol and José Alverado have been at worst competent center relievers. Jonathan Loáisiga, in the meantime, ranks in at thirteenth on this listing with a median sinker of 98 mph, whereas Holmes’s 97 mph ranks thirtieth; and everyone knows that, when wholesome, the listing of relievers higher than them is very quick certainly.

None of this, in fact, implies that Fernández will observe within the footsteps of Holmes and change into a lockdown reliever after leaving the Pirates for the Yankees, and likelihood is, the group will look so as to add a minimum of yet one more reliever over the course of the winter Even so, he matches completely within the mould of Matt Blake reclamation initiatives, and thus represents an ideal first step because the Yankees look to bolster their bullpen for 2023.

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