*You're going to see a lot of speculation and analysis on potential bullpen additions at the site over the coming weeks. Cody led things off last night with a great overview of 10 potential trade targets. We'll continue to explore the reliever market by running profiles on specific pitchers each day.
Kirby Yates, RHP, 32-years-old
San Diego Padres (33-33, 4th in NL West)
Under team control via arbitration through 2020
2019: 0.96 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 15.4 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 in 28.0 IP
2018: 2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 12.9 K/9, 2.4 BB/9 in 63.0 IP
What’s to Like?
Well you gotta like the idea of a guy named Kirby joining the Twins, right? He’s also a frontrunner for fireman of the year right now. If you were looking to ride a hot hand, Yates is among the hottest you can find right now.
Yates leads all relievers in saves (23), FanGraphs’ WAR (1.9) and WPA (2.59). Out of the 165 relievers with at least 20 innings, Yates is third in ERA (0.96), fourth in xFIP (1.95) and second in K-BB% (37.7). Opposing batters are hitting just .167/.245/.219 (.464 OPS) against him right now.
Yates hasn’t given up a run in his last 10 appearances, yielding just two hits and one walk over that stretch. He hasn’t been taken deep in 2019 and has surrendered just five extra-base hits.
Plugging in a set closer to the ninth inning would allow Rocco Baldelli to continue using Taylor Rogers in whatever other high-leverage situations he sees fit.
Diversity is something to aim for in the bullpen, and Yates’ pitch mix is similar to a current Twins reliever. Yates’s specialty pitch is his splitter, same as Blake Parker, though Yates goes to that offering nearly twice as often as Parker does (42% vs. 21.8%).
There’s also some concern that he may be a product of his pitching environment. Yates has posted a 161 ERA+ over 146 2/3 innings with the Padres. He was nowhere near that good with the Rays (73 ERA+ in 56 1/2 innings) or Yankees (83 ERA+ in 41 1/3 innings).
What happens if you take him out of San Diego and put him back in the American League? He did develop that splitter while with the Padres, however, so maybe this is for real.
The aging curve for relievers can be pretty brutal. Yates is 32 and it’s not like he’s a flame-thrower as it is. His four seamer, which he throws roughly 57% of the time, sits 93 mph.