Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
A few things were made clear in the New York Yankees’ 21-5 trouncing of the Texas Rangers this week. Firstly, that I have way too many friends that thought the game was over after the first inning. Secondly, that the Yankees are locked in for an AL East title. Lastly, Diego Moreno deserves a spot on the big league roster for the immediate future.
In a game the Yankees were losing 5-0 with two outs in the first inning, Moreno came in to a job most thought was clean up duty and no hit the Rangers for 5.1 innings. While it may sound silly to question if a win could have been in question when the final score was 21-5, a baseball game with an 11-5 score after the top of the second inning is really open for the taking. Moreno absolutely shut down the Rangers, allowing just one walk and striking out five.
Moreno was coming close to being a career minor leaguer, starting in the Pirates minor league system in 2007. He was traded to the Yankees in 2012 for AJ Burnett, but missed the season with Tommy John surgery. Since coming back from the surgery in 2013, he spent a year in A+ then AA, the following year in AA then AAA, and 2015 saw him begin in AAA with the final promotion last month.
Moreno has shown signs of brilliance in short spurts previously, but 2015 has been the first time that Moreno has put all his skills together and made a consistent showing for the Yankees to be impressed by. In 53.2 innings of AAA ball this year, Moreno held a 2.18 ERA. He struck out 42 in that time and has allowed just .2 home runs per 9 innings pitched.
Like I mentioned above, it appears that 2015 is the year Moreno is starting to shine, but the stats show his 2014 season could have been much better. In 2014 while in AAA, Moreno had a 4.86 ERA in 46.1 innings, but batters had a .387 BABIP against him. His FIP was 3.08 – nearly a 2 run difference from his actual ERA. With an improved defense, Moreno suddenly looks like a much better pitcher, but the right elements have been there for at least two years.
Moreno has pitched 7.1 inning for the Yankees since being called up. He owns a 2.45 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP with 8 strikeouts. In other words, before his latest relief appearance he had given up 5 hits, 2 walks, and 2 runs in 2 innings of work. It may be difficult to know which Moreno will show up the next time he pitches, but his last two years of work show he should be getting more appearances at the major league level.
Joe Girardi has used minor leaguers as relief in a revolving door lately, and it has largely been working well. With Moreno showing that he can provide long relief, he is versatile and should be one of the few that stays with the Yankees as they head to the playoffs for the first time in three years. While the world waits for Luis Severino to make his final promotion, Moreno will stay out of the spotlight but will be a great stopgap to get to the Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller duo.