Yankees left-handed relief corps heading into 2018: Shreve and LeBlanc

DENVER, CO - JULY 23: Pitcher Wade LeBlanc
DENVER, CO - JULY 23: Pitcher Wade LeBlanc /

Not surprising, the Yankees have a predominantly right-handed bullpen, but this week they acquired left-hander Wade LeBlanc, a free agent formerly of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Wade LeBlanc looks to crack into a Yankees relief corp that projects to be elite in the 2018 season.

Featuring LHP Aroldis Chapman at the top, RHP David Robertson, RHP Dellin Betances, RHP Tommy Kahnle, RHP Chad Green and RHP Adam Warren, the bullpen is stacked.

General manager Brian Cashman has put together a corps of shut down relievers to back up the starting rotation, even beyond the five above, including LHP Chasen Shreve, RHP Luis Cessa and RHP Domingo German. Where might LeBlanc fit?

Fangraphs have projected this mostly unchanged bullpen from 2017 (LHP Jaime Garcia left for free agency) as “possibly historic.”

"Aroldis Chapman (52.1, 55 ERA-, 1.8 zWAR) is the nominal closer, but any of the other top  four pitchers is capable of handling high-leverage innings. Dellin Betances (60.2, 67, 1.5), Chad Green (73.0, 67, 1.6), and David Robertson (59.2, 62, 1.7) are all forecast by ZiPS to record ERAs at least 30% better than league average. Tommy Kahnle (60.1, 71, 1.3) just misses that entirely arbitrary threshold."

Shreve is the only left-handed reliever in the Yankees bullpen for 2018. He appeared in 44 games for the Yankees, with a 3.77 ERA and 58 strikeouts while pitching to a 1.89 ERA in his first 19 appearances in ’17.

TJ Knapp of PinstripeAlley.com reviewed Shreve’s ’17 season and was surprised by the fact that he had struck out more than a batter per inning. However, ultimately, as Knapp points out, Shreve needs to improve his command to cut down on walks — he walked 25 in 45 innings pitched.

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Shreve is projected by ZiPS to pitch 56.7 innings for the Bombers, with 74 Ks, 26 BB, 8 HR and a 2.93 ERA. His strike rate is projected to be 30.5% and his base-on-ball rate to be 10.7%.

His comp is Mitch Williams. Like Williams, Shreve is a power pitcher who can be all over the place but is a strike-out machine when he gets everything going.

Enter Wade LeBlanc. According to RJ Loubier of BronxPinstripes.com, LeBlanc, 33, is a lefty with a checkered nine-year career across nine teams: Padres, Marlins, Astros, Angels (twice), Yankees, Saitama Seibu Lions, Blue Jays and Pirates.

LeBlanc is 30-35 over his career with a 4.40 ERA in 79 starts and 97 relief appearances.

As you can see, LeBlanc is no stranger to the Yankees’ organization. He was acquired and fired, so to speak, by the Yankees in 2014, after making a one-inning appearance for the Bombers back in 2014, allowing two runs.

In 2017 with the Pirates, LeBlanc went 5-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 50 relief appearances, with 7.1 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 68 innings. Per Jeff Todd of MLBTrade Rumors.com:

"“He did carry a personal-best 9.6% swinging-strike rate, though, and fielding-independent pitching metrics valued his output as better than the results (e.g. 3.97 SIERA).”"

Also, Todd points out, as has long been the case, LeBlanc was much more effective in 2017 against righties than pitching against lefties-as the numbers show, per Rick Keeler of PinstripedProspects.com:

"“(.217 in 195 at-bats) compared to lefties (.295 in 88 at-bats). However, while the average was better against right-handed hitters, seven of the ten home runs he allowed came in those situations. Plus, teams hit only .216 against him in the second half.”"

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It seems LeBlanc will join a camp battle with Chasen Shreve, and the righties, to earn a place in the bullpen, perhaps as a long man, but more likely as a LOOGY.