Yankees: Who can internally fill the remaining bullpen openings?

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The most obvious and experienced of the bunch, Tommy Kahnle is certainly looking to turn the page after a disappointing 2018 season. In only 24 appearances, the righty threw for a 6.56 ERA and 22 runs (17 earned) in 23.1 innings pitched.

Kahnle was expected to be a late-inning option for Aaron Boone this past season, especially after his outstanding 2017 campaign between the Chicago White Sox and Yankees. The righty had pitched to a 2.59 ERA and racked up a career-high 96 strikeouts in 62.2 innings pitched.

After being placed on the disabled list on April 17 with right shoulder tendinitis this past season, the 29-year had trouble finding steady success between the Majors and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Besides the shoulder issues, another possible contributor to Kahnle’s down year was his decreased velocity.

Kahnle’s fastball – arguably the best pitch in his arsenal– dramatically decreased in velocity from 2017 into 2018. Between these past two seasons, his velocity dropped almost 3.0 mph. Although that may seem minimal, that’s a HUGE difference for someone who relies primarily on his fastball. Check out the numbers :

Average Fastball Velocity:

2017: 97.9 mph

2018: 95.1 mph

The likely reason for this diminished velocity was his shoulder not being fully healed. As a result, the righty also suffered lower velocity with his changeup and slider, both reliable secondary pitches.

When a pitcher suffers a loss in velocity like Kahnle, their arsenal may lack its usual movement. Based on career percentages, Kahnle threw fewer fastballs (53.4 %) and more changeups (40.3 %) this past season, which could have given the batter an advantage in pitch recognition. If a changeup doesn’t have it’s usual bite or dip, it could remain flat with minimal movement like a fastball.

All the Yankees could hope for going into Spring Training is that Kahnle’s shoulder is fulled healed from his past shoulder issues and he regains his normal velocity. He could be a real lights-out option in the bullpen if he can replicate his 2017 performance.