By and large, the New York Yankees have looked…well, mostly as expected so far this spring training.
Gleyber Torres looks lighter on his feet, both at the field and at the plate. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have barreled up their fair share of balls in five-and-fly competition.
Clint Frazier and Luke Voit have both gone so full-tilt they risked injury, despite these games not counting.
Typical, for the most part.
One particular player has stood out, though, for both his utter dominance and complete lack of previous name recognition.
Lucas Luetge has been the Yankees’ biggest surprise this spring.
Luetge, on the verge of turning 34, hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since 2015, so any sort of standout pitch this spring would’ve qualified him as a surprise. Instead of showing just a hint of greatness, though, the lefty has blown away a varied list of opponents.
Luetge — whose middle name is Lester, meaning his own name contains as many Ls (three) as he provides opposing batters per inning — has mowed down 10 batters in four shutout innings without a single walk this month. In his first outing following the Britton surgery news, he was given the ninth inning against the Phillies (a 6-1 game, but still) and delivered another 1-2-3 with a pair of whiffs.
And Luetge isn’t only dominating anonymous late-inning insertions. Last Sunday, he blew away Andrew McCutchen, Didi Gregorius and Bryce Harper in succession.
Per Ryan Garcia of Bronx Pinstripes, Luetge has completely made over his spin rate over the course of his past five years in the minors, which at least partially explains the performance increase (and the Yankees’ infatuation with him).
Luetge has increased his rate rate on every pitch in his arsenal, adding 192 RPM’s to his fastball (2,770 RPMs), 537 RPMs to his curve (2866), and 826 RPMs to his slider (2801).
Will this be the April where Luetge’s odyssey finally ends, and he finds himself on an Opening Day roster?
Within just a few weeks’ time, his quest went from noble to impossible to deny, and with the Britton-sized bullpen void looming large, the Yankees have to consider carrying their No. 1 surprise north with them.
Especially when the lefty alternatives include…well, the underwhelming Tyler Lyons, and that’s about it.
New York could opt to bring six starters up to start the season, opting for Deivi Garcia instead. But if they intend to replace Britton one-for-one, we don’t see how they’re penciling in any name other than Luetge’s.
If they looked elsewhere, that’d be a fourth L on Luetge’s name for sure.