The Clay Rapada Option

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2012 Season Preview: After the Starters

Barring injury, the Yankees really only have one spot up for grabs in Spring Training this year. That’s the final bullpen spot, assuming the loser of the Phil Hughes/Freddy Garcia fifth starter “competition” is made the long man and not traded or sent to the minors or released or something. There are no shortage of bullpen candidates in camp, though the team has yet to give any kind of indication of which way they’re leaning. Given the early-season schedule, non-roster invitee and left-hander Clay Rapada might make the most sense.

The Yankees open their regular season schedule in Tampa for a three-game set with the Rays, who will have lefties Carlos Pena, Luke Scott, and Matt Joyce in the lineup and ready to be matched up against. Three games against the Orioles (and lefties Nick Markakis, Chris Davis, and possibly even Nick Johnson) comes next, then three games against the right-handed heavy Angels, four games against the Twins (Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau), three games against the Red Sox (Jacoby Ellsbury, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Carl Crawford), three games against the Rangers (Josh Hamilton), and three games against the Tigers (Prince Fielder, Brennan Boesch). A second lefty would sure be a nice option to have during that stretch.

Rapada, 31, is a funky little southpaw with a low arm slot (video), a mid-80s fastball and a mid-70s slider. He’s held the 136 big league lefties he’s faced to a .153/.252/.220 batting line with 36 strikeouts (26.5%), 15 walks (11.0%), and a 42.0% ground ball rate, so solid peripherals but not overwhelmingly awesome. Rapada has appeared in three exhibition games so far, allowing just two of the 12 batters he’s faced to reach base (single and walk). He’s struck out four of the five left-handers he’s faced (the other was thrown out trying to bunt for a hit), and although it’s a miniscule sample that means absolutely nothing, Rapada is going to have a win a job based on these small samples. So far he’s done nothing to hurt his chances.

Ultimately, that last bullpen spot is just being kept warm for Joba Chamberlain, who is expected back in mid-June or so. The Yankees will have some flexibility until then and can use that spot to carry an extra lefty for the first 22 games of the season, which will be played against a number of left-handed heavy teams. Cesar Cabral could also be an alternative to Rapada, though he’s a fastball-changeup guy that isn’t a great candidate for matchup work. Plus he hasn’t stood out in camp so far, and unfortunately that’s the name of the game when it comes to winning the last roster spot. Unless one of the extra righties really emerges over the next three weeks, Rapada could be the best option for that final spot come Opening Day. How long he lasts is another matter entirely.

Dynamic ticket pricing inching into the baseball market
2012 Season Preview: After the Starters
  • Drew

    You must mean “The DFA Come May 1st Option”

    • Robinson Tilapia

      A lot can happen before 5/1, not that I’m going to raise my pom-poms for Rapada too much.

      • A.D.

        There’s gotta be some random guy for the fans to throw to the wolves if the season doesn’t start off amazing, might as well be Rapada lined up for the Hawkins treatment

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Someone already made the Billy Traber joke. Damnit.

  • Scully

    I wouldn’t mind carrying a mediocre lefty for the first month or two of the season to be the second lefty. Girardi does love to matchup, and not that these early games aren’t just as important as late season games but, who knows what you’ve got in a guy until you try him out. His stats vs. left-handed hitters in his career aren’t abysmal either.

  • jeremy

    guess it comes down to if anyone else really impresses and thus far no one else really has

  • Steve

    Can Rapada be demoted without issue?

  • JohnC

    Remember a couple of years ago Billy Traber had an outstanding spring and we thought we had a real bargain for the bullpen. When the season started he just disappeared

    • Paul VuvuZuvella

      Billy who ?

  • Monterowasdinero

    I like Rapadaalotta but for a whole season?


  • Ted Nelson

    I think he’s probably as good as any option for that spot.
    I wouldn’t mind seeing Kontos get the chance, but if he’s got options left they can keep both by going with Rapada. Maybe they can work out a deal with Cabral to go to AAA since he’s a 2nd time Rule 5 guy.

    • Ted Nelson

      *Whelan… get those two confused for some reason.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      I feel like we’ve been talking about Kontos forever, and he didn’t walk the entire earth in his SSS last season. I’d love to see him get the chance to be a bullpen piece and get the feeling he will when it’s all said and done.

      Him and DJ Mitchell becoming valuable pieces is something I’d look forward to. Not flashy, but paid their dues in this system.

  • Andy in Sunny Daytona

    I imagine that Clay Rapada sounds like Joel from “Unsupervised”.

  • Kosmo

    Cabral has so far pitched OK, granted a SSS, and he did pitch exceedingly well in winterball.
    In MO if Girardi is interested in carrying 2 lefties in the pen it´s Cabral`s to win or lose. With Joba due back in June, I wonder what will happen to Wade if a 2nd lefty impresses ?
    If Hughes wins the 5th SP role Garcia might either be released or traded.
    Good to have depth.

    • Urban

      If the choice is Rapada or Wade, I think Garcia is the last to go. A team needs at least six starters during the season, and either Garcia or Hughes will be that sixth starter.

      • Kosmo

        I don´t see why either Phelps or Warren can´t fill the role of the “sixth starter“ ? They´re at this point probably as good an option as Garcia.

  • Urban

    It would be great if we could keep Cabral as an option down in AAA.

    I don’t have an issue with giving Rapada a chance as long as they use him properly. He is a LOOGY and a LOOGY only. One or two batters, and he is out. Tough on lefties, total red meat against rigties. If the Yankees believe they can fit that type of limited pitcher in their pen, then he’s worth a shot. Certainly the price is right.

  • Tom

    People like to talk about it being nice to have a 2nd lefty option… but when exactly are they deploying a 2nd lefty? In the 9th? (Mo) The 8th? (Robo) The 7th…maybe? (Sori) Corey Wade does not have significant platoon splits, when Joba comes back he’s also not a guy you typically lift for lefties.

    Granted in the reg season you have times where pitchers will be unavailable, but you carry a 2nd lefty specialist for this?

    If they add Rapada with the idea of Logan being a non-specialist (basically a low leverage innings eater), I’d understand the move, but do you want 2 arms in the pen that will combine for ~70 innings? It’s also not clear whether Logan’s performance against righties last year is sustainable.

    • Ted Nelson

      How much is the last guy in the BP going to pitch if he’s a RHP? Also not much and not in high leverage situations, so I don’t really understand your point. You can ask the same thing about a RHP, because there’s also not much point in having him in your BP.

      And if everyone stays healthy, Joba replaces the last BP guy… so it’s not a matter of having that guy and Joba.