Even with no standouts, the revolving door has been an effective last man in the bullpen

Pinder. (Presswire)
Pinder. (Presswire)

As you know, the Yankees have had a revolving door in their bullpen all season, using the last reliever spot or two — sometimes more, they’ve had an eight-man bullpen at times — to shuttle in fresh arms as necessary. Every team does it to some extent, but the Yankees have done it to the extreme this year, and it’s all by design. The plan coming into the season was to use the Triple-A and Double-A depth to constantly bolster the bullpen.

“(We had) from Double-A on up a lot of really interesting power arms from the left and right side that were under control, with options,” said Brian Cashman to Joe Lemire recently. “We talked all winter about where we could be in a situation where we’re really taking a guy every ten days. Call a guy up, max him out, send him back out and get a new guy up. It’s just kind of a revolving door.”

According to Lemire, the Yankees had made 106 transactions — that’s call-ups, send-downs, and designate for assignments — heading into last Tuesday’s game, easily the most in baseball. The other 29 clubs were averaged 67 such transactions this year. That’s kinda crazy, but it was the plan all along. The depth is there, might as well use it, right? No sense in going short-handed for a few days when you have capable pitchers a phone call away.

I count a dozen pitchers who have been on the bullpen shuttle this season, not including Chris Capuano, who always seems to find his way back onto the roster even though the Yankees keep trying to stick him in their Triple-A rotation. Of those 12 pitchers, eight have been called up multiple times. Here are how those eight relievers with multiple call-ups and send-downs have fared this season:

Caleb Cotham 3.2 9.82 7.49 25.0% 0.0% 50.0% 4.91
Nick Goody 3.1 5.40 4.02 20.0% 13.3% 66.7% 0.00
Chris Martin 16.0 5.63 2.81 20.3% 4.1% 54.5% 0.56
Bryan Mitchell 17.2 2.55 3.18 20.3% 6.8% 49.1% 0.51
Diego Moreno 10.1 5.23 4.29 17.8% 6.7% 40.6% 0.87
Branden Pinder 23.1 2.70 5.01 19.0% 10.0% 30.4% 1.54
Jose Ramirez 3.0 15.00 6.79 10.0% 20.0% 38.5% 0.00
Nick Rumbelow 9.2 2.79 3.54 22.5% 7.5% 39.3% 0.93
TOTAL 87.0 4.34 3.91 19.6% 7.7% 42.2% 1.03
3.63 3.74 22.1% 8.5% 45.5% 0.90

Just to be clear, this includes Mitchell’s time as a reliever only. Overall, the eight up-and-down relievers have been below-average at pretty much everything other than limiting walks this year. You can play with the numbers if you want — remove Ramirez because he’s no longer with the organization and it’s a 3.83 ERA (3.84 FIP) in 84 innings, for example — but I don’t see the point in that.

Overall, this group of eight pitchers have collectively performed worse than the league average reliever. They aren’t replacing the league average reliever, however. They’re the last reliever in the bullpen, and the last reliever in the bullpen is generally very bad. The Blue Jays, for example, have gotten a 6.80 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 41.2 innings out of Todd Redmond, Scott Copeland, and Jeff Francis this year. The Royals and Pirates have used Joe Blanton. See what I mean?

By last reliever in the bullpen standards, the revolving door has been serviceable this year. Not great — out of all these guys, the only one who has really stood out and made you think he could an impact pitcher long-term is Mitchell, who is a starter by trade — but serviceable. The advantage is always having a fresh reliever. That’s the whole point of shuttling them in and out, to make sure Joe Girardi always has a fresh arm available.

How do you value something like that? I’m not sure we can put a number on it. Have a fresh “last guy in the bullpen” every night ensures the regular relievers won’t have to pick up any mop-up innings throughout the year, which can happen from time-to-time. Sometimes these guys get exposed — remember Pinder against the heart of the Blue Jays order in extra innings a few weeks ago? — but that happens with every mop-up man.

All things considered, the revolving bullpen door has succeeded at giving Girardi a fresh bullpen arm while providing the team collectively competent innings. These guys haven’t been great by any means — they’ve had their moments, but so does everyone — but the Yankees haven’t needed them to be. Soaking up innings in low-leverage spots is a thankless job. Rather than have one or two guys do it, the Yankees have used eight.

Yankees acquire Dustin Ackley from Mariners from Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez

Beard's gotta go, Dustin. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Beard’s gotta go, Dustin. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

While we wait for pitching, the Yankees have made a move to possibly improve the bench. The club has acquired utility man Dustin Ackley from the Mariners for outfielder Ramon Flores and right-hander Jose Ramirez, both teams announced. Ackley is currently in Minnesota, so he won’t join the Yankees in time for tonight’s game. He’ll probably meet them in Chicago tomorrow.

Ackley, 27, was the second overall pick in the 2009 draft, taken right after Stephen Strasburg. He was teammates with Adam Warren at UNC. The Yankees have reportedly been after Ackley for quite a while now — they talked to the Mariners about him last year, but backed away when Seattle wanted Bryan Mitchell. Earlier today we heard the two sides were discussing Ackley, Flores, and Ben Gamel.

So far this season Ackley is hitting .215/.270/.366 (77 wRC+) in 207 plate appearances as a part-time player. He showed a lot of promise by hitting .273/.348/.417 (117 wRC+) during his 90-game MLB debut back in 2011, but owns a .236/.297/.356 (85 wRC+) batting line in over 1,800 plate appearances since. Ackley has played first and second bases and well as left field in the big leagues.

The immediate question is how does Ackley fit on the roster and how will he be used? He is out of minor league options, so someone is coming off the 25-man roster, and the Yankees could either slot him into the Garrett Jones role or make him the everyday second baseman. My guess? They’ll try to turn him into their version of Brock Holt, the supersub who can play anywhere. This blurb from Ken Rosenthal back in June sticks out to me:

One problem with a six-man rotation is that it all but forces a team to carry 13 pitchers. Alas, it’s difficult to construct a roster that way without a multi-position threat such as Ben Zobrist or Brock Holt on the bench.

Such players, of course, are rare, which is why Yankees manager Joe Girardi said he recently told the head of the team’s minor-league department, “We’ve got to create one.”

We’ll see how it goes. For what it’s worth, the team’s press release identified Ackley as an outfielder only, not as a second baseman or first baseman or infielder or anything like that. Just an outfielder. It seems likely Ackley will replace Jones on the roster, but who knows.

I ranked Flores and Ramirez as the 18th and 30th best prospect in the system last week, respectively. The Yankees have more upper level outfielders and relievers than they know what to do with, so it’s no surprise they used that surplus in a trade. They still have Gamel, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Aaron Judge, and Jake Cave in the outfield and a small army of righty relievers in Triple-A.

Flores, 23, made his MLB debut earlier this year and stood out more for his glove than his bat in 12 games. He is hitting .286/.377/.417 (113 wRC+) with seven homers in 73 Triple-A games this year. Flores has a classic left-handed platoon outfielder’s profile, a Seth Smith type, and he’ll have a much greater opportunity for playing time in Seattle. I would not at all be surprised to see him carve out a long career as a useful role player.

The 25-year-old Ramirez has been up and down a few times the last two years, allowing eleven runs on 17 hits and eleven walks in 13 big league innings. Yikes! He’s struck out a dozen. Ramirez has a 2.90 ERA (2.70 FIP) with 26.7 K% and 11.0 BB% in 49.2 Triple-A innings this year. He has superb stuff — at his best, Ramirez sits mid-90s and gets swings and miss with both his changeup and slider — but his command is spotty and his injury history is ugly.

Ackley will earn $2.6M this season and remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in both 2016 and 2017. I figured he would be a non-tender candidate after the season, but I’m guessing the Yankees didn’t just trade Flores and Ramirez so they could non-tender Ackley in November. Flores and Ramirez both have all six years of team control remaining.

It remains to be seen how the Yankees will use Ackley going forward. This is a move designed to upgrade the margins of the roster, nothing else. They’re taking a shot on talent — Baseball America ranked Ackley as the 11th and 12th best prospect in all of baseball in 2010 and 2011, respectively — and hoping Ackley will thrive outside of cavernous Safeco Field and in lefty friendly Yankee Stadium.

Game 65: Back Home with Big Mike


The Yankees just wrapped up a five-game road trip through Baltimore and Miami and it was: bad. One win, four losses, 15 runs scored, 37 runs allowed. Egads. Thankfully the Yankees return home tonight to start a stretch where 20 of their next 30 games are at home. They’re 16-11 with a +24 run differential at home compared to 18-19 with a -12 run differential on the road. This team is built for Yankee Stadium.

Michael Pineda is on the mound tonight and you know what? Big Mike has kinda stunk of late. He’s got a 5.40 ERA in five starts since his 16-strikeout game, and opponents are hitting .325/.354/.520 against him during that time. That’s really bad! Tonight would be a fine night for Pineda to shake off these last five starts, pitch like the ace we all know he can be, and help the Yankees get back into the win column. Here is the Marlins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 1B Garrett Jones
  6. RF Carlos Beltran
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 2B Stephen Drew
  9. CF Mason Williams
    RHP Michael Pineda

It has been cloudy and on the cool side in New York today, but there is no rain in the forecast, so that’s good. This evening’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES. Try to enjoy.

Rotation Update: Masahiro Tanaka will start Sunday with an extra day of rest rather than Saturday, Joe Girardi announced. No word on who will start Saturday, but I wonder if they will start Nathan Eovaldi on three days’ rest since he threw only 36 pitches last night. Bryan Mitchell is also on turn to start that day as well, so the Yankees have options.

Roster Move: As expected, the Yankees brought in a fresh arm following last night’s bullpen marathon. Lefty Jose DePaula was called up from Triple-A Scranton and Jose Ramirez was sent down, the team announced. DePaula was already on the 40-man roster, so no other moves were necessary. He was on turn to start for the RailRiders today and can go many innings if necessary. I hope they aren’t.

Update: Chase Whitley to undergo Tommy John surgery


Monday, 4:36pm: Whitley will indeed undergo Tommy John surgery, the Yankees announced. Team doctor Chris Ahmad will perform the procedure tomorrow. Not unexpected, but damn. Sucks. See you next year, Ace Whitley.

Friday, 6:05pm: Whitley does have a torn UCL, Girardi told reporters this afternoon. No decision has been on surgery yet. He’ll see another doctor in New York first. Capuano will start Sunday and push everyone else back a day.

5:51pm: As expected, the Yankees placed right-hander Chase Whitley on the 15-day DL this afternoon. He has a right elbow sprain, the team announced, which means his ulnar collateral ligament has been compromised somehow. Whitley went for tests today and Jon Heyman hears the initial diagnosis is indeed a UCL tear, so Tommy John surgery is a real possibility. The Yankees haven’t said anything about the exact nature of the injury yet.

Whitely, 25, left last night’s start in the second inning with an elbow injury. He told reporters after the game that his elbow had been bugging him for a while now, but he didn’t tell anyone and tried to pitch through it. “Tonight (the discomfort) just carried over to the game. I’ve been able to get through it in the game, and tonight obviously you could pretty much tell,” said Whitley to Chad Jennings.

If Whitley does indeed need Tommy John surgery, he would be the second Yankees starter to blow out his elbow on the Tropicana Field mound within the last 13 months. Ivan Nova tore his UCL in a start at the Trop last April and had Tommy John surgery soon thereafter So I guess we can blame the Rays, right? Heyman says Whitley will likely seek a second opinion before having surgery. I’d ask for a second opinion before having my moneymaker cut open too.

In four starts this year Whitley had a 4.19 ERA (4.59 FIP) in 19.1 innings. One start was good, one start was great, one start was bad, and one start was cut short by the injury. Whitley nearly made the team out of Spring Training, but the Yankees opted to send him to Triple-A so they could use him as an occasional spot starter to rest everyone else in the rotation. Masahiro Tanaka‘s wrist/forearm injury pushed Whitley into the rotation full-time.

Joe Girardi confirmed Chris Capuano will replace Whitley in the rotation following last night’s game. Capuano threw six innings in his latest minor league rehab start earlier this week as he works his way back from a quad injury, so the timing worked out well. It’s unfortunate he’s coming back under these circumstances though. Girardi isn’t sure when Capuano will make his first start just yet. The Yankees have two off-days next week and don’t need their fifth starter again until May 26th.

For the time being, righty reliever Jose Ramirez has been called up from Triple-A to give the bullpen an extra arm. Presumably he or someone else (Branden Pinder?) will be sent down once Capuano is ready to be activated. There’s no need to activate Capuano just yet, so the Yankees get to carry an extra reliever for a few days. Ramirez, 25, has a 2.95 ERA (2.71 FIP) in 18.1 innings for the RailRiders this year.

Game 38: Win it for Ace Whitley


The Yankees have lost four straight games, and while the pitching staff got contact-bombed last night, the offense has been the biggest issue. They’ve scored six runs total in the four losses and have scored in just one inning in each game. It’s one thing to get shut down by someone like Chris Archer the other day, but Erasmo Ramirez? Chris Young? Blargh.

Anyway, losses happen, even four losses in a row, but no team in the AL East can afford an extended losing streak this season. The division is way too tight. The Yankees lost Chase Whitley to an elbow injury that will likely result in Tommy John surgery two days ago, so go out and win it for him. Ace Whitley did a nice job for the Yankees in a non-familiar role as a starting pitcher. Here is the Royals’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Chris Young
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. RF Carlos Beltran
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. 2B Jose Pirela
  8. SS Stephen Drew
  9. C John Ryan Murphy
    LHP CC Sabathia

It cloudy and sticky in Kansas City and it’s supposed to rain later tonight. It shouldn’t impact the game unless it goes to extra innings though. Tonight’s game will begin a bit after 7pm ET and will air on WPIX. Try to enjoy.

Injury Update: Masahiro Tanaka (wrist, forearm) will throw another bullpen session on Monday. He’ll then pitch in a minor league rehab game after that, likely on Thursday.

Roster Move: Bryan Mitchell has been called up and Jose Ramirez has been sent down, the Yankees announced. Mitchell was scheduled to start for Triple-A Scranton today, so he can give the team lots of innings out of the bullpen. I really hope they don’t need them.

Depth Arms: Miscellaneous 40-Man Roster Pitchers [2015 Season Preview]

The Yankees remade their bullpen this offseason — assuming Adam Warren is the fifth starter, the only player in the 2014 Opening Day bullpen projected to be in the 2015 Opening Day bullpen is Dellin Betances — and five of the seven spots are pretty well set. Betances and Andrew Miller will be the late inning guys, David Carpenter and Justin Wilson will be the middle inning guys, and Esmil Rogers figures to be the swingman.

That leaves two spots open and thus far the Yankees have not tipped their hand in Spring Training. There are no obvious favorites for those spots. The club has a bunch of options, both 40-man roster guys and non-40-man roster guys, and they can go in any number of directions. Two long men, two one-inning guys, two lefties, two righties, one of each, whatever. The depth is there and the Yankees will use all of it this year. That’s baseball. The pitching staff has to be fluid. Here are the team’s 40-man depth arms heading into the regular season.

Burawa. (Presswire)
Burawa. (Presswire)

Danny Burawa: Stuff, Not Strikes

Last winter the 26-year-old Burawa went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft. The Yankees didn’t roll the dice again. They added Burawa, a Long Island kid, to the 40-man roster in November despite his control problems because his stuff is vicious. He sits mid-to-high-90s with his running fastball and mid-to-upper-80s with his slider, and his crossfire delivery adds deception. Burawa has a great, great arm.

The problem is strikes, as I mentioned. Burawa walked 11.3% of batters faced last year and had to be demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton at midseason. His career walk rate in the minors is 11.1%. The Yankees have three option years to help Burawa harness his stuff, and if that doesn’t happen, it’s hard to see him as anything more than an up-and-down arm. His stuff is so good the team will be patient though.

Jose DePaula: Lefty Long Man

The Yankees surprisingly signed DePaula to a one-year contract this offseason, adding him to the 40-man roster even though he has zero MLB experience and threw only 130 innings from 2012-14 due to oblique and shoulder issues. His shoulder started acting up again this spring — DePaula went for an MRI a week ago and everything came back clean, though it has limited him to mostly bullpens — which took him out of the running for a Opening Day roster spot. DePaula, 27, is a generic low-90s fastball, mid-80s changeup, mid-70s curveball strike-throwing lefty. He’ll work as a starter in Triple-A to start the year and could emerge as a spot starter or long relief option at some point this summer.

Chris Martin: Tall Up & Down Righty

Martin, 28, was the final link in a fringe reliever transaction chain. Preston Claiborne was designated for assignment to clear a spot for Gonzalez Germen, who was acquired from the Mets. Germen was then designated for assignment when the Yankees acquired Martin from the Rockies. New York acquired Germen because they felt he was better than Claiborne, and then they acquired Martin because they felt he was better than Germen.

Martin is basically the model Yankees reliever based on the team’s ostensible preferences. He’s super tall (listed at 6-foot-8), throws hard (PitchFX had him averaging 94.6 mph in 2014), and has a history of striking guys out (career 24.9 K% in Triple-A). His back story is pretty interesting too. Like Claiborne before him, Martin is slated to fill an up-and-down role this year, riding the bus back and forth between Triple-A and MLB whenever a fresh arm is needed. He’s not exactly a young prospect, so I’m not sure how much room for improvement there is.

Mitchell. (Presswire)
Mitchell. (Presswire)

Bryan Mitchell: Seventh Starter?

The fifth starter competition was basically a two-horse race between Warren and Rogers, with Mitchell as one of the guys on the periphery of the competition. The Yankees always seemed intent on sending him to Triple-A for more refinement, which makes sense at this point of his career. Mitchell has very good stuff, but he will turn only 24 next month and has only 51.2 career innings above Double-A. He’s also prone to bouts of wildness.

There’s a chance — albeit a small one — Mitchell can be the 2015 version of 2014 Shane Greene, coming up at midseason to solidify the rotation. He’s ahead of where Greene was at age 24 developmentally, though he still needs to iron out his control after walking 10% of batters faced between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014. The thin starting pitching depth chart means Mitchell may be pushed into MLB action this year, though if you gave the Yankees a truth serum, I think they’d admit they’d like him to get a full year in Triple-A before being a September call-up.

Branden Pinder: Bullpen Sleeper

The Yankees like Pinder enough to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft this past winter even though a groin injury limited him to 39.1 innings last year, mostly at Double-A and Triple-A. The 26-year-old Pinder is more of a high probability guy than a high upside guy despite sitting low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and low-80s with his slider. Pinder throws a ton of strikes (5.9 BB% in 2014) and that about sums him up. He’s a fastball/slider reliever who won’t walk the park. Pinder has already been optioned to Triple-A Scranton, though I definitely expect him to get called up at some point. He has sneaky staying power, the kind of guy who gets called up and before you know it, he’s making his 40th appearance of the season.

Jose Ramirez: The Perpetual Tease

So, will this be the year Ramirez stays healthy? The 25-year-old has tremendous stuff and has for years, but he’s can’t stay on the field and it’s been an issue his entire career. Last year a lat strain limited him to 22.1 innings between Triple-A and MLB. When he’s actually on the mound, Ramirez has filthy stuff, sitting mid-90s with his fastball and getting swings and misses with both his slider and changeup, so the potential to be an impact reliever exists. He just can’t stay healthy. Ramirez made his big league debut last summer and figures to see the Bronx again this year. Until he manages to get through a full season in one piece, he’s going to continue to be a tease.

Shreve. (Presswire)

Chasen Shreve: The Third Lefty?

Out of all the players in this post, Shreve may have been given the biggest opportunity to win a bullpen job in Spring Training. He leads full-time Yankees’ relievers in Grapefruit League innings and has faced a ton of righties as the team gave him a chance to show he can be more than a lefty specialist. Camp hasn’t gone well (seven runs in eight innings) and that may earn Shreve a trip to Triple-A to start the year, but the Yankees have made it pretty clear they want him in MLB at some point.

Shreve, 24, had an excellent minor league season with the Braves last year, pitching to a 2.67 ERA (1.92 FIP) with 35.5 K% and 4.9 BB% in 64 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He changed his approach last year and decided to simply air it out each pitch, which led to all that success last year. Shreve now sits in the low-90s and has both a slider and a promising split-changeup hybrid, which suggests he can be more than a lefty specialist. There’s still a chance Shreve will make the Opening Day roster, but, even if he doesn’t, I’m certain we’ll see him in the Bronx this year, sooner rather than later.

Chase Whitley: Depth & Versatility

If the fifth starter’s race was purely Spring Training performance based, Whitley probably would be considered the frontrunner for the job. He’s allowed just one run in eleven innings and has been efficient, though he hasn’t faced the best competition either. Whitley had a nice little run as a starter last season before the wheels fell off, which wasn’t entirely unexpected since he is a career reliever who converted to a starter last season. He has three pitches though, so the Yankees are keeping him stretched out because why not?

Whitley, 25, might have the best chance to make the Opening Day roster out of anyone in this post. He could assume something similar to the old David Phelps role, working one inning or four innings at a time, depending what the team needs that night. Rogers could fill that role as well, though the Yankees have indicated they would like to take it easy on their starters early in the season, so carrying two multi-inning bullpeners could make sense. Either way, we’ll see Whitley in MLB this season at some point. I’m sure of it.

Ranking the 40-Man Roster: Nos. 26-31

Over these next two weeks, we’re going to rank and analyze every player on the Yankees’ 40-man roster — based on their short and long-term importance to the team — and you’re going to disagree with our rankings. We’ve already covered Nos. 32-40.

Ramirez. (Presswire)
Ramirez. (Presswire)

Like every other team, the Yankees have several spots on their 40-man roster dedicated to prospects who may or may not provide immediate help. Those are the players who have been protected from the Rule 5 Draft despite not yet being MLB ready. Not all of them are top prospects, mind you, but they are young players with some projected future utility the club didn’t want to risk losing.

Our 40-man roster ranking series continues today with Nos. 26-31, spots that feature a collection of those young prospects who might be able to help the Yankees in some capacity this coming season. But, more than anything, they’re looked at as potential future pieces down the road. Guys who can help more in 2016 or 2017 than 2015. To the next set of rankings …

No. 31: Danny Burawa

2015 Role: An up-and-down bullpen arm who is behind several others on the call-up depth chart. Burawa was passed over in last year’s Rule 5 Draft and actually had to be briefly demoted to Double-A Trenton last year after a rough start to the season with Triple-A Scranton (5.95 ERA and 3.52 FIP). He’s ticketed for a return to the RailRiders to start 2015.

Long-Term Role: Burawa, 26, has some of the nastiest stuff in the organization. His fastball regularly sits in the upper-90s with run in on righties, and his hard mid-to-upper-80s slider is a swing-and-miss pitch at its best. He’ll also throw a changeup but it isn’t a key pitch for him out of the bullpen. Burawa is held back by his below-average control — 5.17 BB/9 and 13.2 BB% in Double-A and Triple-A from 2013-14 — and may never be a late-inning reliever because of that, though he has vicious stuff and can be a factor in middle relief for multiple years down the road.

No. 30: Branden Pinder

2015 Role: Another up-and-down bullpen arm who I think is ahead of Burawa on the depth chart. The soon-to-be 26-year-old Pinder was added to the 40-man this offseason, his first year of Rule 5 Draft eligibility, and took a nice step forward with his control last summer, going from a 9.0 BB% from 2012-13 to a 5.9 BB% in 2014. He’s another guy who will return to Triple-A Scranton to start the year, though I expect to see him in MLB at some point in 2015. Before September call-ups, I mean.

Long-Term Role: Pinder doesn’t have the same overwhelming stuff as Burawa but he isn’t going out there with a fastball you can catch with your teeth either. He sits 93-95 mph with his four-seamer and is able to vary the break on his low-80s slider, sometimes throwing a short slider (almost like a cutter) and other times throwing a sweepy slider that frisbees out of the zone. It’s a classic boring middle relief profile but Pinder is a very high-probability future big leaguer.

No. 29: Jose Ramirez

2015 Role: Yet another up-and-down bullpen arm, though this one has MLB experience. Ramirez made his big league debut last season (5.40 ERA and 6.43 FIP in ten whole innings) before going back to Triple-A and, unfortunately, getting hurt. The getting hurt part has become an annual thing for him. Ramirez will compete for the last bullpen spot in camp, and if he doesn’t win it, he’ll return to Triple-A and be among the first called up when a fresh arm is inevitably needed.

Long-Term Role: Ramirez is two years younger than Burawa, one year younger than Pinder, and out-stuffs both of them. He has a mid-to-upper-90s fastball with movement, a sharp slider, and a knockout changeup he uses against both lefties and righties. On his absolute best days, Ramirez goes to the mound with three swing-and-miss pitches. The stuff is there for future late-inning work.

The only question is whether Ramirez will stay healthy enough to reach that ceiling. The Yankees moved him to the bullpen full-time last year because he kept getting hurt as a starter — arm injuries too, shoulder and elbow — and he still got hurt as a reliever. Ramirez seems very much like a “let’s get something out of him before his arm gives out completely” type of pitcher, and whatever they get out of him could be very good based on the quality of his stuff.

No. 28: Jose Pirela

Pirela. (Presswire)
Pirela. (Presswire)

2015 Role: Versatile utility player who will be first in line for a bench spot if someone gets hurt in Spring Training. (As I said yesterday, I don’t think the Yankees are going to cut Brendan Ryan just because.) Pirela is the very poor man’s Martin Prado — he has a contact-oriented swing and can play second base and left field. (Prado was already a fourth year big leaguer by time he was Pirela’s age (25), hence the very poor man’s part.)

Pirela has torn up Double-A and Triple-A the last three seasons — .290/.353/.432 (118 wRC+) with a 7.9% walk rate and a 12.5% strikeout rate — and his versatility gives the Yankees some options. He can step in to help out in case of injury, back up multiple positions, or be the light half of a platoon. It’s the kind of player just about every manager loves to have … and fans tend to overrate. I don’t know why, but versatility has that effect.

Long-Term Role: Despite the minor league numbers, I’m not sold on Pirela as an everyday player at the big league level — I think he’s more likely to be another Eduardo Nunez than Prado lite — but he’s useful and flexible. There is plenty of room for a guy like that on the bench and in the organization in both 2015 and for years to come. In the best case scenario, Pirela becomes the player many people believed Chone Figgins was, the guy who plays a different position everyday (to rest everyone else) and produces. More than likely though, he’ll be a bench guy while in his cheap pre-arbitration years.

No. 27: Ramon Flores

2015 Role: With Eury Perez now gone, Flores is the de facto fifth outfielder who will be called up in case of injury. Well, I guess sixth outfielder when you include Pirela. The 22-year-old Flores had a .247/.339/.443 (116 wRC+) line with seven homers in 63 games with the RailRiders last season — he hit eight homers in 141 games in 2013 — before a freak ankle injury effectively ended his season on the first day of June. Chances are he would have been a September call-up had he stayed healthy.

Long-Term Role: Carlos Beltran is perpetually on the verge of injury and/or a permanent shift to DH, and, as a left-handed hitter, Flores has a clear path to getting regular at-bats as at least a platoon right fielder in the near future. The Yankees never did give Zoilo Almonte — a switch-hitter who was better against righties with more raw power and more stolen base ability than Flores — a shot in a similar role whenever the opportunity arose these last few seasons, so there’s no guarantee Flores will get a look. That is more or less his long-term outlook: lefty platoon bat in a corner outfield spot.

Williams. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)
Williams. (Scott Iskowitz/Getty)

No. 26: Mason Williams

2015 Role: For the big league team, none. Williams has close to zero chance of helping the MLB team this coming season as anything more than a defensive replacement when rosters expand in September. He was added to the 40-man roster this offseason only because he is a former top prospect who was Rule 5 Draft eligible. Williams has hit .236/.298/.319 (74 wRC+) in over 1,200 plate appearances at High-A and Double-A the last two years. He has no business being considered for a 2015 role at the big league level.

Long-Term Role: Once upon a time, Williams had the potential to be a Jacoby Ellsbury type of player. A leadoff hitter with on-base ability, speed, and elite center field defense. That long-term outlook has changed considerably the last two years and a lot of has to do with makeup. Multiple reports say Williams has been insubordinate and plays with an utter lack of energy. He’s failing as a prospect, and it is definitely not due to a lack of physical talent.

Williams right now has no long-term role with the team. The Yankees are hoping he will get his career on track and improve going forward — perhaps the 40-man spot will serve as motivation — and if that happens, their intention may be to flip him in a trade as soon as possible. The club has been emphasizing strong makeup and work ethic for years and Williams has shown zero of that so far, leading me to believe he’s more likely to be dealt as soon as he rebuilds a modicum of trade value rather than be given a real big league opportunity.

Coming Wednesday: Nos. 20-25. Three veteran(-ish) big leaguers and three youngsters more important for the future than the present.