Our Pinch Hitter this morning is Jason Cohen, an editor at Pinstripe Alley going on four seasons now. Jason wrote that, from an early age, he was told that the best seats in the house are always the bleachers. He thinks that just might be the best advice he’s ever been given.
For his post, Jason focused on one player who’s no longer with the Yankees, and the unreliability of a player who just might be asked to fill his shoes.
This offseason the Yankees traded Adam Warren, a useful and versatile pitcher, in order to gain an everyday second baseman with major upside. As good as Warren was in 2015, it was a deal that needed to be made. The Yankees have a full rotation, a deep bullpen, and after a 2.2 WAR season, it’s likely Brian Cashman traded Warren at his peak value.
Despite the successful trade, though, the Yankees’ shaky rotation could still use someone to pick up at least a portion of the 131.1 innings Warren pitched last year.
Whoever it ends up being, they cannot count on Bryan Mitchell to be a part of that solution.
Considered a top prospect the past few seasons, Mitchell has consistently been the player whose stuff never matched his results. I have never been a big believer in Mitchell because he doesn’t seem capable of harnessing his potential, despite his continued prospect status. The Yankees had an opportunity to trade him for Dustin Ackley in 2014, and I felt they made a mistake not taking that deal at the time. He’s been in the team’s top 20-30 prospects for years, he’s 24 now, and the Yankees are still wishing on him.
He shouldn’t be expected to fill the role Warren left behind because I don’t feel like he has a future as a starting pitcher.
Throughout his minor league career, Warren was an effective starting pitcher — nothing spectacular, but always very solid. After two seasons in Triple-A, he had a 3.66 ERA and a very solid 2.9 BB/9. Mitchell, on the other hand, couldn’t manage a sub-4.00 ERA between 2011 and 2014. He improved some at Triple-A with a 3.32 ERA over parts of two seasons, but a 4.1 BB/9 still held him back. His 95-mph fastball might exceed Warren’s own by a few ticks, but Mitchell’s lack of control is what dooms him. Warren has also found success thanks to his ability to mix a full assortment of pitches, while Mitchell has relied on his fastball 50 percent of the time over his Major League career.
That sounds more like a future reliever than the jack-of-all-trades Warren was last year.
In 2015, Mitchell actually found some success for a short time when he was used out of the bullpen. From June 20 until July 11, he pitched to a 2.89 ERA and kept hitters to a minuscule .222/.282/.278 slash line over an admittedly small sample size of only 9.1 innings in six games. He was sent down, and when he returned, everything fell apart. From August 1 on, Mitchell was a 7.97 ERA-pitcher over 20.1 innings. While the initial promise is good to see, it would be a mistake to expect him to duplicate that success after the struggles he suffered over a longer sample size.
Judging by the way the Yankees approached the offseason, they probably believe the same. They have gone out of their way to build adequate Triple-A rotation depth by acquiring Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Ron Herrera, and Tyler Olson. Maybe Mitchell can hang around in the Triple-A rotation, but with players like Brady Lail, Jaron Long, and Eric Ruth ready for the level, it seems like they would need Mitchell in the bullpen more than the rotation. Imagine Mitchell’s 95 mph fastball upping to 97 mph in short spurts.
After adding Aroldis Chapman to the mix, the Yankees probably would have needed Adam Warren the starting pitcher more than Adam Warren the reliever, so Mitchell should be out of the running there. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it would then look like the Yankees are better off hoping Ivan Nova can return to pre-Tommy John surgery form with more time removed from the operation than thinking Mitchell will be able to take on a role he has never succeeded in.
Last year, Warren’s value was mostly as a starting pitcher who could also double as a shutdown reliever. That combination is not always that easy, and Mitchell isn’t capable of being that valuable.
Maybe he contributes in some way as a power reliever or even a spot starter here and there, but the Yankees can’t afford to expect him to step up in the way Warren did. I think Mitchell could actually be really good in the bullpen, but anything of value he offers should be considered a bonus.
Associated Press photos