James Pazos

James Pazos of the New York Yankees pitches in the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium on September 13, 2015 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Blue Jays 5 – 0

By Ryan Hatch

The Yankees rid themselves of left-handed reliever Justin Wilson on Wednesday, bringing in two minor league starters from the Detroit Tigers.

General manager Brian Cashman said part of the reason was Wilson was entering his “money making” years, though he was only due a raise of about $1.5 million in 2016.

Wilson was 5-0 last year, allowing just three home runs over 61.0 relief innings that resulted in a 3.10 ERA. By season’s end he had solidified himself as the manager Joe Girardi’s go-to guy in the seventh inning, ahead of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller.

But, of course, he’s now gone, and someone else will have to fill that void. There are a handful of candidates: Jacob Lindgren, Chasen Shreve, Branden Pinder, Nick Rumbelow, and Nick Goody are among the group.

But so too is James Pazos, a September call-up in 2015 who threw just five innings but only allowed three hits in his stint with the club. Pazos, a hard-throwing lefty, has maybe the best chance to become a key piece of the Yankees’ bullpen next season. This year near the trade deadline owner Hal Steinbrenner included Pazos in the “untouchable” pile. When New York had to select its 25-man roster for the postseason, Pazos was included.

So, who is Pazos? Here’s a closer look:

Vitals: 24 years old; 6-foot-3, 230 pounds; throws lefty

Background: Drafted in the 13th round of the 2012 draft out of the University of San Diego by the Yankees. Pazos had been taken in the 40th round by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 after high school, but opted for college instead.

Debuted Sept. 5, 2015 with the Yankees against the Rays. He will be a free agent in 2022.

Minor league stats: In four seasons across all minor league levels, Pazos owns a 2.29 ERA (184.1 innings). Perhaps most impressively he’s only allowed four home runs. He averages a good 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings rate and last year walked just 15 batters.

His ERA has improved every year the last three seasons: 2013’s was 3.93, 2014’s was 2.42, and 2015’s was 1.27.

Pitches: According to Fangraphs, in the five innings he spent in the bigs, Pazos threw two pitches: fastball and slider. He tossed the fastball 82.6% of the time and the slider 17.4% of the time. His fastball averaged 93.8 mph.

2016 Projections: Last week we detailed the Yankees’ bullpen projections for 2016 according to Baseballreference.com. Pazos is projected to throw 27.0 innings next year with an ERA of 3.67. The Yankees, of course, would like to see that first number rise and the second fall.

But if New York could get comparable numbers to Wilson—61.0, 3.10 ERA—they’d probably take it. Pazos threw 67.0 innings in 2014 so a similar workload to Wilson’s is a reasonable task.

 

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