Meet the homegrown 2018 Yankees: The bullpenMark Montgomery becomes the heir to Mariano Rivera's throne
Everyone has been questioning for two years now just who will inherit Mariano Rivera's mantle as Yankees closer, and while it looks like David Robertson has first crack at that title in 2014, he's a free agent after 2014 and may or may not be in the role very long.
No one will ever truly replace Rivera, but the Yankees have a handful of potentially strong closers in the system that will be on our fantasy 2018 squad, and when combined with a few more power arms and a couple solid swingmen, we have ourselves a homegrown bullpen that features someone for all situations.
And so, rounding out our potential roster is this septet of arms:
Closer RHP Mark Montgomery: An 11th-round pick in 2011, Montgomery rocketed through the system before injuries stalled him at Triple-A last season, but in 138 innings over 101 career appearances he has a 2.22 ERA, 30 saves, and 209 strikeouts against just 60 walks. His stuff has been called "David Robertson-esque" because he has a very similar repertoire and style, and in real time, one could see Montgomery learning under D-Rob's wing and eventually taking over as the closer of the future - which is the same scenario we see in our fantasy 2018, with that year be Montgomery's fourth full season in the Majors and third as Yankees closer.
Setup RHP Taylor Garrison: Like Montgomery, Garrison was an upper-round pick (this time, the seventh in 2012), came out of college as a closer, and appears to be on the fast track through the system. Discounting one September appearance in Triple-A (where he served as an extra arm on the RailRiders' final day because of MLB call-ups), Garrison finished 2013 as Tampa's closer and had a 1.87 ERA in 43.1 innings there. Overall, in 85 career innings over 65 games, he has a 1.91 ERA and 22 saves, and while he's not missing as many bats as Montgomery (79 K/22 BB), he projects into a great eighth-inning guy on our team. He won't be Rule 5 eligible until after 2015, so he has plenty of time to prove he's the real deal.
Lefty Specialist LHP Tyler Webb: If you know about these guys, you're probably sensing a theme here, and that's a theme of power arms; Webb, drafted in the tenth round last year, fits that mold, pitching to a 3.86 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 30.1 innings at Class-A Charleston. While he did fill a variety of roles, including closer, we can project Webb out to be less of a "specialist" and more of a Boone Logan-esque power lefty - but as you'll see shortly, the status of a second southpaw in our fantasy bullpen allows us to call Webb, at least in this space, the "specialist."
Swingman LHP Vidal Nuno: And Nuno is the reason Webb can be a "specialist," as we have the already 26-year-old penciled in as our Adam Warren-esque swingman 2018. After impressing in Spring Training, Nuno reached the Majors for the first time last year, and even though his season ended prematurely, he showed why he has moved quickly through the system since signing in mid-2011; over 51 career Minor League appearances (33 starts) in the organization, Nuno is 19-7 with a 2.09 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning. In our world, it might be tough for him to crack the rotation as a third southpaw, but his ability to start makes him an ideal swingman, and his left-handedness - along with the skill set of our next reliever - allows the Yankees to use both he and Webb in multiple scenarios.
RHP Chase Whitley: A reliever for most of his four years in the system, Whitley has a 2.66 overall ERA in 144 games/280.1 innings. Late last year, though, he got five Triple-A starts and pitched to a 1.63 ERA in 22 innings - which proves to us that in a fantasy scenario years down the road, Whitley has the ability to be a good reliever but also an effective long man if needed. He's already Rule 5 eligible and wasn't selected this year, so he still has all his options and eligibilities intact even if he makes the 40-man roster next winter, but in our scenario, teaming him with lefties Nuno and Webb gives the Yankees a lot of flexibility for long middle relief and still allows them to exploit lefty matchups without having to worry about burning one or both of their southpaws too quickly
RHP Jose Ramirez: A starter in the Minors, Ramirez is already on the 40-man roster and saw some time in Yankees camp last year, but there are enough questions about his secondary pitches and stamina to wonder if he might fit best in the bullpen…so that's exactly where we have him. With a big fastball, a strong changeup, bat-missing ability (nearly a strikeout per inning as a starter) and a nice 3.72 career ERA in the Minors, Ramirez could be an effective seventh or eighth-inning guy to complement Montgomery and Garrison when one or both needs a breather, making him a perfect piece for our fantasy bullpen.
RHP Jose Campos: With so many arms and so few slots, it's almost impossible to have a strong case for or against including any singular player - so, with a slew of power arms already, we went with another power righty in Campos, albeit one who was a starter but has already seen his workload reduced in the Minors. Acquired in the Michael Pineda trade, Campos made just five starts at Charleston in 2012 before arm troubles shut him down; he came back and was effective in 2013 - 4-2, 3.41 ERA, 77 strikeouts in 87 innings over 26 games/18 starts - but as you can ascertain by doing the math, even when he started he was held back a bit. In a similar vein as Ramirez, one wonders if he's best suited for a relief role to keep him healthier (and thus more effective) in the future, so that's where we slot him to round out our bullpen.