Kelley expected to fill huge role for Yankees

Right-hander one of the pitchers New York counting on in post-Rivera era
03/14/2014 2:54 PM ET
By Doug Williams

Background: Shawn Kelley is a right-handed reliever for the New York Yankees. He spent 2009-12 with the Mariners before being traded to the Yankees. Kelley is a fastball-slider pitcher who relies heavily on the strikeout. He's mostly been a middle reliever so far in his career, but he figures to be the Yankees' main eighth-inning guy in 2014. He has a career ERA of 3.77.

2013 Season: It was an interesting year for Kelley, who excelled early in the season and earned the trust of Joe Girardi. He became the Yankees primary seventh-inning guy, and he finished with 71 strikeouts in only 53 1/3 innings. However, Kelley was significantly better in the first half than the second half. He was 3-1 with a 3.67 ERA before the All-Star Break, and 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA after.

Greatest Strength: Kelley struck hitters out at an amazing rate last season, and it's all because of his slider-fastball combination. In a word, it's devastating. He can hit 92-93 with his fastball and throws a slider that dives off the table at a pretty high velocity. Out of his hand, they look like the exact same pitch.

Greatest Weakness: Kelley's ERA ended up being 4.39 last season, which is too high if he's going to be a consistent setup man for the Yankees in 2014. There's no real way to describe why his ERA got so bloated, Kelley doesn't walk that many and gave up less hits than innings pitched. But Kelley should aim to be more consistent, especially because he'll be manning the always-pivotal eighth inning this season.

Prediction: Just like the Yankees have been spoiled by Mariano Rivera in the ninth, they've also been spoiled by David Robertson in the eighth. Now, all of that's changing and Shawn Kelley will play a huge part in making it as seamless a transition as possible. Don't expect an ERA around 2.00 from Kelley, but if he's able to throw around 65 innings, he may get near the 90-strikeouts mark with an ERA around 3.50. 

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