The Yankees waved goodbye to both Phil Coke and Mike Dunn this offseason, two of the more promising left-handed relievers the farm system had produced in many years. Coke posted a reasonable 4.50 ERA and held left-handed batters to a .195 AVG in 60 innings while Dunn posted an impressive 5.6 K/BB ratio and 3.31 ERA in 73 innings split between Double and Triple-A. Now the oft-injured Damaso Marte remains as the lone left-handed reliever in the Yankee pen. If Joe Girardi elects to carry a secondary lefty, there could be an interesting – but not fierce – competition.
Kei Igawa and Boone Logan will likely lead the pack before camp starts. Albeit underwhelming, they have the most major league experience. Logan is younger and his numbers are slightly better, but he is terribly ineffective against left-handers and lacks a truly good pitch. Sadly, Igawa is the more impressive pitcher here, holding left-handers to a .200 AVG in 2009 while logging a 4.15 ERA in 145.1 innings for Triple-A Scranton. This will likely be the final chance for Igawa, but I still think he has the potential to become a league average reliever.
Royce Ring is sort of in the same boat as Logan. Once a promising prospect in the White Sox farm system, Ring has bounced around the majors after getting traded to the Mets in 2003. He has performed very well at the minor league level, notching a 3.05 ERA in 327 innings. He’ll likely end up in Scranton, but he has the talent to pitch at the big league level.
Wilkin De La Rosa pitched very well in 2009, brandishing a 3.17 ERA in 96.2 combined Single and Double-A innings. He’s obviously not ready for the majors yet, but a strong performance in Triple-A could spell a promotion sometime in 2010. The former-outfielder has a plus fastball and has learned to effectively pitch against left-handed batters. He ranks as a solid prospect, but he’s not quite major league ready yet.
Wilkins Arias was impressive for Double-A Trenton last season, but he was old for the league. He’ll be 29 when he kicks off his first season in Triple-A, and if he continues to pitch well he could eventually break into the majors, but the ship has probably set sail for Arias. You’re never too old to be an effective pitcher, and he has performed well against left-handed batters for the past two seasons, but it may not be enough. He’ll have to seriously impress the coaching staff to get a serious consideration.
As you can see, the Yankees are a bit shallow in the left-handed reliever department. Logan could have the advantage because of his spot on the 40-man roster and major league experience, but Igawa and Ring could give him a run for his money. De La Rosa, Arias and Jeremy Bleich are simply not ready for the majors yet and will probably be sent to minor league camp before any possible competition develops. The Yankees would probably benefit more from just carrying Marte and an actual effective reliever instead of another left-hander. Still, if Marte goes down, we have an idea of who could replace him.