Buying or Selling Yankees' Biggest Breakout Players in 2022 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 5, 2022

Buying or Selling Yankees' Biggest Breakout Players in 2022 Season

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    With a high-profile roster filled with expensive veterans, there's not always a ton of opportunity for under-the-radar players to emerge as key contributors for the New York Yankees.

    However, this season the pitching staff has benefited greatly from the unexpected contributions of starter Nestor Cortes and reliever Michael King, while new shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is providing better-than-expected production at the plate.

    But are they for real?

    Ahead we have given our take on whether to buy or sell those early performances based on track records and advanced metrics.

SP Nestor Cortes

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    Nestor Cortes came out of nowhere to post a 2.90 ERA with 103 strikeouts in 93 innings last season while splitting his time between the bullpen and the starting rotation.

    The soft-tossing lefty used that strong performance to win a spot in the rotation to begin the 2022 season, and he has been even better this year with a 1.31 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and a terrific 28-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20.2 innings.

    He might have a tough time maintaining his 12.2 K/9 strikeout rate given his lack of elite velocity, but there is nothing in his peripheral numbers to suggest significant regression is coming, including a 1.43 FIP and batted-ball metrics that are right in line with last year's numbers.

    The 27-year-old is controllable through the 2025 season and has a chance to be a long-term piece of the pitching staff.

    Verdict: Buy

SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa

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    The Yankees knew they were getting a terrific defensive shortstop when Isiah Kiner-Falefa was acquired during the offseason, but his offensive game could best be described as below-average after he posted an 85 OPS+ in 158 games last year.

    After a slow start, he has steadily picked it up at the plate and is now hitting .311/.346/.392 with a 120 OPS+ and six doubles in 81 plate appearances.

    The 27-year-old doesn't rank particularly high in average exit velocity (24th percentile) or hard-hit rate (46th percentile), per Baseball Savant, and there is some regression expected in his .288 expected batting average, but he does make a ton of contact and has good speed.

    When the dust settles, the most likely outcome is something similar to last year's numbers.

    Verdict: Sell

RP Michael King

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    The Yankees have done a great job finding multi-inning relief weapons in recent years, from Adam Warren to Chad Green to Jonathan Loaisiga.

    Right-hander Michael King has thrived in that role so far this year with a 0.61 ERA in 14.2 innings, recording more than three outs in six of his seven appearances. He has allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out 22 of the 54 batters he has faced.

    The 26-year-old was acquired following the 2017 season in a deal that sent Caleb Smith and Garrett Cooper to the Miami Marlins, and he leads all Yankees pitchers with 1.1 WAR in the early going.

    He has essentially scrapped his slider and is leaning on his curveball as his go-to breaking pitch, and it has been a lethal secondary weapon, helping lend some optimism that his early breakout is the real deal.

    Verdict: Buy


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless noted and accurate through Tuesday's games.