In a surprising turn of events, the Yankees acquired a major league player on Wednesday. Shawn Kelley was hardly a piece the organization needed, but he's a luxury that the team found affordable. In 2012, Kelley produced a 3.25 ERA and a 3.55 FIP in 44.1 innings with the Mariners. The reliever has refined himself as a strikeout/flyball pitcher with his four-seam fastball and slider combination. Despite his success last season, Kelley will most likely be optioned down to Triple-A to start the season, thanks to a loaded major league bullpen. With Mariano Rivera, David Aardsma, and Joba Chamberlain still returning from serious injuries, Kelley becomes a great backup option if the bullpen needs reinforcements in the middle innings.
Comparatively, Kelley's four-seam fastball is similar to Phil Hughes' four-seam. Both pitchers use the fastball nearly half the time, and both pitchers generate an enormous amount of vertical movement. Hughes does a better job of generating spin and rising action, but Kelley is still very successful in using the four-seam as a strikeout pitch. In 2012, he generated a 10.10% whiff rate, which is a tremendous swing and miss rate for a fastball. When batters do hit the pitch, around 45% of the hits are flyballs, 27% are groundballs, and 28% are linedrives. Kelley's fastball might have good rising action, but it's a very straight pitch with just around 3 inches of vertical movement in to right handed hitters. He was lucky enough not to surrender a single home run on all those flyballs last season, but that should change once he moves from Safeco Field to Yankee Stadium.
Kelley's slider comes in around 9 mph less than his four-seam fastball, averaging 84 mph last season. He throws the pitch the other half of the time, and it averages around 3 inches of movement away from right handed hitters, and a vertical movement nearly identical to a no-spin pitch. There's nothing too special about it, but it's a solid pitch that when coupled with his four-seam, earned a strong 18.5% whiff rate in 2012. The slider is also much more groundball friendly, and generated close to 40% flyballs and 40% groundballs last season.
Other than the fastball and slider, Kelley also throws a changeup extremely rarely to left handed hitters. There's isn't much to say about the pitch, and that's why he only threw it 14 times in 2012.
Overall, it was a solid move for the Yankees to turn an organizational player (Abraham Almonte) into a possible above average major league reliever. Kelley should already be familiar with David Aardsma, Michael Pineda, and Ichiro Suzuki, as the Yankees continue to stack their team with ex-Mariners. I still have hope they might get one more Mariner before the season opens.