The inconsistent Nathan Eovaldi has officially been released by the Yankees
The Yankees traded for the flame-throwing righty on December 14, 2014. They traded infielder/outfielder Martin Prado and pitcher David Phelps to the Miami Marlins for Eovaldi, Garrett Jones and Domingo German.
In the 2014 season with the Marlins, he had a mediocre 4.37 ERA and his 223 hits allowed were the most in the National League. However, the Yankees traded for him because he set career highs with 32 games started and 199.2 innings pitched and his average fastball velocity was the second fastest in the National League.
He showed positives and some negatives during his two seasons with the Yankees but didn’t show enough improvement in his secondary pitches to make the Yankees want to keep him while he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
On August 16 of this season it was announced that he would miss the rest of the 2016 seasons and likely all of the 2017 season due to a torn flexor tendon and partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. The Yankees announced that he had undergone his second Tommy John surgery a few days later.
In the 2015 season, he led all MLB starting pitchers with an average fastball velocity of 96.6 MPH. His velocity didn’t lead to much more success than he had in 2014. His ERA of 4.20 was better than the 4.37 he had the previous season but his 1.45 WHIP was worse than his 1.33 WHIP from his last season with the Marlins. His fastball averaged 97.1 in the games that he appeared in this season.
In 2015, he missed the month of September because of elbow inflammation and the month of August raised his ERA and WHIP as he allowed three runs or more in four of his last five starts and allowed five hits or more in three of those five starts. That performance in August was disappointing because in nine starts between June 20 and August 7 he allowed two runs or less seven times while giving up two walks or less in six of those starts. He showed how dominant he can be during that stretch when he locates his pitches and throws his secondary pitches where he wants them to go.
Eovaldi was able to develop a split-fingered fastball with the help of Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild, which helped him improve during that nine start stretch and for periods of the 2016 season. In addition to the splitter, according go Brooks Baseball, he relied on his fourseam fastball (98), slider (87) and cutter (94). He rarely mixed in his curve ball.
Eovaldi entered the 2016 campaign fully healthy but allowed five and four runs in each of his first two starts. He allowed three and zero runs in his last two games in April and his next two months alternated between pitching well overall and not deserving to be in the rotation.
In May, he opened the month by allowing six runs in five innings on 10 hits against the Red Sox but pitched well the rest of the month as he allowed two runs or less in four of his next five starts. However he wasn’t able to continue that momentum into July and his first start in August.
The 26-year-old Houston native, who grew up in the same town as Nolan Ryan, gave up a combined 31 earned runs in 30.1 innings in six starts, which caused the Yankees to move him to the bullpen. It is not acceptable for a starting pitcher to allow four runs or more in six straight starts, which included five or more in five of those starts.
He would go on to make eight more appearances with the Yankees before his season ended. Eovaldi made three appearances out of the bullpen after his awful start on August 1 and combined to pitch 7.2 innings while allowing three hits and striking out four. The bullpen is where he might make sense after he recovers from Tommy John surgery since has some trouble with his non fastball and slider pitches.
In his first start after returning to the rotation he performed well as he limited the Baltimore Orioles to one run in 5.1 innings but was progressively worse in his next three starts. He allowed two, three and four runs in his last three starts and in his final start, against the crosstown rival Mets, he gave up four runs on five hits (two homers) and two walks.
It’s unfortunate that he was not able to truly pitch well for a consistent amount of games while with the Yankees because his velocity is elite and he has solid secondary pitches when everything is going well. The splitter that he developed did help but it would not have made sense for the Yankees to keep him while he recovered from Tommy John surgery during all of the 2017 season.
Another reason that he would make sense for the bullpen is that a pitcher with his fastball velocity should be able to have more strikeouts than he does, and it is possible that concentrating on two pitches will help lead to more strikeouts. He will be most remembered for lighting up the scoreboard with 100 plus mph pitches, his very good month of May this season and his very good month of July plus last season.