The struggles of Cessa, Holder and what it might mean for Cameron Maybin
Coming into the season, the Yankees’ bullpen was expected to be one of the best relief groups ever assembled. For the most part, that has been true. Their top four options (Chapman, Ottavino, Britton and Kahnle) have all been elite. However, there are two underachievers that Brian Cashman and co. need to address quickly: Luis Cessa and Jonathan Holder. With Aaron Judge’s impending return, and a true roster crunch on New York’s hands, the Yankees’ management team should look to remove one of these two from their roster rather than the red-hot Cameron Maybin.
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Let’s start off with Luis Cessa. The 27-year-old entered Spring Training in a make or break situation. Out of minor league options, Cessa would have to prove he deserved to make the team or likely be traded. The righty proceeded to pitch to a 0.98 ERA in 18.1 innings, scattered across six games. He also had 19 strikeouts and limited opponents to a .172 batting average against. Cessa finally showed that he can be a weapon out of the bullpen, and therefore, earned his roster spot.
The momentum traveled from Florida to New York through the regular season’s first month as well. On April 23, Cessa was the owner of a shiny 1.59 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. He had been extremely valuable for the banged-up Yanks and was one of the early season’s pleasant surprises. It was really the first time that Cessa, who had been a symbol of mediocrity through his first three Big League seasons, provided value to the New York Yankees. However, regression eventually set in for the Mexico native.
Since April 27, Cessa has an 8.91 ERA in 19.2 innings. In that time, his season ERA has ballooned all the way up to 6.10. Moreover, he has allowed 12 runs in just five frames in the month of June (20.25 ERA). His advanced metrics aren’t much better either, with a FIP of 5.59 and career-worst WAR of -0.2. I know the Yankees would probably like to avoid designating Cessa for assignment, but the right-hander truly doesn’t belong on this team anymore. A few more bad outings and they won’t have a choice.
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Moving on to the more disappointing of the two, Jonathan Holder has failed to build off of his strong 2018 campaign. The 26-year-old essentially replaced Adam Warren last year as a middle-innings guy who doesn’t have great stuff, but simply gets people out. Holder was true to his name with a 3.14 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and seven holds in 60 games for the Bronx Bombers last season. Yes, he had a 16.50 ERA and .406 batting average against versus the Red Sox, but it was still an impressive showing for his first full season of Big League pitching.
Fast forward to this year, and Holder has looked much more like the Boston version of himself. The right-hander from Mississippi State has a 5.08 ERA in 33.2 innings and, like Cessa, has been brutal in the month of June. Since the calendar flipped, Holder has given up five earned runs in six innings (7.50 ERA) and has a .296 batting average against. He has also given up three home runs in his last three appearances, an obviously troubling trend. The only thing working for him has been strikeouts, as his 38 punch outs equates to 10.16 per nine innings.
Unlike Cessa, Holder has a minor league option for this year. If the team is hell-bent on keeping Cessa, they can easily just do what they did with Chad Green earlier in the season and demote Holder to triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It’s worth noting that Green has a 3.00 ERA in 15 innings since returning to New York, so maybe that’s all Holder needs to get back on track. Moreover, the team simply has better options than Cessa and Holder right now. Nestor Cortes has a 1.38 ERA in his last 13 innings, and is essentially the team’s fifth starter right now, and David Hale owns a 2.60 ERA himself.
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Ultimately, the Yankees are going to have a decision to make when Aaron Judge returns this weekend. With Cameron Maybin swinging the bat like he has recently (home runs in four straight games, .405 batting average in the month of June), the team cannot let him go. Instead, they should send down Holder and make the final spot in the bullpen a sort of Scranton shuttle revolving door with the likes of Holder, Chance Adams, Joe Harvey and Stephen Tarpley. That way there’s always a fresh arm for mop-up situations. It won’t be long until we see what the Yanks end up doing.
Article by: Jake GrazianoFollow@JakeGraziano