Yankees Add Andrew Heaney to Their Left-Handed Deadline Haul

Over the last few days, the Yankees addressed their surprisingly punchless and right-handed heavy lineup by adding Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. In the waning minutes before the trade deadline, they struck a deal with the Angels to bring in another southpaw: left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney. In exchange, New York will send a pair of pitching prospects to Los Angeles: Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero.

Heaney is playing out the last year of team control before he hits free agency this offseason. Over the last four years, he’s posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio a touch under four, the 26th best mark among the 100 qualified starters during that period. Unfortunately, he’s struggled with a gigantic home run problem that has led to some ugly ERAs that far outpace his peripherals.

This year, all those strengths and weaknesses are in full effect. He’s posting fantastic strikeout (28.2%) and walk (7.7%) rates but he’s allowed 16 home runs in 94 innings. Because his batted ball profile skews so heavily towards elevated contact, his home-run-per-fly-ball rate is around league average, but his HR/9 is the 15th highest among all starters with a similar number of innings pitched. That doesn’t bode well for a move to Yankee Stadium, which has boosted home run totals by 7% over the last four years.

Heaney’s pitch repertoire is rather odd. His four-seam fastball was classified as a sinker for much of his career because it moves horizontally like a sinker does but it doesn’t have the telltale vertical movement. He gets that horizontal action on his heater because he throws from an extremely low arm angle. With an odd release point and an uncommon movement profile, his fastball has been a whiff-generating machine. Opposing batters swing and miss nearly 30% of the time against his heater.

To pair with that unique four-seamer, Heaney throws a curveball and a changeup. His breaking ball is easily the better of his two secondary offerings, running a whiff rate of 37.7% and holding batters to just a .212 wOBA. His changeup is used exclusively to hold right-handed batters at bay. Without a fourth pitch in his mix, he’s rather predictable depending on the handedness of the batter. Perhaps the lack of depth in his repertoire explains some of his home run problems. Throughout his career, he’s struggled to work through a lineup more than twice; his ERA and FIP when facing a batting order for a third time jumps up to 6.92 and 4.70, respectively.

The Yankees have lacked a true fifth starter in their rotation ever since Corey Kluber went down with his shoulder injury in late-May. They’ve used Nestor Cortes, Michael King, Asher Wojciechowski, and Nick Nelson in that spot over the last two months. Heaney immediately provides a solid option to stabilize the rotation for the stretch run. Kluber and Luis Severino are both making progress towards returning from the Injured List sometime later this summer. When those two come back, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Yankees move to a six-man rotation to protect both Kluber and Severino and spread out some of the workload on their starters. Heaney’s repertoire would also play nicely in a bullpen role if the Yankees make it to the postseason and decide to work with a shorter rotation.

In Junk and Peguero, the Yankees parted with two pitchers who have improved their stock this year, though neither was ranked on the Yankees prospect list. The 25-year-old has posted a stellar 1.78 ERA with a 3.60 FIP in 14 appearances in Double-A. In early July, Junk appeared on FanGraphs Audio to discuss the offseason pitch design work he did to create a viable breaking ball. That pitch has helped him push his strikeout rate up to 26.8%, a career best for him.

Peguero has been working exclusively out of the bullpen this year after working as a starter for most of his early career. He had a significant velocity bump in 2019 before losing a season of development in ’20, but his velocity has increased even further in shorter stints out of the ‘pen. He’s put up a 2.23 ERA and a 3.05 FIP in 44.1 innings split across High- and Double-A.

Here’s Kevin Goldstein’s quick scouting notes on these two pitchers:

Janson Junk had a 1.78 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings in Double-A. He was a 22nd round pick in 2017 who has taken a real step forward this year. He throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball and has finally found a decent breaking ball with a new slider. He’s a fringy prospect with a back-end or middle relief ceiling.

Elvis Peguero had a 2.23 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 44 1/3 innings across High- and Double-A. He’s a very long dude (6-foot-5) with extra-long levers. He’ has gained velo throughout career and now can get into the upper-90s. The breaking ball is a work in progress, but he throws more strikes than most guys this raw.

Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.

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2 years ago

Seems like a win for the Angels all things considered