Relief pitchers don’t need to have a wide arrange of pitches to get hitters out. Without going through a lineup multiple times, there isn’t a big need to have a third, and potentially a fourth pitch. A lot of times, two will do.
That’s even more the case if the pitches complement each other, as we’ve seen with Pirates reliever Yerry De Los Santos.
Before getting hurt last season, De Los Santos threw 449 pitches in the majors. Out of those pitches, 265 were sinkers, 179 sliders, and five fastballs.
The sinker/slider combination is nothing new, especially to the Pirates, who have put a focus back on the pitch recently.
De Los Santos pairs the two pitches perfectly together.
His primary pitch that he throws nearly 60% of the time, De Los Santos got the opposition to do exactly what he wanted them to do when he threw it — beat the ball straight into the ground.
Although the average exit velocity on his sinker’s were slightly above average (89.3 mph), opposing hitters only had a launch angle of two degrees.
You can see some of the work he did in the video above, averaging 95.3 mph on his sinker, and holding opponents to an .185 average.
It wasn’t much of a put away pitch, as he generated just a 12.3% whiff rate with the sinker, as well as posting just a 15.6 K%.
So, he didn’t get swings and misses with the pitch, but he got outs.
Among pitchers to have at least 50 plate appearances determined with a sinker (209 overall), De Los Santos finished with the 11th lowest batting average against, as well as the 43rd best expected batting average (xBA).
While he used his sinker to induce contact and get ground outs, De Los Santos’ slider was his go-to put away pitch. While hitters had some success with it (.262 BA, .456 SLG), the average exit velocity was just 85.2 mph and he put up some decent swing and miss numbers using the pitch.
Among all pitchers with at least 25 plate appearances determined by a slider, De Los Santos finished 100th (among 401) in strikeout rate, 182nd in whiff rate, and 117th in put away rate.
Not elite numbers, but certainly solid for a young pitcher in his first go-around at the big league level, and something he could build off of this upcoming season.
De Los Santos had picked up three saves in 25.2 innings with the Pirates last year, before a lat strain ended his season. The ERA wasn’t pretty, but a lot of the metrics played to his favor (3.93 xFIP).
The strikeouts weren’t the most impressive number (23.2% in the majors), but he had struck out over 30% at the Triple-A level during his time there between 2021 and 2022.
It’s a crowded bullpen picture right now, with the Pirates brining in several external candidates to take on roles (Dauri Moreta, Jose Hernandez, and Jarlin Garcia) while bringing back a good amount of names from the last year’s team.
So, it won’t be an easy path to make the roster, especially considering he still has all three of his options, but there are few relievers on the 40-man with the upside that De Los Santos has. It will be hard to see a scenario where he doesn’t get another shot at some point in the season.
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.
Yerry belongs in the pen opening day and should be one of the top choices behind bednar for high leverage imo
Loved that first video. A JVM sighting. 😍😍😍