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Stephen Tarpley: last arm in

With the Yankees naming their Opening Day roster, little known rookie Stephen Tarpley has officially made the team.

The Yankees acquired Tarpley as one of the players to be named later in the Ivan Nova trade with the Pirates back in 2016. He was originally drafted by the Baltimore Orioles in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft before heading to Pittsburgh as part of a trade for Travis Snider.

Tarpley, a lefty, is listed at 6-foot-1 and weighs 235 pounds. He relies primarily on a hard sinker that sits in low to mid 90’s and a slider. While he has both a change and curve, he rarely throws them.

So what has he done in the minors? He was a starter through 2016 pitching to mixed results, but 2017 is when Tarpley started turning head. As a reliever, he pitched to a 0.88 ERA and WHIP across 41 innings for High A and Double AA.

Last year he continued to impress with a 1.94 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. His strikeout numbers throughout the minors are solid, ranging from 8K/9 to 10.2K/9. His walk rate has remained a bit high, but so far this spring he’s had stellar control.

The most impressive stat he’s continued to carry through the minors as a reliever may be his groundball rate.

Here are his rates through his last four stops through the system: 66.7 percent, 72.4 percent, 69.8percent, and 66.3 percent. That’s exactly what you want to see in a sinkerball pitcher and exactly what the Yankees hope he brings to the Bronx.

Tarpley’s only taste of the majors came last year when the Yankees called him up in the fall. He actually ended up pitching pretty well, throwing up a 3.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP across nine innings, while also striking out 13. His 2.27 FIP was even better. It’s worth noting he did walk six batters in that span. His lone postseason appearance was much uglier, giving up four hits, a walk, and three runs in an inning of work against the Red Sox in the ALDS.

Now 26 years old, Tarpley has done nothing but impress across 11 games this spring. Across 12.2 innings he has a 1.42 ERA and 0.71 WHIP, while striking out nine batters. It’s easy to see, especially given Dellin Betances’ recent injury, why he’s making this team.

In fact, his spring was so impressive he was awarded the James P. Dawson Award for being the best rookie in camp. Last year that award went to Miguel Andujar. The year before it went to Gleyber Torres. That’s good company to be in.

Tarpley will start near the bottom of the bullpen pecking order for now, and it remains to be seen if there will be a place for him when Betances returns and Domingo German or Luis Cessa get relegated to the bullpen, but he has an opportunity now to prove he belongs. He’ll probably be used as a lefty specialist initially. In his very limited MLB sample size, he holds lefties to a .067 batting average vs. a .263 batting average against righties.

His ability to generate ground balls, his strong spring performance, the fact that he’ll probably be used as a lefty specialist make him a solid fit for the Yankees to start the 2019 season. Here’s hoping his success continues into the Bronx.