2019 is already shaping up to be one of the best seasons the San Diego Padres have had in years thanks to performances of guys like Fernando Tatas Jr, the resurgence of Eric Hosmer, and the bat of Franmil Reyes, but the player who has been most exciting to watch has been Padres closer, Kirby Yates.
Picked up on waivers from the Yankees during the 2017 season, Yates has excelled in the closer role thanks to developing a nasty split finger fastball that has turned his career from just being an average relief pitcher to becoming the best closer the Padres have had since Trevor Hoffman.
A New Career After Age 30
For most pitchers, by the time they reach age 30, it’s easy to see if their careers will have longevity past age 30, or if their time in the Big Leagues is winding down.
When the Padres acquired Yates in 2017 it looked to most people like he was just another pitcher who could be a “stopgap” for the Padres rotation, or be another bust. Padres fans have seen lots of pitchers who didn’t work out over the years so it wasn’t too hard to get excited about Kirby Yates.
Kirby knew following the 2016 season that he had to find a new pitch if he wanted to stay in the Big Leagues, that’s when he developed a split-finger fastball and we’re seeing the fruits of his labor during the 2019 season.
A Missing Piece in The Puzzle
With 20 saves, 44 strikeouts, and a 1.13 ERA, it’s easy to see that Kirby Yates is a missing piece in the puzzle that’s been the San Diego Padres.
We’re not even at the mid-season mark yet but this team has ignited a real excitement in Padres fans that’s not been seen since the late 1990’s.
With the great work from the 2019 Padres and Kirby Yates, there’s hope that this team could be a contender in September and a threat in the National League West for years to come.