We’re powering through the month of September. It feels as good a time as any, in my mind, to begin thinking through what the 25-man postseason roster looks like.
It’s no secret that the Yankees have had a lot of injuries this season and a lot of guys came in to replace them admirably. It looks like most of the injured guys are back or will be back in time to contribute to the postseason roster.
Of the guys presently on the IL, it seems Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, Thairo Estrada, and Gio Urshela are absolute locks to return to the field at this point. By every indication the Yanks have put out, Giancarlo Stanton, Jordan Montgomery, CC Sabathia, and Aaron Hicks are likely to return. Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller very well could return, but management has stayed rather silent on them, so who knows for sure. I wouldn’t bet money on Stephen Tarpley, Jake Barrett, Jacoby Ellsbury (lol), or Greg Bird returning this season (though we don’t know). Miguel Andujar and David Hale are both out for the season. Hale was moved to the 60-day IL when he went out less than 60 days away from the end of the season, and I don’t see the Yankees running the risk of having Hale enter game action for the first time since a lengthy injury in the postseason.
So let’s assume everyone who could come back does for the purposes of this exercise. By my count, there is room for four (4) starting pitchers, nine (9) starting position players (including DH), and then 12 spots left for the bench and bullpen. The Yankees have gone short bench (3) and an 8-man pen in the regular season. They get a roster spot to open up because of a short pitching rotation, so some may allocate that towards an extra bullpen arm, but I am going to use it on a fourth bench piece, theoretically to have a guy who can pinch run without compromising the rest of the bench. You could also use a third catcher, I suppose, but let’s not do that because it would be silly.
Here are the guys that would have to be considered locks to make the playoff roster, if healthy.
- Masahiro Tanaka
- Domingo German
- James Paxton
- Luis Severino
We can debate the order of these guys, but if they’re healthy it’ll be these four on the bump.
Bullpen (6 locks for 8 spots):
- Aroldis Chapman
- Zack Britton
- Adam Ottavino
- Dellin Betances
- Tommy Kahnle
- Chad Green
Fair? Fair. We’ll discuss the final two bullpen spots soon.
Starting lineup (9):
- C: Gary Sanchez
- 1B: Luke Voit
- 2B: Gleyber Torres
- SS: Didi Gregorius
- 3B: DJ LeMahieu
- LF: Giancarlo Stanton
- CF: Aaron Hicks
- RF: Aaron Judge
- DH: Edwin Encarnacion
Perhaps that’s not the literal lineup you would go with, fine, but those guys are all guaranteed to be on the postseason roster if they are healthy. Can’t convince me otherwise. It’s worth noting that there is a greater than zero percent chance that Giancarlo Stanton is only available in a DH role because of the knee injury, and that would change everything. We are pretending that won’t happen, though.
Bench (3 locks for 4 spots):
- Austin Romine (backup catcher)
- Gio Urshela (backup infielder)
- Brett Gardner (fourth outfielder!)
GIO URSHELA PROBABLY WON’T START IN THE PLAYOFFS. That is wild.
The last spot is going to get interesting. It may be an easy choice for some, but these three are guaranteed to be there if they’re good to go. They could, theoretically, start games as well.
So what about the final spots? We have three spots remaining, two for the bullpen and one for the bench to get a four-man bench and 8-man bullpen. Make sense?
For the bullpen, at least one of the final guys has to be a long man. Whether for an insane extra-inning game like Nathan Eovaldi in the 2018 World Series or to somehow be able to eat a couple of innings if there is a blowout in an attempt to rest one or two of the good bullpen arms in the postseason, someone to go multiple innings has to be available.
The options: Luis Cessa, Nestor Cortes, Cory Gearrin, JA Happ, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery, and CC Sabathia
I’ve identified these nine gentlemen as the candidates for the final two spots. I don’t see a way that the Yanks opt for Gearrin, Happ, Heller, or Montgomery on this list, even if they are healthy. At this point, they haven’t proven enough to secure a spot (or in Happ’s case they’ve been so bad this year that you couldn’t really justify it unless he is dominant in his final four starts or so) or they won’t have time to be lengthened out or prove effectiveness following long layoffs.
For these reasons, I am giving the final spots to Jonathan Holder and CC Sabathia. I think if CC is healthy- actually healthy- then you should put him on as the 25th guy. Realistically, I think I’d have to rule him out, though, and give the spot to Luis Cessa (gasp!) because I don’t think he’ll actually be healthy enough to give length in the playoffs and that’s the goal here. I know the game we’re playing is that everyone is healthy, but I just personally don’t believe he will be, and his spot would go to Cessa in that case. Cessa is not someone that I am a fan of, but his numbers are really solid this year, and he can give some length when things are getting sloppy. Look at the remaining options and tell me you really trust any of them right now over Luis Cessa. There is still a little less than a month for someone to change my mind, and CC says he will be good to go, but right now this is what I would do.
As for Holder, he has had well-documented struggles this season, but he had a very good 6-week stretch from May-June and after returning from his minor league time out, he looked not just good, but great in an admittedly small sample. He was awesome in 2018, though, and that also makes him the most proven and “real” reliever on this list. If he can get healthy (no idea if he could be healthy in time), then I think he’s basically a lock for the final “real” relief pitcher spot.
For the final bench spot, things start to get sad.
The options: Mike Tauchman, Cameron Maybin, Terrance Gore, Clint Frazier, Tyler Wade, Mike Ford, Thairo Estrada, and Kyle Higashioka (if you’re a 3-catchers guy)
I think the decision ultimately comes down to Tauchman, Maybin, and Wade. Gore was acquired to be a pinch-runner, but how could they justify him over anyone on this list, realistically? After everything else this year, could you really picture Clint Frazier on this team? Given the rest of the roster, there’s no way Ford joins Edwin and Voit as a third 1B/DH-only option on the playoff roster, which stinks because he has been good. I just don’t see Estrada cracking it over the other three.
So it is Tauchman, Maybin, and Wade for the final pinch-runner/defensive sub spot. As silly as it sounds, Wade has a serious change because he can play the infield and outfield at elite levels and is possibly the fastest runner in the organization. He’s a smart baserunner as well. Maybin is the next fastest, probably, and is the safest choice, I’d say. You know exactly what you’ll get from him. I ultimately believe the final spot, as of this moment, would have to go to Mike Tauchman, though. He’s dropped off from his insane July/August stretch, but his defensive metrics are strong, he has the most pop in his bat among this group, and he is a lefty batter. Don’t forget that the Yankees are very right-handed heavy, so having a lefty option is nice. Tauchman is also faster than people realize and, by all indications, is a smart base runner as well.
So I’ve got Jonathan Holder, Luis Cessa, and Mike Tauchman rounding out the 25-man playoff roster. Notable omissions include, but are not limited to, Cameron Maybin, Tyler Wade, Nestor Cortes, Mike Ford, Johnny Lasagna, Clint Frazier, CC Sabathia, JA Happ, and Thairo Estrada.
Tweet at me about how stupid this is, and we’ll probably revisit this another time or two before the conclusion of the regular season.