New York Yankees: An in-depth look at the postseason roster and the club’s chances this Octoberby Emma Marion October 4, 2019 0 comments
As the Yankees head into October, this is a hypothetical look at their postseason. With many of their starters coming back, and some of this year’s call-ups really shining, the Yankees have the potential to go all the way. Luis Severino recently started pitching again, and although he is just three starts in, he is already pitching to a 1.50 earned run average.
Meanwhile, Edwin Encarnación is ready to return. He will most return for the series opener on Friday. However, injured outfielder Aaron Hicks, one of the starters for most of the season, will most likely not play again this year. Though the team is optimistic, Hicks has been out since Aug. 4 with a right flexor strain.
Gary Sanchez, the Yankees’ primary catcher, was not taken off the active roster despite his injury, and he returned in the Yankees last regular-season series against Texas.
Some of the newer players have stepped up this year. Domingo German, Mike Tauchman, Gio Urshela, Mike Ford, and many others have almost led the Yankees to this record season. The Yankees have had a lot of players who started in Triple-A this year but have been promoted due to the remarkable number of injuries they have had.
For catching depth, the Yankees have Gary Sanchez locked in as their starter. The power-hitting Sanchez is one of the best assets in the Yankees’ lineup. While his defense is the most criticized part of his playing, there’s no denying his pure hitting power. After returning from multiple injuries this season, Sanchez has 91 hits in 105 games played.
The Yankees also have good backup depth in Austin Romine and Kyle Higashioka. While Romine is their established second-string catcher, Higashioka has also been getting some playing time. Romine is batting .279 in 72 games this season, but just .218 in his last 16 games. While Romine will become a free agent at the end of next season, Sanchez’s contract ends in 2023, and Higashioka’s in 2025. Heading into October, the Yankees seem to be sticking with Sanchez as the starter and Romine as the second-string.
During spring training, one of the most-watched competitions was the battle between Luke Voit and Greg Bird. With the trade for Edwin Encarnación midway through the season, the competition seemed to heighten. While Greg Bird started opening day, he has been one of the many Yankees who saw his season shorten due to injuries. Bird, who played in just 10 games this season, could be a potential trade candidate this offseason as he is under contract through 2021.
Voit proved to be the main first baseman until he also went down with an injury. D.J. LeMahieu, the Yankees’ utility man who has shaped himself up to be a solid MVP candidate this season, has also taken a fair amount of innings at first. A three-time golden glove winner, LeMahieu fared surprisingly well and looked as if he could have held up the position for the rest of the season if needed.
When the Yankees traded for Encarnación mid-season, they seemed to want more depth at first base due to the slew of injuries. Encarnación is a power hitter, but he ended up spending more time as a designated hitter. Luke Voit won the starting job at first base, and LeMahieu and Encarnación split the time when Voit was sidelined. With Encarnación on the injured list, LeMahieu has been the primary first baseman in September. He has been playing so well that it wouldn’t be a surprise if he was the starter for the postseason.
With all of the injuries this season, the Yankees have also called up Mike Ford. With a batting average above .350, Ford seems to be holding his own in the majors.
At second base, Gleyber Torres is the Yankees’ starter. A breakout star from last year, Torres has played a lot of games this year. After finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting last year, just behind teammate Miguel Andujar and winner Shohei Ohtani, Torres proved he can be a reliable starter for the Yanks.
Torres, who is hitting .278 with 90 RBI this season, is quickly becoming a key player for the Yankees. His 38 home runs rank fifth in the AL. Torres has played in 142 games this season and is looking better than some of the more experienced players. Only 22 years old, Torres could be a key leader for the Yankees in the near future. Though Torres has only played in two seasons and is still young, he is also a two-time All-Star.
As for depth, the Yankees have LeMahieu as their backup option and Thairo Estrada as their third-stringer. LeMahieu is the Yankee all-around utility man, and he can play any infield position. Estrada is one of the Yankees’ call-ups due to the number of injuries they’ve suffered this season. Though he has been on the roster for quite some time this season, Estrada has only gotten 64 at-bats. He has been fairly productive, hitting .250 with three homers and 12 RBI.
The Yankees’ shortstop has been quite good, but it was a matter of fill-ins for a good part of the season. With Didi Gregorius rehabbing from late season Tommy John surgery last year, the Yankees had to fill the position. They started off with Troy Tulowitzki, an off-season signing. After a tough left calf injury, Tulo decided to hang up his uniform and retire.
Then came a mix of D.J. LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres, two of the Yankees’ standout players who swapped between second base and shortstop. While Gregorius made good progress on his rehab, LeMahieu and Torres managed to do a pretty good job holding up. Once Gregorius was ready to return, Torres went back to being the primary second baseman and LeMahieu moved around the diamond. Gregorius and Torres took most of the starts at shortstop this year and have been doing a very good job both defensively and from an offensive standpoint.
Last year, standout rookie Miguel Andujar was the starter for most of the season. After a tough injury, the Yankees didn’t have a clear cut player for third base. Andujar played in just 12 games before he became one of the Yankees’ first injuries of the season, opting for season-ending shoulder surgery. They tried D.J. LeMahieu at the hot corner for a few games before it became clear he wasn’t a good fit.
Next, the Yankees turned to Gio Urshela, whom they traded for in August of 2018. Urshela didn’t have a ton of major league experience prior to this season, but he has since exceeded everyone’s expectations. He hit .314 with 21 home runs this season. It seems like Urshela and Andujar will be competing for the starting spot next year. As both are signed through 2024, if all goes well, the Yankees can stick it out and see who comes out on top and maybe consider a trade.
As they have LeMahieu, who can play any position, the Yankees seem to have good third base depth heading into the postseason.
The Yankees have a lot of outfield depth. Heading into the 2019 season, the Yankees seemed locked on Gardner and Judge in the corner spots. If they needed a rest day, both of them could easily fill in as the DH. Meanwhile, they had Aaron Hicks in center field before he suffered an injury.
With all the injuries, Cameron Maybin, Mike Tauchman, and Giancarlo Stanton have seen a lot more playing time. Stanton was predominantly the DH last season, but he filled in in the outfield as well. With Judge and Gardner spending time on the IL, Maybin and Tauchman got a chance to play. Both of these call-ups have done surprisingly well. When Hicks suffered a (presumably) season-ending injury in early August, Gardner shifted to center and Maybin took over a lot of the responsibility of left field. For a while, Stanton was stuck on the IL with a left biceps sprain (and later on, a right knee sprain).
The minor-league player who has been most upset about the promotions throughout the season has been Clint Frazier. The young outfielder has publicly spoken out about his disagreement with some of Aaron Boone’s decisions. When the Yankees played the Red Sox in London, the rosters expanded to hold one additional player. Boone and Brian Cashman chose Thairo Estrada, the well-deserving infielder, leaving Frazier back in the States, where he was quick to voice his concerns on how he thought he should have been the extra depth player.
Tauchman played until early September when he, too, landed on the IL. The Yankees are optimistic that he will be back for the postseason. For now, the Yankees are starting with Judge and Stanton in the corner spots and Gardner in center.
The designated hitter position for the Yankees is an interesting one. With a lineup of stacked hitting, they use this approach as a home run-hitting opportunity. For a while, the Yankees had Stanton as their primary DH while Aaron Hicks was able to stay in the outfield. Midway through the season, Hicks’s injury moved Stanton to the outfield. This summer, the Yankees traded for Edwin Encarnación, who became their primary DH. Before he, too, hit the IL, Encarnación was hitting .244 with 34 home runs.
With Stanton in the outfield and Encarnación injured, the DH spot has been covered by either Luke Voit or Mike Ford, whoever is not at first base … or Clint Frazier. Voit is having a very good season, hitting .263 with a .378 OBP. Ford has also held up as a sturdy replacement for Voit. He is currently hitting .259 with 12 home runs. Frazier has similar stats, batting .267 with 12 home runs.
Pitching is a big part of baseball, obviously. The Yankees have good enough pitching that their hitting can cover up for them in most cases, but in the postseason, it might turn out otherwise.
The loss of Domingo German to a reported violation of the MLB-MLBPA Domestic Violence Policy and the accompanying suspension is a tough loss for the Yankees. German, who held an 18-4 record in 27 games, was looking like the Yankees’ ace following the painful absence of Dellinn Betances. With German’s season done and his future in jeopardy, some other Yankees need to step up to fill his void in the starting rotation.
For starters, the Yankees seem to be locked in with a six-man rotation. Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, J.A. Happ, Luis Severino, and C.C. Sabathia will most likely all serve as conventional starters. The Yankees also often turn to Chad Green to open a game and then back him up with a series of relievers.
They know they can turn to Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Luis Cessa, and David Hale for a strong bullpen effort before handing the game to Aroldis Chapman. As for depth, the Yankees also have Nestor Cortes, Jr., Cory Gearrin, Jonathan Loaisaga, Tyler Lyons, Chance Adams, Ben Heller, Stephen Tarpley, and Michael King. The Yankees’ pitching staff currently holds a 4.31 ERA on the season, and they have struck out a total of 1,534 batters.
So, what chance do they have?
The Yankees have a decent shot at taking home their first title in 10 years if they can keep their pitching in check. If their starting pitchers can get four to six solid innings of less-than-three-run ball, their relievers should be able to hold up. According to CBS, the Yankees have nine-to-two odds to win the World Series. Those are the third-best odds, behind the Astros and Dodgers. This isn’t surprising considering they Dodgers have lost in the World Series both of the last two years and the Astros won it all in 2017.