New York Yankees Playoff Roster Questions

New York Yankees

New York Yankees Playoff Roster Questions

The New York Yankees are headed to the playoffs. They have won the American League Eastern Division for the 19th time. The Yankees are in a dog fight with the Houston Astros for the best record in baseball and more importantly home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Both teams are currently tied with 102 wins and it might come down to the last game of the season.

The winner gets to play the winner of the wild card game. So far not one team has clinched a spot in that game. The Oakland Athletics currently have a one and a half-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have a half-game lead over the Cleveland Indians. The loser gets to play that offensive juggernaut known as the Minnesota Twins.

But that is not the most important question for the Yankees and their fan base.

Playoff Roster Rules

Just like in the regular season there are rules for setting your playoff roster. Any player who is on the 40-man roster or 60-day injured list as of 11:59 p.m. ET on Aug. 31 is eligible for the postseason. If a player is on the restricted list at that same point in time are also eligible unless they have been suspended for PED’s at any point of the season.

During the course of a playoff series, a team can petition the commissioner’s office to replace an injured player. However, that player is then ineligible for the rest of that round and the next round. Also, only a pitcher can replace a pitcher or a position player can replace a position player in that scenario. With the Yankees injuries and overall health of the team, this rule is worth paying attention to.

Gary Sanchez Groin Injury

On September 12th Gary Sanchez injured his left groin. Groin injuries can be tricky to deal with. More so for a catcher like Sanchez is. Sanchez has rebounded from dismal 2018 season to slug 34 HR and drive in 77 runs. Sanchez has not played since injuring his groin and is scheduled to return to action during the Yankees season-ending series in Arlington against the Texas Rangers.

As deep as the Yankee offense is they want to have their all-star catcher in the lineup. But this injury does open up some interesting playoff roster questions. Backup catcher Austin Romine was always on the playoff roster as the backup. Romine is not a slouch as a hitter but he is not Sanchez. If Sanchez can only bat and not play the field this could mean the Yankees could carry a third catcher in Kyle Higashioka. It would be for protection if Romine gets hurt or if the Yankees want to pinch-hit for Romine in a big spot.

The Yankees are not going to take a chance of having to replace a player during the series and lose that player for the next round. With the first round being a best of five series it is possible the Yankees will only carry two catchers with Sanchez being used as a DH. But that then clogs up the DH spot.

Designated Hitter Options

If you look at any New York Yankees depth chart Edwin Encarnacion is listed as the designated hitter. Encarnacion also was injured on September 12th with the dreaded strained oblique. Like Sanchez, Encarnacion is expected to return to the team against the Rangers. If Encarnacion is healthy for the playoffs and Sanchez can’t play behind the plate that now leaves the Yankees with two big bats at DH.

You can also consider that to be three big bats for the DH spot. Luke Voit has served as the Yankees first basemen for the entire season. But this has been a season like no other. At no point were the Yankees ever whole and healthy. While it has been frustrating for manager Aaron Boone to not have his full team healthy this year the Yankees have seen new players step up. The Yankees depth has been incredible to see in full display.

But now it is time to make tough decisions. Gleyber Torres if healthy and he is due to return tonight against the Rays is your second basemen. Didi Gregorius is your shortstop. The questions are now at the corners. The Yankees can play Gio Urshela at third who is arguably their best defensive third baseman and also has become a very effective hitter. That would mean MVP candidate DJ LeMahieu would have to play first base.

So Voit slides to DH where Encarnacion is slotted to play and Sanchez can ultimately end up if he can’t get behind the plate. In a perfect world for the Yankees Sanchez would be able to catch and the DH spot becomes a two man show with Voit and Encarnacion. This is assuming Urshela plays third and not LeMahieu opening up first base for Voit.

The Outfield

The outfield has no questions other than how many will be carried into the first round. That is assuming everyone is healthy. From left to right the Yankees will be going with Giancarlo Stanton, Brett Gardner, and Aaron Judge. Cameron Maybin is certain to be kept for his defense. That leaves four outfielders with Clint Frazier the potential odd man out. Everyone knows Frazier can hit but his defense is suspect. The Gary Sanchez situation could very well decide if Frazier makes the postseason roster.

The New York Yankees lineup is loaded. American League teams don’t need to burn players to pinch-hit for pitchers due to the DH. However, if Romine is the catcher he would be the only candidate for a potential pinch hitter. But you can also see Maybin or Frazier used to pinch run for players like Voit or Sanchez in a tight late-inning game. It is possible the Yankees carry one less pitcher to keep Frazier on the roster.

Starting Rotation

Perhaps the most important part of the New York Yankees is getting good starts from their starting rotation. This has been the Yankees weak link of their team this entire season. The Yankees only have one starting pitcher with an ERA under four. James Paxton is on an incredible run and has lowered his ERA to under four just this month. Paxton has finally shown the Yankees the pitcher they thought he was when they traded for him. Masahiro Tanaka and his 1.50 ERA in 30 playoff innings will most likely get the game one nod followed by Paxton.

From there the questions start. Domingo German who was the best starting pitcher the Yankees had for a big part of the season will not pitch again this year due to legal issues. CC Sabathia is already slated to work out of the bullpen. That leaves very few options. J.A. Happ has an ERA over five this year and is likely to start in the playoffs. The Yankees could also use an opener like Chad Green for two or three innings then turn the game over to their deep bullpen. But there also is a wild card.

Luis Severino

Luis Severino has been out for the entire year. The Yankees waited patiently through set back after set back for their ace to return. The Yankees did not even trade for a starting pitcher at this year’s trading deadline because they were confident Severino would come back for the playoffs. Severino has come back with a vengeance and looks better than he ever did before.

Severino has made two starts and has pitched nine innings giving up five hits and two walks while striking out 13 batters and not allowing a run. He made his season debut on September 17th against the Los Angeles Angels pitching four innings then pitched five innings in his next start against the Toronto Blue Jays. Severino is being stretched out to be a starting pitcher in the playoffs and likely the Yankees number three starter behind Tanaka and Paxton.

This is huge for the Yankees as they could be facing potent offensive teams and a potential series with the Astros trio of aces. The Yankees bullpen is set and has no injuries to any of their key pieces except for Dellin Betances who has not pitched this entire season.

Yankees Outlook

The New York Yankees have had a magical season. Dealing with so many injuries to star players has this team deep and battle-tested. The biggest asset was the level head kept by General Manager Brian Cashman who calmly waited for his injured stars to return to the lineup and not making that big move costing a lot of top prospects.

That approach has certainly paid off. Now it’s time for the second season and the Yankees are hoping to get all of their injured players back. The real question for the Yankees playoff roster is will they carry three catchers and if so that would mean Frazier is on the outside looking in. The Yankees will most likely carry 12 pitchers.

Now it’s time for the second season and the Yankees are hoping to get all of their injured players back. A potential ALDS against the Twins might be a dream for any fan who likes to see home runs. Buckle up. The postseason in 2019 is going to be really good.