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How Should the New York Yankees Construct Their Postseason Roster?

The New York Yankees begin their journey throughout October Baseball tomorrow. So here’s the million dollar question. How should their postseason roster be shaped?

Ladies and gentleman, it’s that time of year again. October is here and the season of fall is as well. And you know what that means. Another Major League Baseball postseason is now underway. And like many others, the 2019 MLB Playoffs will feature the New York Yankees as one of their ten teams.

The Yankees finished the regular season with a record of 103-59, winning the American League East division for the first time since 2012.

2019 was without a doubt one of the most memorable seasons of Bronx Bombers baseball in recent memory. With all the adversity they’ve faced this season in terms of injuries, New York adopted a next man up and never say die mentality, giving the team a spark that they lacked in 2018. With how special of a season of Yankees baseball this has been, it gives fans optimism that it will all result in the Yankees winning their 28th World Series championship at the end of this October.

However, there are several questions the Yankees must answer if they want to make their October dreams a reality. And the first is a simple question that requires a complex answer. How should the Yankees construct their roster for the playoffs? What will New York’s lineup, bench, rotation, and bullpen look like? With injuries, fit, and slumps all factoring into the equation, the Yankees playoff roster will be an interesting question that manager Aaron Boone and the rest of his staff will have to answer. So let’s dive in and try to figure out the ideal Yankees postseason roster, starting with the hitters.

Lineup & Bench

By far the most intriguing part of the Yankee playoff roster is also arguably their biggest strength, their lineup. The Yankees have arguably the best offense in the entire Major Leagues. They lead the majors in runs scored with 943, finished second in home runs with 306, and had a team batting average of .267, fourth best in the MLB. However, several Yankees hitters are ether hurt or slumping. With so much depth and only so many spots, it’s interesting to see what Aaron Boone will come up for his postseason lineup.

To not outwork ourselves, let’s start with the obvious locks. Aaron Judge will be the right fielder, for obvious reasons that don’t bear repeating. With Aaron Hicks likely out for the season, Brett Gardner, coming off a career regular season, will play center field. After missing most of the season due to injury, Giancarlo Stanton has looked great since returning on Sept. 18. Furthermore, he’s good enough in the outfield for New York to feel comfortable putting him in left field. After suffering multiple injuries in spurts throughout the season, Gary Sanchez returned for the last regular series in Texas. He will without a doubt be the starting catcher.

The infield and designated hitter is where things get really interesting, as a lot will depend on the health of Gio Urshela and Edwin Encarnacion. But for the sake of argument, let’s say both of them are healthy. Gio Urshela will without a doubt be the third baseman considering how he shocked everyone and burst onto the scene. Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu will certainly be part of the infield with the season’s they’ve had. However, a big question is where in the infield will they play? That will depend on who the Yankees will choose to fill out the last two spots between four players. Those four being Encarnacion, Didi Gregorius, Luke Voit, and Mike Ford.

To fill the DH spot, the ideal choice has to be Encarnacion, as he’s been a key force in the Yankees lineup since they acquired him from the Seattle Mariners in June. During the 2019 season, Edwin Encarnacion is slashing .244/.344/.531 with an .875 OPS to go along with 34 home runs and 86 RBI. Furthermore, with his ability to play first base if necessary, it’s only natural that he makes a spot.

Last but not least, filling his natural infield position at shortstop will be Didi Gregorius. Didi has struggled throughout much of the season since returning from Tommy John surgery back in June, slashing .238/.276/.441 for an OPS of .718. Despite this, he’s proven to be one of the Yankees most clutch players. He came up big multiple times throughout the playoffs for the Yankees, particularly in the 2017 AL Wild Card Game and game 5 of the 2017 ALDS. Combine that with his ability to play a very solid shortstop in the infield and the fact that he’s one of the Yankees few left-handed hitters, it’s hard to imagine Didi Gregorius not being a part of the Yankees postseason lineup. Last but not least, Didi playing shortstop would mean Gleyber Torres playing second base and DJ LeMahieu playing first base.

Now that we’ve finished up the starting lineup, there’s one more intriguing spot we have to address. That is a potential pinch hitter, and Mike Ford fits the role perfectly. After tearing it up down in Triple A and bouncing back and forth between the minors and majors throughout the first four months of the season, Mike Ford has been tearing it up for the Yankees down the stretch. Since being called back up on Aug. 4, Ford has slashed .274/.333/.619 for an excellent OPS of .953. This makes Ford the perfect pinch hit guy for the Yankees. With his left-handed bat, New York can put him in to pinch hit against a pitcher that is effective against right-handed-hitting, which fills most of the Yankees lineup.

Unfortunately, this leaves Luke Voit as the odd man out for the Yankees. Voit has had a solid season for the Yankees, slashing .263/.378/.464/ for an .842 OPS. His .378 on-base percentage in particular is the second best on the team among players who played at least 100 games this season. However, throughout much of the second half and especially down the stretch, Voit has been ice cold. Since July 13, Voit has slashed .228./348/.368 for an OPS of just .715. He was worse in the month of September, hitting just .194 with an OPS of .673. Last but not least, in his last 33 at bats of the season, he has just one single. Combine Voit’s prolonged and severe slump down the stretch and the fact that he’s not a great defender at first base, and he’s the one who has his spot on the postseason roster in jeopardy.

Before we move onto the pitching staff, it’s time to finalize the Yankees bench. We already discussed Mike Ford and his role as a pinch hitter so there’s the first spot. Austin Romine takes the second spot by default, since he’s the backup catcher. Tyler Wade makes perfect sense for the third spot, as he’s very versatile defensively and has plenty of speed on the base-paths, making him the perfect utility player. The fourth spot would come down to whether or not the Yankees would want to use the extra reliever or extra bench player. Should they use the extra bench player, that’s where Luke Voit could potentially get a spot on the postseason roster, as the Yankees might want to have him there to see if he can get hot again.

Rotation & Bullpen

Now that we’ve finalized the lineup and bench, it’s time to discuss the Yankees pitching rotation and bullpen. While the Yankees bullpen is widely considered to be the best in baseball, their starting pitching rotation has always been a controversial topic. Aaron Boone and his staff will have to get creative with the pitching if the Yankees wanna go far in October. So let’s talk about the key thing on everyone’s mind. Who should start each game of the playoffs for the Yankees, particularly the first four of each series?

The ideal game 1 starter should be Masahiro Tanaka. Similar to Didi Gregorius, while Tanaka has struggled in the regular season, pitching to an ERA of 4.45 and WHIP of 1.24, he’s proven to be the Yankees best postseason pitcher. In five career starts in the postseason, Tanaka has pitched to an ERA of 1.50 with a WHIP of 0.80. With such a strong postseason resume, the Yankees should want Tanaka out there in game 1 to set the tone in the series early.

The game 2 start should go to James Paxton. Paxton has had a roller coaster 2019 season. He got off to a hot start, pitching to an ERA of 2.81 in his first eight starts. However, not long after suffering a knee injury in May, he began to struggle mightily. In his next 10 starts, Paxton’s ERA was an alarming 6.38. Thankfully, Paxton managed to turn it back on down the stretch, pitching to a 2.51 ERA in his last 11 starts. James Paxton has been the Yankees best starting pitcher down the stretch and this season in general, and should get the nod in game 2.

Game 3’s starting pitcher should be Luis Severino. After missing the majority of the 2019 season due to injury, Severino finally returned on Sep. 17. In his only three starts of the season, Severino pitched 12 total innings for an 1.50 ERA. In his first two starts of the season, he pitched nine shutout innings while striking out 13. This makes Severino the perfect pitcher to start a game 3. Considering how little he’s pitched this season, the Yankees would like to avoid giving him multiple starts in one postseason series, especially in a five game ALDS series.

Game 4 will be where the Yankees will have to get creative, as they don’t have any real trustworthy starter options at that point. With this in mind, the Yankees should go with an opener, most likely Chad Green. In 15 starts where Green served as the Yankees opener, he pitched 19.1 innings to a 3.72 ERA. Most of all, the Yankees are 11-4 in games where Green has opened. More importantly, this is where the Yankees could use their other starters, J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia, out of the bullpen to give them length. Furthermore, with so many rest days during the playoffs, the Yankees can feel comfortable going with a bullpen day for a game without wearing out the bullpen too much.

Final Roster

Starting Lineup

  1. 1B DJ LeMahieu
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. 2B Gleyber Torres
  4. LF Giancarlo Stanton
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. C Gary Sanchez
  7. DH Edwin Encarnacion
  8. 3B Gio Urshela
  9. CF Brett Gardner

Bench

  1. C Austin Romine
  2. UTL Tyler Wade
  3. 1B Mike Ford

Rotation

  1. Masahiro Tanaka
  2. James Paxton
  3. Luis Severino
  4. Chad Green

Bullpen

  1. J.A. Happ
  2. CC Sabathia
  3. Luis Cessa
  4. Jonathan Loaisiga
  5. Cory Gearrin 
  6. Adam Ottavino
  7. Tommy Kahnle
  8. Zach Britton
  9. Aroldis Chapman

The 2019 New York Yankees postseason roster has to be one of the more challenging ones to create in recent memory. With potential injury, so much lineup depth, hot and cold streaks, and rotation limitations, so much has to go into Aaron Boone’s final decision for his playoff lineup, bench, rotation, and bullpen. If the Bronx Bombers want to reach October Glory for the 28th time in franchise history, they have to get this right.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    Joe

    October 3, 2019 at 10:27 am

    Putting Stanton in the cleanup spot is comical! He has shown absolutely no strike zone control and was a complete bust under the pressure of last years playoff against the Red Sox! Not to mention he has only played in eighteen games this year. I would have either Encarnacion or Sanchez bat cleanup and hit Stanton seventh. I agree with everything else you have written. Yankee fan here since the days of Mantle.

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