Scott Thompson, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Only two days remain before the Yankees begin their quest for a 28th World Series title. A few hours before they take on the Twins at Yankee Stadium on Friday night, though, they have some tough decisions to make regarding their ALDS roster.
For a team that has won 103 games in the regular season, putting together a powerhouse roster should seem like a piece of cake. But for manager Aaron Boone and GM Brian Cashman, they want it to be perfect, and that includes making some tough decisions on certain players on the roster.
So, as the Yankees gear up for October baseball, here's what they must decide with their roster by Friday….
Is Gio Urshela healthy?
In the final game of the regular season on Sunday, Urshela rolled his left ankle and was diagnosed with a mild sprain. The Yankees probably held their breath watching Urshela come off the field in pain, being that he's been such a critical piece for them this season and most certainly will be in the postseason as well.
Luckily, it doesn't look like the Yankees will have to be without him. SNY's Andy Martino is hearing he'll be fine and ready to go by Friday.
So Yankee fans, exhale. Urshela's clutch hitting and steel trap glove should be at Boone's disposal in this series.
How should Boone order the rotation?
The Yankees have probably been thinking about this for well over a month now. It won't be a traditional rotation, with New York likely to piggyback starters on top of each other as J.A. Happ and CC Sabathia will join the already-stacked bullpen.
But who should get the ball in Game 1 and so on? It looked to be James Paxton as the clear No. 1 after his stellar second half. However, there have been rumblings that Luis Severino -- who came back with a vengeance and proved he deserved a rotation spot especially with Domingo German out for the postseason -- should get the ball on Friday night.
Should that be the case, Paxton can get the ball in Game 2 followed by Masahiro Tanaka for the first road game in Minnesota. If Paxton gets the ball in Game 1 instead, it may be smart to have Severino pitch Game 2 in front of a home crowd instead of on the road. Either way, Tanaka should get the start in Game 3 at Target Field.
And if this series goes to Game 4, the Yankees have another decision to make…
Do they use an opener?
It's been a hot button question for this Yankees team for some time now. Boone has deployed an opener throughout the season, but would he really use an entire bullpen arsenal in a postseason game?
After Cashman passed on bringing in another starter at the trade deadline, it became more apparent that the Yankees trusted their bullpen enough to go with the personnel they already had in place. Stocked with shutdown relievers like Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, Zack Britton, and Aroldis Chapman, this unit is primed to be the best bullpen among the postseason teams. If Dellin Betances didn't suffer a torn Achilles, it would've been even more dominant.
The obvious opener -- if that is the move -- would be Chad Green. He's been successful in that role throughout the year. He has a 3.72 ERA in his 14 starts, but most of that is from his five-run dud against the Red Sox back in August. Take out that game and he owns a 1.42 ERA over 19 innings. Green can go an inning or two and pass things along to Happ, Sabathia or anyone else in the pen (Luis Cessa should also be there).
It's an experiment but could be effective in what may be a crucial Game 4 situation.
Tyler Wade vs. Clint Frazier
In our postseason roster prediction, we had Wade taking the final spot on the roster due to his versatility in the field and pinch-running prowess. And it would've been less of an argument if Urshela was out.
However, with things looking good in Urshela's corner, the argument is not off the table.
Wade may have the ability to play anywhere in the field, but if Boone wants another impact bat on the bench to use in any situation, Frazier would be the better option. He's had a solid season at the dish, but his glove was a concern in the outfield.
The Yankees have all their heavy hitters back, with the exception of Aaron Hicks who is still dealing with his elbow injury and will be out the rest of the season.
An educated guess would be Wade making the roster, but you can also never have too many good hitters waiting in the wings.
Luke Voit vs. Mike Ford
Bet this wasn't a player duel you thought you'd be contemplating at this point in the season. However, it's made its way through social media chains and is a real topic of conversation.
Voit proved his worth last season, and that carried over to the postseason. He has the experience and knows what to expect in the heat of October. However, the big righty has been ice cold at the plate recently. Since returning from injury at the end of August, Voit is slashing .200/.319/.338 with two homers and eight RBI over 24 games.
That's where Ford might come in. The rookie has been mashing baseballs of late, finishing the season strong with a .341/.426/.707 slashline with four homers and 11 RBI in the same time since Voit was back (17 games for Ford compared to Voit's 24). He forced himself into the conversation we're having now, and it's a legitimate one if the Yankees don't believe Voit can wipe his slate clean and reset in this series.
Edwin Encarnacion will also be on the roster and can play first base. But he is much better suited for the DH role and a backup option at first. Given Voit's better defense at the position, it should be him that gets the start there, but the Yankees will look at all their options including Ford making the team.