An important aspect to the Major League Baseball postseason is the ability for teams to revamp their rosters as each series commences. That means the Yankees will have some interesting decisions ahead of them as they head to the ALDS against the Indians, with the series opening Thursday night.
Let's project the position players Yankees manager Joe Girardi will select to man his high-powered offense:
Missing from the wild card roster are Tyler Wade and Clint Frazier. There is simply no room for them as the Yanks will likely go with 12 pitchers for the ALDS. The question with the position players is more about how Girardi disperses the players in the lineup.
Aaron Hicks gets the nod over Jacoby Ellsbury because of his defense, a stronger arm, and the fact that he can be a dynamic offensive player from both sides of the plate.
We saw Girardi use Ellsbury as the designated hitter in an effort to get some extra speed on the bases in the wild card game. This was understandable as Ellsbury has also played extremely well of late, but I do not believe Girardi will revisit that, as a rule, in the division series. There is a chance that Ellsbury will sneak in a game during the series (maybe against Carlos Carrasco, who he is 8-for-21 against in his career), otherwise I view him as a pinch-runner if one of the DH's gets on base late in a game.
So, who will be the DH? Personally, I thought Chase Headley was going to get the call in the wild card game. Headley had a great final four months of the season. However, the argument can be made that Matt Holliday would be better suited to start so that Headley's switch-hitting bat is available off the bench.
Headley has only fared well against Game 1 starter Trevor Bauer in his career, while Holliday has very small sample sizes (if any) against Indians pitching. Either way, I believe the Yankees will get more offense with one of those two than Ellsbury. Call it a hunch.
There is always the chance that Gary Sanchez is used at DH, while Austin Romine catches a game. However, I believe that severely hinders the offense -- and Sanchez has performed better of late behind the dish.
Let's address the starters first. Gray has been lined up for Game 1 from the beginning and he has been much better away from Yankee Stadium (5.65 ERA in the Bronx, 3.10 elsewhere). Pitching in Game 1 and a potential Game 5 satisfies that. Gray faltered some down the stretch, but also exhibited the ability to pitch six or seven strong innings after coming over from the Athletics. On the flip side, Gray has a 7.59 ERA in two starts at Progressive Field this season.
Game 2 is where this prediction could crumble. My thought is that Severino performed a "throw day" in the wild card game (29 pitches) and that he could be available for Friday. It's a big risk, but as with Gray, Severino was better on the road (2.24 ERA in 96 1/3 innings) than at Yankee Stadium (3.71 ERA in 97 regular season innings).
Games 3 and 4 could get flipped. I believe there is such a thing as too much rest, which is why Tanaka is listed for Game 3, which will be eight days since his last start instead of nine days. Sabathia will have gone six days since his final regular season appearance. Tanaka is also much better at Yankee Stadium this season, posting a 3.22 ERA in New York and a 6.48 ERA elsewhere.
The Yankees' top-seven relievers are of no surprise. However, adding Jordan Montgomery to the mix may be a surprise for some. The notion is that while Girardi has the ability to extend his relievers, there could invariably be an instance or two in which he'll need a reliever to work a larger sum of innings that he would not want his high-leverage or even middle innings men to take. Enter Montgomery, who could also provide outs against tough left-handed batters, which he held to a .195 batting average in 2017.
The pecking order has obviously changed in the bullpen, as Betances did not even warm up in the wild card game, which required 26 outs from the relievers. Expect that to continue in the ALDS, with Betances being called on in lower leverage situations should they arise, with Chad Green, David Robertson, and Aroldis Chapman being used in the highest leverage situations and for extended appearances when required.
Certainly, there are other ways Girardi can go about creating the roster, though I believe the position players listed above are fairly simple to project.
As for the pitchers, Girardi could choose Jaime Garcia over Montgomery. He might opt to add both Garcia and Montgomery and remove the left-handed Shreve, since they are also lefties and can provide substantially more length.
At this stage in the season, Girardi is going to go with the players he trusts most, and the collection above figures to be the group he is comfortable leaning on.