The Yankees have officially clinched the AL East title on Thursday night, doing so for the first time since 2012. Now the only thing left to play for is home field advantage throughout the postseason, which the Astros and Bombers are currently locked in to with 100 wins apiece.
As the Yankees ride out the rest of the season, the next phase of their journey to the World Series will be putting together the 25-man postseason roster.
One big advantage GM Brian Cashman and manager Aaron Boone possess this year is roster depth, something that has gotten them through all the injuries that have plagued the team throughout the season. Players like Gio Urshela, DJ LeMahieu, Cameron Maybin, Mike Tauchman, and others have stepped up when called upon, and that should continue in October.
However, this week has changed their grand plan. First was Dellin Betances suffering a partial tear in his Achilles just one day after tossing two strikeouts to the first batters he's faced all season in Toronto. The Yankees were banking on him to be another solid piece in the bullpen, though the unit is already stacked to begin with. It is good news, though, that is doesn't look like he'll need surgery.
On Thursday RHP Domingo German was placed on administrative leave for an alleged domestic violence incident. According to SNY's Andy Martino, German is facing a "significant suspension" that could force him to miss the entire postseason. The young righty figured to be in the starting rotation.
The Yankees still have solid group that has the potential to bring the 28th World Series title to the Bronx. Going based on what the team did last season, here's how their roster could pan out heading into October...
- LHP James Paxton
- RHP Masahiro Tanaka
- LHP J.A. Happ
- LHP CC Sabathia
- RHP Luis Severino
- RHP Chad Green
So you're probably wondering why six names sit in this group. Well, this rotation shouldn't be a traditional one at all based on the fact that the Yankees will most likely piggyback certain starters with others based on matchups.
Paxton is the exception here. He has been stellar in the second half, and has proven to be the ace of this staff. He should see the ball in Game 1, but after that, expect Boone to get creative.
Tanaka may be used traditionally given his successful postseason track record. However, with a 5.35 second half ERA, Boone may keep a tight leash on him or use a two-starter system. It should definitely happen with Happ and Sabathia given their inconsistencies this season.
And that's where Severino, fresh off his long rehab stint, and Green come in. Severino shouldn't be used as a traditional starter, but rather the next man up when the first starter is done after, say, three or four innings. If he can produce like he did in his first outing of the season in the postseason, the Yankees would love that. Green has been used as an opener all season long as well.
Boone can mix and match virtually anyone on his pitching staff to keep the opponent on their toes with matchup scenarios. However, these six should definitely be in the conversation for the Yankees "rotation" -- if we even call it that.
- LHP Aroldis Chapman (C)
- RHP Adam Ottavino
- LHP Zack Britton
- RHP Tommy Kahnle
- RHP Luis Cessa
- LHP Nestor Cortes Jr.
As we mentioned, Betances should have likely knocked out Cessa if he didn't suffer his injury. But this is still a great squad out in the bullpen for the Yanks.
Speaking of Cessa, Boone could use him as an opener or wherever he likes the matchup, so his versatility there should give him a spot on the roster. Cortes gives the Yankees another lefty to work with, as Chapman and Britton wouldn't want to be used for mid-game situations.
Also, a name to keep in the conversation is LHP Jordan Montgomery. Coming back from Tommy John surgery, he pitched well in his season debut in Toronto, and Boone noted the possibility of Montgomery pitching himself into the conversation. Though it is unlikely, it can't be ruled out.
The rest of the group are sure locks, though. Ottavino, Britton, and Chapman are the back-end power arms with Kahnle pitching very well this season after a rough 2018. Again, Boone can easily mix and match players out in the bullpen as well. But this group is going to be depended on heavily with those high expectations for the season going even higher now in October.
- 2B Gleyber Torres
- SS Didi Gregorius
- 1B Luke Voit
- 3B DJ LeMahieu
- INF Gio Urshela
- 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion
The emergence of LeMahieu and Urshela makes this group even better than expected entering the season. LeMahieu was said to be the catalyst before the season began, but even those people couldn't predict his .329/.377/.518 slash line with a career-high in homers (25) and RBI (97). Urshela has been any even bigger surprise with his career highs in virtually everything as well.
They've been everything Cashman has hoped for and more, becoming players that can fill in anywhere in the infield on any given day.
Torres has also continued his rise to stardom this season, as he's on the verge of belting 40 homers (he's at 38 right now). He's also raised his RBI totals and batting average, while becoming a two-time All-Star all at age 22. And he'll look for a better average than his .308 in the ALDS last year, too.
Gregorius hasn't had the second half he might have liked, but he's a sure glove at shortstop and has a flare for the dramatic in the postseason That clutch three-run homer in the Wild Card Game against the Twins two years ago ring a bell? And Voit also had his moments in the postseason last year, specifically that triple against the A's in the Wild Card Game. He's still trying to find his power stroke in the second half, but coming back from his injury, he may be ripe to finally get that going.
Add in Encarnacion as the team's DH, granted he comes back healthy from his groin strain, and this infield is extremely versatile with lots of pop in their bats.
- RF Aaron Judge
- CF Brett Gardner
- LF Giancarlo Stanton
- OF Cameron Maybin
- OF Tyler Wade
The Yankees got Stanton back in the nick of time, and he should get his fair share of at-bats before the regular season ends. He roped a double in his return to the lineup, but finished 0-for-3 with two strikeouts on Thursday night. He will want to eradicate the bad taste from his first postseason experience last season, where he hit .238 overall with six strikeouts in that Red Sox series.
Hopefully Judge's shoulder injury that kept him out of the lineup on Thursday isn't anything too serious. Boone said it was simply precautionary that he stayed out, but since he's mashed 15 homers in his second half including five in his last 12 games, the Yankees definitely want him healthy for October. Having that arm out there in right field, too, is crucial.
Gardner and Maybin are locks as well, but you might be wondering why Wade makes the cut. I was thinking about dropping Clint Frazier in that final slot -- and that very well could happen -- but Wade can be used in literally any situation. Don't necessarily think of his bat. He can play both infield and outfield, and has the base-running smarts to be a pinch runner -- something he's done in the past.
Taking that super utility role over the better bat in Frazier would be a smart move given the Yankees already possessing tons of prowess at the plate.
- C Gary Sanchez
- C Austin Romine
This is the easiest section to write down, but it does come with a catch.
Sanchez is currently nursing a left groin strain, something he has experienced in the past. There is no timetable right now for when the All-Star catcher is set to return, though the Yanks would love it to be before the end of the regular season so he can get some at-bats.
Romine is a solid backup option if Sanchez can't get back in time, but with his improved bat and defense compared to last season, it is only right that "The Kraken" is in the lineup when the ALDS kicks off.