How Yankees can deal with their ALDS roster puzzle

Cabrera is a strong contender for Yankees' ALDS roster.

Table of Contents

Aaron Boone and the Yankees face a puzzle to pick the right players for their ALDS roster. Since the Yankees won their division with 99 wins, their manager gets a lot of questions about who should play where and when as they are to start their ALDS series on Tuesday.

Boone keeps saying that these are good problems to have for the ALDS roster because he has to choose between talented players for playoffs. Let’s see if he still says that with three days to go and fans on social media are fast becoming impatient to know about the playoff lineup.

As long as the Yankees don’t go 11-0 on their way to their first championship since 2009, Boone should expect a hellish ride full of second-guessing on the playoff lineup and players complaining that they aren’t playing when they thought they would. Aaron Judge will start, and Anthony Rizzo will play first base. But besides that, there will be disagreements about how the Yankees use their ALDS roster.

The starter puzzle of the Yankees

Boone had said on the podcast “The Show with Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman” that it would be Gerrit Cole. However, the Yankees now are evasive on the starting pitcher for Game 1. Whoever begins Game 1 will have a full day of rest for Game 4 and an additional day of rest for Game 5. The ALDS roster for pitchers has many stars.

Do they field Cole or Nestor Cortes to start? Another option for New York is Luis Severino. The pitcher did great in his last start in Texas when he went seven innings without giving up a hit. Nestor Cortes might not get the honor of starting Game 1 of the ALDS, but he might be in charge of getting the Yankees out of a winner-take-all Game 5.

If the Yankees don’t start Cole in Game 1, they could start him in Games 2 and 5, but he would need three days of rest before the last game. Cole would not be the first person to start after three days off. Cole did this in Game 5 of the 2020 ALDS against the Rays. He went 5 1/3 innings, gave up just one hit, and struck out nine batters. If the team has to choose between pitching Cortes on short rest or Cole, it makes sense to go with Cole because he’s done it before, he’s pitched in a lot of high-stakes games in the postseason, and there are no concerns about his durability, while Cortes has never pitched as much as he has this season.

Game 3 would be pitched by Severino, but Game 4 is unknown. If the Yankees did things the right way, either Domingo German or Jameson Taillon would start, but can they trust either of them in a big game? They could try to have both German and Taillon pitch a few innings in Game 4 and then pass the ball to the bullpen, but it seems like the best idea would be to trust the best players to do their jobs on the biggest stages, especially since Game 1’s starter would have normal rest.

If there needs to be a Game 4, and the Yankees are up 2-1 in the series, Jameson Taillon would be ready to start. If the Yankees are behind 2-1, I think the starter from Game 1 would go in Game 4. So, Taillon would start Game 5, and the Game 2 starter might be able to help out for a few innings.

If the Yankees go with a three-man rotation for the playoff lineup, it makes sense to keep both German and Taillon on the ALDS roster in case of an injury or a long-relief situation where they need a pitcher who can throw many innings. Given how unpredictable Chapman is, and how many times he failed to deliver in the postseason in the past, it makes sense to never use him. Chapman has the potential to be a game-changer whenever he’s on the mound, but the risk is much bigger than the reward.

The designated hitter

Giancarlo Stanton is the person who will do it. Just because he has hit nine home runs in 18 postseason games, he will get the nod for the ALDS roster. He has hit home runs in each of his last three regular-season starts.

This year, however, Stanton had a lot of long stretches of bad at-bats. This brings to attention Matt Carpenter on the playoff lineup. But since August 8, he hasn’t played and no one knows if he can get back to what he was like before he broke his left foot. He was the Yankees’ toughest at-bat and can hit both righties and lefties making him a good choice for the ALDS roster. He hit the ball well. If he is back and able to play, he becomes the best replacement hitter for Trevino and maybe even Donaldson and Bader in some situations.

The second base

DJ LeMahieu came back from an injury to his toe and hit four singles in 16 at-bats over five games. He walked twice, struck out once, and hit a lot of ground balls, but he didn’t show any signs of being at his best. His inclusion into the ALDS roster remains doubtful. Gleyber Torres, on the other hand, hit .391 in his last 17 games and had 11 extra-base hits, including five home runs. His defense is also better than LeMahieu’s right now and he is a good choice for the playoff lineup.

But Boone looks up to LeMahieu. He knows that when LeMahieu is on, he can hit even the best playoff pitchers and won’t be scared of a big spot.

The third base

Josh Donaldson has struck out 27.1% of the time this season, which is not a good sign for having him on the ALDS roster. His defense has been good all season, but he might get hit by a few pitches in the playoffs. But Donaldson’s defense made him go 0 for 15 at the end of the season. In his last 14 games, he hit two doubles, didn’t hit any home runs, had a .222 average, and struck out 20 times out of 61 at-bats.

Is LeMahieu a viable playoff lineup choice to start at third? When completely healthy this year, LeMahieu played greater defense at the position than was expected.

The outfield

If Andrew Benintendi can’t get back in time for the playoffs, the Yankees will complete the ALDS roster by putting Oswaldo Cabrera in left field, Harrison Bader in the center, and Aaron Judge in right.

The Yankees have liked how Bader’s extra defense in center field and Cabrera’s overall improvement have helped them. In 1998, Ricky Ledee and Shane Spencer, both rookies, shared left field for the Yankees. Cabrera has only played 44 games. The new player hasn’t flinched yet and has shown that he knows a lot about baseball.

Harrison Bader has played great defense for the Yankees in his 14 games with the team. This is the kind of thing the team hopes will make a difference this month.

If Benintendi does come back, the Yankees can line up Benintendi in left, Judge in the middle, and Cabrera in right, with Bader ready to come in late for defense. If plays center field, Judge plays right field, and Benintendi or Cabrera would play left field.

A few weeks ago, it was hard to imagine that the other Aaron, Hicks, would be on the ALDS roster. But because of the health of some players and the fact that Stanton and Carpenter can’t play multiple positions, the Yankees will need a backup outfielder, and Hicks is the best choice for the playoff lineup. The Yankees could use Tim Locastro instead of Hicks as a fast option off the bench, but they’ll probably go with the veteran. Hicks can hit from either side of the plate, and the Yankees like what he does from the right side.

The infield

Giancarlo Stanton has that spot locked down on ALDS roster. LeMahieu could have a smaller role because he hasn’t looked good since the beginning of August. In those 28 games, LeMahieu has only had four extra-base hits and one home run, giving him a slash line of .148/.248/.236. They could use Oswaldo Cabrera in any spot without much trouble. But if Cabrera has to play infield, Hicks would probably have to be in the lineup because neither Stanton nor Carpenter can play field.

The Yankees can put rookie middle infielder Peraza on the team’s playoff lineup. Peraza can be the backup for both Kiner-Falefa and Torres, and he could also be used as a pinch runner. Peraza’s bat has made an impact in his 18 games, with a wRC+ of 146. He has also done well running the bases in Triple-A this season, stealing 33 bases without getting caught more than five times. The Yankees tend to choose veterans over rookies, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Marwin Gonzalez on the roster instead of Peraza. However, Peraza has done more at the plate to deserve to be on the roster instead of Gonzalez.

The Closing Pitcher

The Yankees will be off to a good start in the playoffs if they can put Aaron Judge‘s name in the lineup every day. But their bad selection of a closing pitcher can put that too into risk. Boone’s circle-of-trust relievers are Holmes, Effross, Loaisiga, Peralta, and Trivino. German, Schmidt, and Lucas Luetge are possibles for ALDS roster for length and emergencies. Chapman is there too.

Aroldis Chapman lost his job, his sense of control, and his confidence in the last few innings. Clay Holmes went from being an All-Star to being in the Pitts. Wandy Peralta ended the season on the injured list though the Yankees expect him and Holmes will be ready for Game 1 of the Division Series on Tuesday.

But Holmes hasn’t pitched since September 26 and hasn’t been reliable since the first week of July. If Boone brings in Lou Trivino in the sixth inning of a playoff game but he fails to maintain the lead, fans may blame him for not opting for Jonathan Loaisiga, Scott Effross, or Goose Gossage and seek his head.

Effross, Loaisiga, and Trivino were the relievers who threw the best and could make the ALDS roster cutoff. The Yankees have faith in Peralta’s toughness, but he hasn’t pitched since September 18.

Can Aroldis Chapman, who had a 4.48 ERA and walked 6.9 batters per nine innings, be counted in the playoff lineup? Two weeks ago, the Yankees were thinking about whether or not his spot on the team would be better filled by someone else. But Zack Britton and Ron Marinaccio were hurt and couldn’t play, at least in the first round. That made sure Chapman would keep his spot on the team’s roster for the rest of the regular season, and it could also get him on the team’s roster for the postseason.

Boone is likely to use the Yankees’ relief group in the same way that Kevin Cash used the Rays’ relief group while heading to the 2020 World Series.

The shortstop

Isiah Kiner-Falefa is the choice for shortstop for ALDS roster. But if a key ground ball is hit too short in the last few innings of a close playoff game, would fans vie for Kiner-Falefa or Oswald Peraza? The number of games that Peraza has played in the major leagues is even smaller than Cabrera’s. But have you seen enough to at least wonder if Peraza is a better choice for the playoff lineup than Kiner-Falefa?

The catcher

In the past few years, when Gary Sanchez was losing his job around this time of the season, this was a lot easier. Jose Trevino has done so much for the Yankees this season, especially on defense and in terms of spirit. Thsi makes him a good choice for the playoff lineup. But Kyle Higashioka hit .339 in September and hit three home runs. He is also a strong defender. Maybe the only thing that’s interesting to think about is whether or not Higashioka gets onto ALDS roster because his bat was so hot in the second half.

Trevino or Higashioka may start Game 1. While Higashioka is more trusted, Trevino is able to pinch-hit with more confidence.

The playoff lineup and ALDS roster

For the playoff lineup, the team is back to having 26 players, including 13 pitchers. Cole, Cortes, Severino, Taillon, Holmes, Effross, Loaisiga, Peralta, Trivino, German, Schmidt, and Chapman are sure to find a place in the playoff lineup.

The only left-handed relievers would be Chapman and Peralta. Chapman is a worry because if he goes out in Game 1 and can’t find the strike zone and has to be taken out quickly, he won’t be an option for the Yankees for the rest of the series. That leaves 14 spots for players who play in positions. The ALDS roster will have Trevino, Higashioka, Rizzo, Torres, Kiner-Falefa, LeMahieu, Donaldson, Stanton, Judge, Bader, and Cabrera.

Even though he is only 23, Oswaldo Cabrera has played like a veteran wherever the Yankees have put him. Carpenter is in if he is healthy but Benintendi lacks enough time to make it.

As it is now clear that they are going to face the Guardians, the Yankees will use the weekend to make any last-minute changes to their ALDS roster. Aaron Boone, the manager of the New York Yankees, said that there are still a few final decisions to be made before the team’s roster is made public. One of those decisions is whether the team will have 13 pitchers and 13 batters, or 14 batters and 12 pitchers. They are also waiting to see if some of their injured players, like Clay Holmes, Matt Carpenter, Andrew Benintendi, and DJ LeMahieu, who is playing hurt, will be ready to go. Some of the Yankees’ players, like relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman and outfielder Aaron Hicks, haven’t done as well as they should and could be in the running for the last few playoff lineup vacancies.

What do you think, leave a comment below?

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