About The Playoffs: The Yankees Bide Their Time
By Tim Kabel
October 8, 2022
The Yankees won the American League East with 99 wins. They will open the American League Division Series on October 11th, against the winner of the of the series between the Rays and the Guardians. For now, the Yankees watch and wait.
I'm not going to pull out my slide rule, abacus, Ouija board, or Magic 8 Ball, and speculate as to which team would be a more desirable opponent for the Yankees. Sometimes, more often than we imagine, that becomes a case of "be careful what you wish for." If the Yankees can win the World Series, which I believe they can, it shouldn't matter which team they play. It would be nice if the series between the Guardians and the Rays went all three games, Hopefully, with two extra inning affairs, and that the winning team uses virtually all its pitchers. After all, there should be an advantage to winning the division.
There has been a lot of speculation and discussion about the Yankees' playoff roster. I have seen some pretty creative suggestions that involve moving players all over the field, from where they have been playing. I think we need to remember we are talking about Brian Cashman and Aaron Boone. They tend not to be overly creative. There can be no more than 13 pitchers on the roster. That leaves 13 position players. I don't believe the Yankees will take fewer than 13 pitchers. Let's get right to the composition of the roster regarding the position players:
After those 10 players, we get into a lot of questions. There is speculation about whether Andrew Benintendi, Matt Carpenter, and DJ LeMahieu are all healthy enough to contribute and be part of the roster. There hasn't been much optimistic news regarding Benintendi. To expect him to suddenly be able to play left field and swing the bat with authority, seems unrealistic. Let's omit him from this round.
Apparently, Carpenter has been swinging a bat for quite a while. Aaron Boone suggested that he would be on the roster for the ALDS. If he is on the team, it will most likely be as a pinch-hitter and possibly playing third base in place of Donaldson, if his broken foot has healed sufficiently for him to do so. I do not believe the Yankees will sacrifice defense for the sake of any possible advantage in the offense. If Carpenter is not nimble in the infield, he will not play there. I also do not imagine a scenario in which he would be in the outfield, because he was not especially fleet of foot and was only a serviceable option out there to begin with. Cabrera, Bader, and Judge give the team a solid outfield, both defensively and offensively.
There are some concerns about LeMahieu's ability to drive the ball due to his toe injury. In the few games he played at the end of the season, he played primarily at first base but, did see some time at both second and third. The concern would be if LeMahieu can't hit as well as he normally would, what does he bring to the roster, other than leadership. The physical limitations of both LeMahieu and Carpenter could be problematic in a short series with a bench that is not especially deep. You can carry one but not both. I would take the power hitter.
Many Yankees fans would prefer to see Oswald Peraza playing shortstop over Isiah Kiner-Falefa. That will never happen this season as long as Boone is the manager. However, the team does need flexibility. Peraza can play both second base and shortstop If the Yankees pinch-hit for Kiner-Falefa, Peraza can come in to take over for him. If they pinch-run for Donaldson, Kiner-Falefa can slide over to third base and Peraza can play shortstop. Peraza is very fast and a base-stealer. He would be a much better option as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement than Tim Locastro.
The Yankees have not shown an inclination to play Giancarlo Stanton in the outfield since he returned from the IL. They are not about to start doing that in the playoffs. They do not want to risk having him get injured. He will strictly serve as a designated hitter.
I have stated numerous times that I am not a big fan of Aaron Hicks. I see no role for him on this team next year. However, in the playoffs, right now, they need a backup outfielder. There really are no other viable options. My only concerns would be that Boone may overuse him out of habit or that his very limited playing time may cause him to sulk. Tim Locastro is extremely one-dimensional and would not be a defensive upgrade over any of the three starters in the outfield. The only advantage to having Hicks on the team is that he has shown a propensity to draw walks.
Marwin Gonzalez made it through the season at the end of the bench. There is no role for him in the playoffs. The final position player roster spots should be allocated as follows:
Having Oswald Peraza on the team also provides the advantage of giving Josh Donaldson a very short leash. Gleyber Torres was streaky this season and went into a major funk after the All-Star break. He has become a major force offensively recently and is solid at second base. As long as he doesn't try to pull every pitch and focuses on hitting the ball to rightfield or centerfield, he is a very effective player.
Josh Donaldson was not streaky this season. A streaky player would put up longer and more frequent bursts of productivity than he did. He is a fading player. He aged dramatically and suddenly this season. He finished the season in a slump. If he opens the playoffs swinging through every pitch, he should be lifted for the second or third game. Kiner-Falefa, who won a gold glove at third base, could play there while Peraza plays shortstop. If Carpenter is physically able to play third base, he would be an option as well, leaving Kiner-Falefa at shortstop.
Let's turn to the pitching staff. Appropriately, we will start with the starting pitchers
Nestor Cortes Jr.
After that, we are left with uncertainty. Clay Holmes was shut down at the end of the season. Wandy Peralta finished the year on the IL. Miguel Castro just returned from the IL. Lucas Luetge has not been spectacular but, can be effective. Aroldis Chapman was erratic and unreliable for the most part this season.
It would be extremely risky to have three question marks in your bullpen for a short series. We have no idea how effective either Clay Holmes or Wandy Peralta will be. Holmes was struggling before being shut down. Peralta may be rusty. If you have those two, you cannot realistically bring Chapman along. If he pitched well, that would be fine but, if he comes in in the sixth inning of game one, and walks the ballpark, he will be effectively finished for the series.
Therefore, I would round out the bullpen as follows:
That is the roster I would construct for the ALDS.
What would you do?
Let's see what the Yankees do.