SSTN Weekly Mailbag: A Trade Proposal, The Playoff Bench, and The Playoff Roster!
By Andy Singer
What a difference a week makes. We knew that the end of the season was going to be a roller coaster, but every game has felt like a playoff game since last Friday. As of late last week, the Yankees had less than a 35% chance of making the playoffs according to Fangraphs. Today? The Yankees have a 96.5% chance of making the playoffs. More incredible than that? Fangraphs gives the Yankees 8.9% odds of making the World Series, better than the AL East winning Rays (7.3%). It’s been a stunning turnaround, but frankly this is what I thought the Yankees were capable of all year. The Yankees really didn’t play great baseball during their 13-game winning streak in July-August. Now? The Yankees are dominating opposing teams for long stretches, and even when they’re not, the team is actually riding timely hitting to regain leads. My optimism has been tested to the limit this season, but I’m glad I held on tight. No matter what happens, the end of the season and the playoffs will be exciting and an adventure this year.
As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week’s SSTN Mailbag, we’ll evaluate a trade proposal, look at the Yankees’ bench options, and pick a playoff roster! Let’s get at it:
Oscar asks: Trade Proposal – Gleyber Torres to the Kansas City Royals for Scott Barlow and Adelberto Mondesi.
Adalberto Mondesi is an enormously talented baseball player who has not yet been able to match his results to his obvious skillset. On paper, it might seem like he’s a good match for Gleyber Torres. Torres has seen his production fall precipitously despite obvious tools over the last two seasons. Mondesi (25 years old) is just a year older than Torres (24 years old), and has 2 more seasons of team control compared to Torres’ 3 seasons of team control. Many have theorized that much of the reason Torres’ power numbers have fallen is due to the de-juicing of the ball based on Torres’ middling exit velocity and hard hit numbers. By contrast, Mondesi consistently hits the ball hard, with above-average exit velocity and barrel rates matched with an average launch angle figure that one would expect could lead to decent power numbers.
However, the similarities end there. One thing that Mondesi has never been able to do is stay healthy consistently. Soft tissue injuries cast a shadow on every season Mondesi played from 2017-2019. 2020 gave fans hope that Mondesi was rounding a corner, as he stayed relatively healthy and produced defensively at SS throughout the shortened season. Those good feelings came to a halt this year as his defense at SS cratered again and to add injury to insult, Mondesi has missed the majority of the season with a plethora of oblique and hamstring strains. Due to future fit and the current emergence of Nicky Lopez’s defensive prowess at SS, Mondesi was moved to 3B by the Royals upon his return from the IL in September. To be fair, Mondesi has looked pretty good over there in limited looks, but he also hasn’t hit a lick since returning from the IL.
To contrast Mondesi’s season, Torres has finally started to play like the player the Yankees remembered from 2018 and 2019 since mid-August. Since a disastrous few games at SS in early September, Torres was moved back to 2B and has looked far more comfortable over there. Defensive metrics are notoriously volatile in small sample sizes, but the metrics agree that he’s been roughly average over there. More importantly, Torres has started to hit again. Over the last 28 days, Torres is batting .292/.351/.438 with 3 HR. The results are even better if we look at the last 14 days, when Torres has slugged 2 HR and produced a batting line of .341/.408/.545. He’s hitting the ball to all fields again and the results have followed.
I haven’t touched on Barlow, but he’s an excellent reliever. Combined with Mondesi, I expect the Royals to try to build around these players as opposed to dealing them. If I’m the Yankees, I’d be loathe to trade Torres until I find out if his talent can produce consistent performance again in 2022. This is an interesting trade idea, but I don’t think it works for either team right now.
Dave asks: Is there a better option on the 40-man roster than Luke Voit for the bench? Seems like a wasted spot if Boone isn’t going to play him and Rizzo is better at 1B anyway.
Sigh. I love Luke Voit, and I feel so bad for what the guy has been through this season. It’s obvious to me that he never completely healed from surgery on his torn meniscus, and his results on both sides of the field have suffered. Now he’s hurt again, and he may not be available for the playoffs. Frankly, I think he was the perfect match-up bat off the bench for the Yankees in October. Can’t you picture him pinch hitting in a tough spot against a lefty for Gardy, Gallo, or Rizzo? I sure can. Now the Yankees have to figure out how to fill out the bench.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options on the 40-man roster right now. The only realistic options are Estevan Florial, Andrew Velasquez, and Chris Gittens.
Florial is not a real option as far as I’m concerned. He’s excellent defensively, but he has no shot against playoff caliber pitching with his lack of pitch recognition and free swinging ways. Tyler Wade is more than competent defensively in the outfield and makes more contact at the plate. Florial has had a tough year at AAA, and just hasn’t earned a playoff roster spot.
Velasquez is the most likely player to get a spot. He plays solid defense at SS, can play a lot of the small ball concepts that are necessary in close playoff games, and became a player with whom the Major League staff is comfortable.
Gittens has long interested me and I think he is the player on the 40-man most capable of fulfilling the Luke Voit role off the bench. He takes walks and has true 70-80 raw power. Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the sense that the Yankees trust him at all, so I don’t think it will be Gittens.
Velazquez is my pick, but I wish it were Gittens.
John asks: What does your playoff roster look like if the playoffs started today?
No analysis here – here’s my roster:
C1 – Gary Sanchez
C2 – Kyle Higashioka
1B – Anthony Rizzo
2B – Gleyber Torres
3B – DJ LeMahieu
SS – Gio Urshela
OF – Joey Gallo
OF – Brett Gardner
OF – Aaron Judge
OF/DH – Giancarlo Stanton
BN – Tyler Wade
BN – Andrew Velasquez
BN – Rougned Odor
SP1 – Gerrit Cole
SP2 – Jordan Montgomery
SP3 – Nestor Cortes
SP4 – Corey Kluber
RP – Aroldis Chapman
RP – Chad Green
RP – Jonathan Loaisiga
RP – Luis Severino
RP – Domingo German
RP – Clay Holmes
RP – Michael King
RP – Wandy Peralta
RP – Joely Rodriguez (Jameson Taillon, if healthy)