Five Takeaways From Yankees' Wild Card Series Roster
The Yankees embark on what they hope is a length run in the postseason on Tuesday, taking on the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card Series.
Just a few hours before Game 1 begins, we officially know which 28 players will be suiting up and available for manager Aaron Boone in Cleveland.
Here's New York's 28-man roster for the first round of the playoffs. Then, we'll get into some quick takeaways leading into the opening round.
Kyle Higashioka, Erik Kratz, Gary Sánchez
Mike Ford, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Luke Voit, Tyler Wade
Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Tauchman
Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Aroldis Chapman, Gerrit Cole, Deivi García, Chad Green, J.A. Happ, Jonathan Holder, Jonathan Loaisiga, Jordan Montgomery, Nick Nelson, Adam Ottavino, Masahiro Tanaka
What does it all mean? Let's break it down with five takeaways
How many arms? A baker's dozen
Over the weekend, Boone revealed that he and a group of Yankees coaches and extended staff had a "spirited" meeting at the team's hotel, deliberating to finalize the roster. At the time, one of the biggest decisions was how many pitchers they would activate for the Wild Card round.
Rather than a dozen, which was an option per Boone, the Yankees elected to carry 13 arms. That of course includes all the usual suspects, those who will start in this three-game series down to the high-leverage relievers that Boone will lean on to close out games with late leads.
After that, names like Jordan Montgomery and Nick Nelson got the nod. Montgomery was used strictly as a starting pitcher this season, but could come in from the bullpen in this opening round, keeping J.A. Happ and Deivi García rested and available to start in a possible Game 3.
Perhaps keeping Montgomery, Luis Cessa, Nelson and Jonathan Loiasiga is an excess of length in the 'pen for a three-game series. Then again, this provides innings for any sort of blowout and allows Boone to have a shorter leash when it comes to pitching changes.
The battle for playing time between Kyle Higashioka and Gary Sánchez has been documented quite a bit over these last several weeks. For the Wild Card Series, as New York has done practically all year long, the Bombers will carry three catchers.
Erik Kratz may have been used as a pitcher and first baseman more than a backstop over the final two weeks of the regular season, but keeping him as a third option behind the plate allows Boone to use his two primary catchers more interchangeably.
Here's one possible scenario to look out for. In Game 1, with Higashioka starting and working with Cole, Boone can sub Sánchez in as early as he wants. That opens the door for using Mike Ford or Brett Gardner as left-handed bats off the bench in Higashioka's place if the time is right.
Typically Boone might be apprehensive having no catcher on his bench late in the game. Now, even if Kratz doesn't end up being used, that security blanket could go a long way in his decision making.
Plus, Sánchez and Higashioka can be subbed out for a pinch-runner in a run-scoring opportunity (or in extra innings) and Kratz can slide in on defense the following half inning with ease.
Ford over Andújar
Speaking of Ford, seeing his name on the roster may have come as a bit of a surprise. The left-handed slugger hasn't been with the big-league club since Sept. 13 after hitting .135 this season in 29 games.
Meanwhile, a ballplayer some fans thought could have made the cut—but ended up being left off—is utilityman Miguel Andújar.
Andújar heated up at the dish toward the end of his final stint with the big-league club in September, finishing the season with a .355 average (11-for-31) in his final nine games, but the returns of certain key contributors from injury resulted in him being optioned back to the alternate site.
While Andújar had a better year, and plays more positions than Ford, the latter player's power off the bench (and past success as a pinch-hitter) makes him a valuable bench bat. Plus, with Tyler Wade and Mike Tauchman already available, Andújar would have been lower on the totem pole to get playing time regardless.
Additional player pool is loaded
Check out the names that New York has available on the additional player pool. There's the aforementioned Andújar, versatile defenders in Matt Duffy, Thairo Estrada, Jordy Mercer as well as young arms like Clarke Schmidt and Michael King.
While Boone may not need to dip into his taxi squad while in Cleveland, it's reassuring to know that there are assets capable of contributing from there as well.
It's worth noting, James Paxton (who hasn't pitched since Aug. 20 with a strain in his left forearm flexor) traveled with the team and was spotted throwing in Cleveland during the Bombers' workout on Monday.
While he won't be available for New York's opening series, he could potentially be healthy enough to pitch later on in the month of October.
Everyone is healthy
Beyond Paxton and those who are out for the season, everyone that New York expected to have available in the postseason is good to go.
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are poised to play everyday. A previously banged up infield (DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela and Luke Voit) is set for a deep playoff run. And, of course, Cole is ready to deal and set the tone.
As LeMahieu said over the weekend, inconsistencies aside, this team has arguably the most talent on its roster in the game. Now it's just a matter of putting it all together when it matters most.
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