The playoffs are still a good two weeks away, but it doesn’t hurt to think ahead when it comes to examining who would make the 25-man roster for the Yankees. There are some guys whose names you can write in stone, but then there are the outliers – the fringe guys who have contributed all season, but may not be the one you’d turn to for the crucial out with the game – say, a World Series Game 7 – on the line? Presumably, there are no space fillers on the playoff rosters. Ideally, you’d be able to go to any guy at any time – so, who gets the nod and who doesn’t?
Let’s start off by saying these 22 guys are all locks, barring injury:
Curtis Granderson CC Sabathia
Nick Swisher Hiroki Kuroda
Ichiro Suzuki Phil Hughes
Derek Jeter Andy Pettitte*
Alex Rodriguez Ivan Nova
Mark Teixeira* David Phelps
Robinson Cano Rafael Soriano
Raul Ibanez David Robertson
Russell Martin Boone Logan
Eric Chavez Joba Chamberlain
(*Assuming that their respective injuries even allow them to contribute, even at less than 100%.)
Now, let’s look at the guys who are left:
Right off the bat, let’s get rid of a few of these: Derek Lowe will not make the roster for the playoffs, let alone a normal 25-man roster, which I talked about here. I also find it a bit hard to believe that Steve Pearce or Casey McGehee will make the roster either. All were serviceable place-holders when there were key in-season injuries, and came aboard as a matter of necessity: McGehee was insurance for when fragile Eric Chavez had to man the fort at third when A-Rod went down. Meanwhile, Pearce was brought in to make up for the lack of production from Andruw Jones against left-handers, an experiment that hasn’t yielded the meaningful results the Yankees would have hoped. Lowe was a place-holder when Pettitte and CC were on the DL, forcing Garcia and Phelps into starting roles. All three served a purpose, and didn’t do harm when the rosters expanded, but don’t deserve a space on the playoff roster.
Regarding my decision to not place Brett Gardner on the roster: he has played nine games all year before being placed on the DL with a bone bruise/spur that require surgery. It’s going to take a minute for him to get his swing back, not to mention that Yankees have indicated that he’d only be used as a pinch-runner or defensive replacement. While I love Gardner’s speed on the bases and defense, I think it’d potentially cause an additional problem by having to use another guy off the bench to replace Gardner if he came in as a defensive replacement and then came up to bat. Too many logistics. Additionally, I’m not sure, with so much time off, what you’d get from him offensively. Plus, in the interim, you’d have to DFA someone to get him back on the 40-man. Not sure I’d do that with enough time left and the division still up for grabs. So, as much as I’m a Gardner fan, I’d leave him home.
In defense of my peripheral locks of Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Nix and Chris Stewart: Chavez is solid insurance at first if Mark Teixeira’s calf doesn’t allow him to play, or pops in an in-game situation. Having Chavez also allows you to keep Swisher, the other first-base choice, in the outfield, where he’s a much better defensive option than Ibanez. Speaking of which, Ibanez can also be a powerful bat off the bench, and knowing Joe Girardi, could be used in a match-up situation. Ibanez in a serviceable outfielder, and if he has especially good numbers against an opponent, I could see him getting a start over Ichiro for his bat potential, despite Ichiro’s better defense. Additionally, Chris Stewart should be included on the roster for the same reason as Chavez: insurance. It’s highly unlikely that Stewart, who served as CC’s non-personal-personal catcher during the first half of the season, would get a start over Martin, but in case of an in-game injury, there would be no other option at catcher. He must be on the roster, as well. As for Nix, there is no other option for a second baseman if something were to happen to Cano; similarly, he would serve as a solid option at short if Jeter’s bum ankle finally gives out.
Unfortunately for Freddy, I would leave him off the roster. He was a solid option with the pitching injuries as a starter in-season, but remember: he started off abysmally, and has ended his run in the rotation suspect as well. In his last 17.2 IP, he has surrendered 15 runs and 18 H with 11 BB, including two starts against the inept offenses of Cleveland and Tampa Bay. Even with a four-man rotation of some combination of Pettitte/CC/Hughes/Kuroda, if there was an injury, there is already starting pitching depth by having Ivan Nova and David Phelps available out of the bullpen. Freddy would be tying up a roster spot. While I think he could be serviceable for an inning or two, it might make more sense to put a “true” bullpen guy on the roster.
Jones has been horrid of late: his average is below the Mendoza line, and he has an atrocious .293 OBP. Jones’ specialty has been his mashing of lefty pitching, but he has only hit .202 against lefties with 9 HR, and has been given ample time to succeed, maybe to the detriment of the team. Additionally, Jones has a negative rating in almost every single defensive category- effectively, he’s costing the team runs by his defense. Not acceptable for the regular season, let along playoffs. Next.
Rapada has been decent in limited usage, but Girardi has been hesitant to use him. While I have been an advocate of less action for Boone Logan, I’m not sure Rapda as a LOOGY in the playoffs would work , either. In 35.1 IP, Rapada has surrendered 36 hits, and 11 ERA to a 2.78 ERA. However, practically speaking, Girardi rarely uses him, preferring to use Logan. If he is going to sit and accumulate dust and waste a spot, I’d rather not place him on the roster.
Wade is one of those fringe guys that makes me sit back and pause. He was a huge part of the ‘pen in 2011 (6-1, 2.04 ERA, 30 Ks in 29.2 IP), but was quite dreadful in the early half of the 2012 season, pitching to a 5.84 ERA with 42 hits in 37 IP, though he has 37 Ks through 37 innings. Eventually, Wade was demoted to AAA, but was recalled in September. Though he has had limited action, appearing in two games and 3.2 IP, he has recorded 3 Ks and has been perfect through that time. It’s an extremely small sample size, but it’s promising. I think, personally, it’s a coin-flip between Wade and Eppley (though I think I’d lean towards Eppley). As for Eppley, he was a solid piece throughout the season, but the sheen might be starting to wear off. In 42.2 IP, he has surrendered 43 runs, with a 1.471 WHIP and an ERA of 3.59. He actually has a -.4 WAR (which slightly surprised me), but actually is worth -2 RAA. While not horrendous, in the grand scheme of the playoffs, it’s unlikely he’ll see significant innings or high-leverage time barring some sort of extra-inning game. There might not be much difference between the two – it may come down to a matter of who the Yankees just feel would be better able to contribute.
Dickerson, in my opinion, should not only be on the roster, but should be seeing much more time that has is at present. His defense is exponentially better than what either Ibanez or Jones can bring to the table, and his bat brings some help as well. Though he only has 8 ABs in the majors, and is only hitting .250, his OBP is .400 and his slugging percentage .625. Though it’s a small sample size, it is worth noting that Dickerson hit well over .300 at AAA this season. Additionally, he has two stolen bases. He would take the place of a healthy Gardner for my roster: speed on the bases, a huge defensive upgrade, and a potential to get some hits.
And finally, yes, I am saying Nunez should make the roster. (Frightening, isn’t it?) Though he has been a defensive liability at times, I think he’s worth the gamble. He can hit, especially against lefties (.333), and brings something the Yankees have lacked: speed. He is a legitimate threat to always steal a base, and that can bring a different dimension to the offense. Also, remember: the Yankees are reliant on the home run to score. However, in the playoffs, it might be helpful to add the speed element to get a little bit of small ball going in order to help further the cause.
That’s my 25-man roster. There’s still plenty of baseball to play – and, mathematically, it’s possible the Yankees don’t even make the playoffs – but that doesn’t hurt to think ahead. Those are my choices to hopefully lead to #28.