Yankees: Stephen Tarpley or Justus Sheffield for Postseason roster
Stephen Tarpley and Justus Sheffield, a pair of left-handed rookie relievers are doing all they can to make the Yankees Postseason roster, but there’s likely only room for one.
Conventional wisdom says that it’s a gamble to carry an unproven rookie reliever on a Postseason roster. However, since Yankees starting pitchers are anything but lights-out, the club could decide to add an extra left-hander out of the bullpen instead of a long-reliever such as Sonny Gray or Lance Lynn.
There’s been chatter that the Yanks could go the way of the Rays and A’s — and use a one-inning bullpen by committee approach in the Wild Card game.
While I’d much rather see J.A. Happ or Luis Severino take the hill in the winner takes all contest, this new fad of using relief pitchers one inning at a time dictated by matchups is an option. Aaron Boone decided to have Jonathan Holder open Monday’s contest versus the Rays in order to reshuffle the rotation and potentially line up Happ for the Wild Card game.
Should the Yanks move past the one-game shootout, a best 4-out-of-7 series doesn’t call for anything more than four starters max (three, if you go Happ, Severino and Tanaka before going back to the top).
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The scenario of shortening the rotation opens the door for extra relievers, especially another left-hander. With Aroldis Chapman looking more like his usual self in his last three appearances, and Zach Britton finally proving his worth since coming over from Baltimore, adding one final southpaw for insurance, either Stephen Tarpley or Justus Sheffield could be just what the Yankee bullpen needs for a strong playoff run.
Tarpley, 25, was pounded in his first big league appearance, allowing three runs in one inning to the Tigers on Sept. 2. However, in his past seven outings, Tarpley has faced 12 left-handed batters, retiring 10 while allowing only one hit and one walk.
His last 5.2 innings of shutout ball with seven strikeouts and a 0.88 WHIP were on full display on Monday when he pitched a 1-2-3 second inning against three lefties. Tarpley, who was acquired from the Pirates in the 2016 Ivan Nova trade has impressed manager Aaron Boone with his sinker/slider combo. Per the NY Post:
"Aaron Boone said Tarpley is “pitching himself into the conversation” for a postseason roster spot.“He’s a problem for left-handed hitters,’’ Boone said. “He’s coming in and pounding the zone with a sinker and slider. … That’s why he got on our radar this year down in the minor leagues.’’"
As for Sheffield, the Yankees top overall prospect, he’s only seen 1.2 innings of action — his first coming against Boston on Sept. 19 when he allowed one walk and two hits before leaving unscathed. On Wednesday night against the Rays, Sheff looked much more relaxed, quickly getting out both men he faced.
I’d be surprised to see Sheffield added to the Postseason roster, considering his slow climb to the majors this season. Though he has all the tools to pitch in the big leagues for a very long time and will likely have a legit shot at a rotation slot in 2019, this brief big league taste is just that.
Sheffield will get some valuable experience down this regular season stretch before gearing up for a full campaign next year. And should the Yankees decide to carry a third left-handed reliever, at this point, it’s Tarpley’s to lose.