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Ask Pinstripe Alley 8/26/18: Playoff pitching, Danny Valencia, and outfield upgrades

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The answers to your Yankees mailbag have arrived.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Last week, I asked for Yankees mailbag questions. You responded in a big way, as we received nearly a dozen submissions. I’m going to try my hand at a few this morning, Don’t feel bad if I didn’t get to yours, another editor may take it up later in the week!

Bob asks: What should the Yankees do pitching-wise for the Wild Card Game ? Who should be in the postseason rotation?

Assuming the Yankees play in the Wild Card Game, I think Luis Severino should start. Yes, he’s struggled of late. That 6.04 ERA (4.98) since July 1st looks terrible. His slider plays flat and his heater doesn’t get as many whiffs as it used to. I’m also aware he didn’t make it out of the first inning in last year’s game against the Twins. Still, I want him on the bump with the season the line.

Why? Because he’s the best pitcher in the organization. It’s as simple as that. Over the last two seasons, Severino has demonstrated he can pitch with the best of them. He’s a bonafide ace who pitched to a 2.66 ERA (2.78 FIP) from the start of 2017 through June 26th, 2018. I’m willing to gamble on that Severino showing up before season’s end, and if he does, it’s only logical he starts the Wild Card Game.

After that, I think the Yankees should give the ball to Masahiro Tanaka to open the ALDS. Postseason Tanaka was a revelation last year, and he seems to thrive in the big spots. J.A. Happ has pitched his way into consideration here, but I would put him on the mound Game Two. CC Sabathia and Severino will round out the rest of the rotation. That means Lance Lynn and Sonny Gray move to the bullpen. Despite some shortcomings, the Yankees can have a pretty good rotation in the playoffs.

rar27560 asks: Why haven’t the Yankees signed Danny Valencia?

The Orioles released Valencia on August 15th, after he hit .263/.316/.408 with nine home runs. While effectively a platoon bat, Valencia is a certified left-handed pitching masher. He has a .303/.368/.505 batting line with a 131 wRC+ against southpaws. A right-handed batter that crushes lefty pitching and plays some outfield? That sounds like a pretty good replacement for Shane Robinson, on paper at least.

The problem, however, is Valencia’s reputation for being a difficult teammate. Whether fair or not, the 33-year-old has, on multiple occasions, been labeled a troublesome clubhouse presence. The Blue Jays designated him for assignment in the midst of a 127 wRC+ campaign three years ago. Then he reportedly got physical with Billy Butler in Oakland the next season. He seems a lot more trouble than he’s worth. The Yankees could use a bat, but it’s not worth disrupting the clubhouse to do so.

Mike asks: Is Shane Robinson the best the Yanks can do from their so called “loaded” farm system? I realize Frazier would most likely be playing instead of Shane, but there has to be a better option.

The Yankees have relied on some combination of Robinson or Neil Walker in right field since Aaron Judge got hurt last month. That’s not an ideal combination! Unfortunately there aren’t many upgrade available internally.

The farm system took a major hit through graduations and trades, falling all the way to 17th best according to Baseball America. Clint Frazier would have made a terrific fill-in, but his health comes first. Billy McKinney, who would have likely been the next call, was traded just hours before the injury. That left Robinson as the replacement.

Ryan McBroom, whom the Yankees acquired for Rob Refsnyder last summer, could work. He hit .309/.345/.465 at Triple-A with 11 home runs. The team, however, decided not to go this route. Maybe he will get a cup of coffee come September.

Dellin Betances has my complete confidence this season. Prior to Saturday night’s game, he owned a 2.19 ERA with a 2.23 FIP. His 15.69 K/9 rate represents the best of his career since breaking in as a full-time reliever in 2014. Chad Green gets an honorable mention, but Betances has been otherworldly this year.