Roster construction is always heavily anticipated during the playoffs, but this season felt as if more attention was being paid towards the 25 men the Yankees decided to field. With the amount of injuries that occurred this year, the Bombers have had tough decisions to make. A player like Luke Voit who was slotted fifth behind Giancarlo Stanton last postseason and pivotal for the Yankees’ early season success was left off the roster. Cameron Maybin, Tyler Wade, and Tyler Lyons, have all been beneficiaries on the postseason roster because of under performance and injury. With CC Sabathia’s injury in Game Four, you can now add Ben Heller to that list.
Heller might be overlooked for multiple reasons beginning with how he was acquired by the Yankees. He was just one of the four players in the Andrew Miller trade headlined by Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, during a trade deadline that also saw Gleyber Torres moved to the Yankees. Since then Clint Frazier has displayed a major-league ready bat and Sheffield was used to bring over James Paxton from the Mariners. So far the trade has been nothing but positive for the Yankees and Heller is hoping to continue that trend.
Jordan Montgomery, Nestor Cortes Jr., and Stephen Tarpley, could have all been options for the Yankees bullpen after the Dellin Betances and Sabathia injuries but Heller was the choice. It seems difficult that Heller could have impressed in just 7.1 innings this season but considering the light competition and late September performances, he landed on top. Facing a total of 28 hitters in September, he allowed six hits and only one earned run which came off a home run during his first appearance after returning from injury.
What’s allowed Heller to find brief success during the regular season has been his slider combined with his sinking fastball. The slider generated a 55.5% whiff rate and .228 xBA, while the sinking fastball produced an .238 xBA and .371 xSLG according to Statcast. The most impressive stat becomes his ability to avoid bats when throwing his slider as a breaking pitch, keeping hitters off his fastball. He might not get any playing time this postseason considering how close the ALCS is, but if the Yankees take a large lead Heller could impress a lot of people.
Since Heller has two options remaining, he will be a strong candidate to start the season in Scranton assuming the major league club stays healthy. As long as he continues to show positive results in the minors, he could join the Scranton Shuttle in case of injury or under performance. After an injury took most of his 2019 season, Heller could even become a regular fixture in the bullpen in 2020.