The onset of September means a number of things: the end of summer, the start of the school year, and expanded rosters in Major League Baseball. For what will be the last time due to a rule change that will take place next season, rosters will expand to 40 men on September 1, giving playoff teams reinforcements for the stretch run and non-contenders the ability to evaluate prospects.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at which players we might expect to see up in the Bronx when the calendar changes at the end of next week.
The former top prospect, perennial trade chip, and lightning rod for debate is almost certainly going to be brought up to the big leagues on September 1. While defensive woes will keep him behind Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin on the depth chart, he will have the month of September to hit his way on to the playoff roster as a potential designated hitter.
If Luke Voit returns and stays healthy, Frazier will likely not be a major player down the stretch. Should the first baseman not have enough time to make it back, then a DH spot will be his for the taking.
The Yankees’ top prospect has been making headlines all season, as he has flown through the minor-league system. He reached Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at just 20 years old! Although he has struggled to date adjusting to the higher level of talent and new ball—5.01 ERA in seven appearances, including six starts—he has been often discussed as a potential bullpen piece down the stretch. That speculation has further increased following the announcement that he will spend the rest of the Triple-A season as a reliever.
Whether or not he gets the call to the majors, it remains unlikely that Garcia will make a significant impact this season. The Yankees will not want to put too much stress on his arm this season at the expense of the future. Even so, whether he gets used in high-leverage innings or just receives a cup of coffee in meaningless games, every pitch the young man throws will be must-watch baseball.
One of the default September call-ups is always a third catcher, as it gives the team additional flexibility during a game. This would also allow the Yankees to use Gary Sanchez as a designated hitter to stay fresh.
Highashioka served admirably as the Yankees’ backup catcher during Sanchez’s two stints on the IL, with a 113 OPS+ in 40 plate appearances. While the Yankees hope he will not have to make a major impact down the stretch, his presence certainly gives the team additional options—and a safety net.
Yankees fans are all too aware of the potential impact a speedster can have during the month of September or in the playoffs (see Dave Roberts in the cancelled 2004 ALCS). When it comes to fast, few in baseball do it better than Terrance Gore,
According to Statcast, Gore runs at an average of 29.9 ft/sec, which is the ninth fastest in all of baseball. It would be faster than everyone on the Yankees a full foot per second—Gardner is second at 28.9 ft/sec. And although it doesn’t seem like much, a well-timed use as a pinch-runner to steal a base or add extra speed on the basepaths can be the difference between a championship and crushed dreams.
Miscellaneous relief pitchers
I’m lumping Chance Adams, Stephen Tarpley, Adonis Rosa, and Brady Lail together here. For the most part, all four of these relievers play similar roles, serving as innings-eaters in blowout games and in bullpen games where Nestor Cortes Jr. is not available. While not a particularly flashy job in the bullpen, it is an important one. These guys keep the higher-leverage arms from being used when they’re not needed.
David Hale and Jonathan Holder could be added to this list, although they will sit higher in the pecking order should they return from injury.