The main storyline of the 2019 New York Yankees has been injuries. This team has played without their stars for the majority of the season, yet they still have found a way to be one of the best teams in baseball. Player after player this season has been called on to produce in the absence of a star and has exceeded expectations.
Mike Tauchman, a minor leaguer acquired from the Colorado Rockies, has been one of the centerpieces of the team this year, and has the team’s second-highest WAR at 3.5. Gio Urshela was a career .225 hitter signed to back up Miguel Andujar, but he has hit .332 and is competing for the batting title. Cameron Maybin, a 13-year veteran journeyman who is playing on his eighth team, has batted .297 and knocked in 26 runs in 63 games. Not to mention others like Thairo Estrada, and then Mike Ford, who has produced more recently. This is a team of misfit toys that has played their way to very nearly the best record in all of baseball.
Yet, come October, this team will should look vastly different. The team that will almost certainly win the AL East and might finish with the best record in the AL is not going to be the same team that takes the field in game one of the ALDS. The Yankees are looking to get plenty of big pieces back that will certainly shift the lineup and the pitching rotation around a little bit, or in some cases, a lot.
To begin, maybe the biggest missing piece all year, the ace of the team, Luis Severino.
Luis Severino throwing this morning. If Severino feels good after this, he could pitch next at High-A Tampa. https://t.co/jbbAe8pM0A— Brendan Kuty (@BrendanKutyNJ) August 27, 2019
Severino threw a simulated game Tuesday morning and could be back to pitching against real competition the next time he goes out. The addition of Severino changes the entire complexion of this pitching staff. Since Severino has been out all season, not having him start games in the postseason might be an option. In the postseason, Severino could come out of the bullpen in long relief for an opener, or another starter, and take weight off of the bullpen. However, if everything continues to progress positively, Severino could be starting games for the Yankees by the end of September and could be that game-one type pitcher for the Yankees.
On top of Severino, Dellin Betances is nearing a return too:
Dellin Betances (right lat strain) bounced back fine from his recent simulated game at the Yankees' complex in Tampa, Fla., and is scheduled to throw to hitters again on Wednesday. If that goes well, Betances could begin a Minor League rehab assignment.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) August 27, 2019
When Betances is on, he is very possibly the best reliever in baseball. His knuckle-curve has made the best batters in the game look absolutely helpless:
If and when Betances comes back, it will make this already daunting bullpen even scarier. Every pitcher that comes in has unhittable stuff in their arsenal; it just wouldn’t be fair if he came back and joined them.
Luke Voit will be joining the team soon as well as he finishes up his rehab assignment. Voit might DH so that Gio Urshela can play third while DJ LeMahieu plays first, but if Giancarlo Stanton and Edwin Encarnacion return for the playoffs, the likes of Urshela could be pushed out of the lineup. Once Aaron Hicks comes back, Mike Tauchman will most likely sit on the bench behind him. This summer’s mainstays may soon be pressed for mere playing time.
It is still unknown if and when Stanton, Hicks, and Encarnacion will come back this year. If they do, while they would open up more doors, their returns would also create some (good) problems. A lot can happen over the next few weeks for the Yankees, and their roster could really change come playoff time. Keep an eye on how these players heal in the month of September.