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What might the Yankees’ Opening Day roster have looked like?

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Opening Day may not have happened, but we can still theorize on who would have made the roster.

Major League Baseball Suspends Spring Training Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Cracking the Opening Day roster is a big milestone for a lot of players, especially for younger players and those spending their careers on the bubble. Whether earning that spot because of a performance in spring training or filling in for an injured player, it can represent a major step in the progression of a player’s career. For fans, it’s also an exciting time, as the position battles of the spring culminate and we begin to experience true, meaningful baseball.

This year, we lost that. Even assuming that a truncated season gets played, the Opening Day roster will be vastly different than what it would have been. Injured players will have received more time to heal, new injuries would have time to occur, and the possibility of beginning with expanded rosters negates some of the challenges of the spring.

Even with the lack of baseball being played, however, we can still get a glimpse into how the Opening Day roster might have been constructed, based on spring performances, player injuries, and roster moves that occurred since the suspension of activities.

Let’s begin with how the starting lineup may have shaken out:

  • DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  • Brett Gardner, CF
  • Gleyber Torres, SS
  • Luke Voit, 1B
  • Gary Sanchez, C
  • Gio Urshela, 3B
  • Miguel Andujar, DH
  • Mike Tauchman, LF
  • Clint Frazier, RF

I tried to piece this lineup together based on the last few lineups that the Yankees trotted out in spring training — a more difficult task than it sounds, due to a couple of split squad games and the fact that the starters were not yet playing every single day. While personally, I do not believe that Gardner would have been batting second — Voit or Torres seems more likely to me — he had been hitting there the most consistently even with the other two in the lineup. Urshela also found more than a few at-bats there.

For the most part, the bottom of the order is fairly interchangeable, and organized primarily around where guys tended to hit in the order relative to each other. Everybody after Sanchez (and indeed, sometimes even including him), however, found themselves bounced around in relation to each other.

With the new 26-man rosters, that leaves us four spots for the bench. One of these would certainly go to Kyle Highashioka, who clearly won the backup catching job, courtesy of his .909 OPS during spring training, a lack of options, and his status as the only catcher besides Sanchez on the 40-man roster. As a left-handed bat off the bench who received a lot of at-bats in the middle of the order during spring training, Mike Ford likely would have made the cut — and, given how much Aaron Boone likes shuffling his lineup, would have received a large amount of playing time.

After Thairo Estrada’s option to Triple-A Scranton last week, the last two spots likely go to Tyler Wade and Rosell Herrera. Wade comes as no surprise, as his positional versatility, speed, and late-season breakout with the bat (he had an .852 OPS last September) made him the odds-on favorite for a spot at the start of spring training. Herrera, a non-roster invitee, however, represents the first major shocker. A former top prospect, Herrera came up as a shortstop, but has mostly played the outfield and second base throughout his career, with a week’s worth of games at third base and a cameo at shortstop over the last two seasons. Posting a .400/.444/.600 slashline through the spring, he caught the eyes of fans and coaches, a performance that, combined with his positional flexibility, likely would have given him the final spot on the Opening Day roster.

As for the starting rotation, due to injuries to Luis Severino and James Paxton, the first four spots were projected to go to Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and Jordan Montgomery, with the last one up for grabs between Jonathan Loaisiga, Michael King, Deivi Garcia, Luis Cessa, and Clarke Schmidt. Although the team technically claims that they are still able to earn a rotation spot once the season returns, the option of Garcia to Trenton and King to Scranton implies, to me, that they were out of the running. In a similar vein, while Cessa has been solid this spring, all five of his appearances came in relief, leading me to believe that he never truly was an option for the rotation. Thus, this comes down to Loaisiga and Schmidt, and despite the latter’s impressive spring, the job was, at this point, Loaisiga’s to lose. He posted a 2.70 ERA and an .091 BAA in 10 innings.

Behind Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle, and Chad Green, three more spots were up for grabs in the bullpen. As mentioned above, Cessa likely has one of those spots locked up. That leaves Schmidt, David Hale, Dan Otero, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Tyler Lyons, and a small army of relievers competing for two spots. Hale essentially pitched himself out of this race and is certainly ticketed to Scranton, Heller has already been optioned to Scranton, and the Yankees probably want to keep Schmidt stretched out as a starter. Holder probably has one of these two spots locked up due to his status on the 40-man roster, as the Yankees hope he recaptures his 2018 form after an injury-shortened disastrous season. The Yankees seem to like Lyons as a third lefty out of this bullpen, so I expect he’d get the last spot.

Unfortunately, this roster will never see the light of day outside of thought experiments. Nonetheless, it does give us a look into how the Yankees might have built their squad a week into what should have been the regular season.