It was far more nerve-racking than it needed to be, but the Yankees secured a spot in the American League Wild Card Game with a tense 1-0 victory over the Rays yesterday. They managed only four hits in the game, the final one Aaron Judge’s walk-off infield single. Jameson Taillon was spectacular — especially considering he was pitching on an injured ankle — as was the bullpen.
Though they had ample opportunity throughout the season to guarantee a berth in the playoffs, it came down to Game 162 in front of a packed Yankee Stadium. The win is all that matters, and now they’ll have a much-needed day off before heading to Boston. They’ll have that time to construct the 26-man roster for the AL Wild Card game, so I figured we might take a shot at predicting the players they could pick.
Let’s start with the certainties. The outfield trio of Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, and Joey Gallo from right to left are a lock while Giancarlo Stanton will DH. On the right side of the infield, Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres will man first and second respectively. Gerrit Cole will start the game, which means personal catcher Kyle Higashioka is a virtual guarantee to start behind the plate.
This is where things get a little tricky. Luke Voit is done for the season. DJ LeMahieu’s injury and subsequent addition to the 10-day injured list rules him out until the ALCS at the earliest. And now, there is some uncertainty surrounding Gio Urshela after his outrageous catch and fall into the Rays’ dugout last night. He looked to be in a lot of pain, but encouragingly stayed in the game a few more innings, so the Yankees likely dodged a bullet there. Assuming he is good to go for Tuesday, that places him at shortstop and Rougned Odor at third. Gary Sánchez and Tyler Wade are locks for the bench, and Andrew Velazquez feels like a pretty safe pick.
On the pitching side, I reckon Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery will be left off the roster as they were the two most recent starters, and it wouldn’t make sense to use up two roster spots on guys who have no shot at pitching. Teams are allowed to assemble a new roster after the Wild Card Round, so should the Yankees advance to the American League Division Series, they will have the opportunity to add Taillon and Montgomery at that point.
The Yankees can therefore stack their bullpen for this win-or-go-home game. They’ll likely bring along Néstor Cortes Jr. and Corey Kluber. Luis Severino and Michael King have mostly dazzled in their relief roles and have earned tickets to the Wild Card Game. As for the regular relievers, the Circle of Trust more or less consists of Aroldis Chapman, Jonathan Loáisiga, Chad Green, Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Joely Rodríguez, and Lucas Luetge.
That’s 24 players, which gives us two more open slots to fill. They do not have a true fourth outfielder on the bench at the moment, which steers me towards Estevan Florial. He only logged 25 plate appearances in the big leagues this year, but his speed and glove on the long grass are nice insurance to have in reserve. For the final roster spot, I could envision Domingo Germán being added as a long relief option out of the ‘pen.
Gerrit Cole, RHP
- Gleyber Torres, 2B
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B
- Aaron Judge, RF
- Giancarlo Stanton, DH
- Joey Gallo, LF
- Gio Urshela, SS
- Brett Gardner, CF
- Kyle Higashioka, C
- Rougned Odor, 3B
Gary Sánchez, C; Tyler Wade, IF; Andrew Velazquez, IF; Estevan Florial, OF
Aroldis Chapman, LHP; Jonathan Loáisiga, RHP; Chad Green, RHP; Clay Holmes, RHP; Wandy Peralta, LHP; Joely Rodríguez, LHP; Lucas Luetge, LHP; Luis Severino, RHP; Michael King, RHP; Corey Kluber, RHP; Néstor Cortes Jr., LHP, Domingo Germán, RHP
So there you have it, a nice even split of 13 position players and 13 pitchers for our prospective 26-man AL Wild Card roster. Let us know in the comments what you think, and if there are any revisions you might make.