After a (terribly managed) weather delay for Game 5 of the American League Division Series ended in a postponement until the next day, the New York Yankees surpassed the Cleveland Guardians with a 5-1 win. Next, they will face the Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series for the first time since 2019, with no rest days in between. They went 2-5 against the Astros in the regular season, with the two wins coming in The Bronx.
The Yankees making it to this series allows them to add some players (and subtract some) from the roster they worked with in the ALDS. Probably one of the most significant players who could be available is DJ LeMahieu. Everyone knows how valuable he is to the team at his best.
Since LeMahieu’s power was hurt by the his foot injury, the Yankees may choose to keep him toward the lower-middle of the lineup (if he starts at all), though if they’re feeling better about his potential, he could slot in at the top of the lineup. They’d be hoping for him to provide a contact bat ahead of Aaron Judge, batting second like he was during the regular season. It would also mean that Gleyber Torres has the opportunity to move down and give manager Aaron Boone more depth to work within the middle of the lineup.
With LeMahieu in the lineup, the Yankees would have to figure out their infield. Anthony Rizzo is the starting first baseman, and it doesn’t really make sense to play Gleyber Torres anywhere other than second base. So any scenario involving DJ would probably just have him starting at third over Josh Donaldson, though a tandem like they followed throughout 2022 would be more likely.
The shortstop situation is more tenuous and relates to an unfortunate collision in ALDS Game 5. The Yankees lost Aaron Hicks after he collided with Oswaldo Cabrera in the outfield on a high popup in short left field. He said that his season was over after it was revealed by an MRI that he would be out for six weeks with the knee injury he suffered on the play. Andrew Benintendi also appears to still be out of commission, too.
With Hicks gone, we could see Oswald Peraza added as insurance with his speed and intriguing bat. Cabrera started at shortstop in Games 4 and 5 after some poor performances on defense from Isiah Kiner-Falefa. There’s at least a decent chance that Hicks’ injury simply means a return to the starting lineup for IKF at shortstop with Cabrera back in left field. However, if the Yankees are genuinely not content with IKF, having Peraza play there would be reasonable, considering his strong production in the field and at the plate during the regular season. That said, it would come with risk to plug a rookie, who has played little over the past several weeks (thanks to the Yankees’ odd handling of him), into the starting lineup in the playoffs.
Having Peraza in the lineup would mean removing a player from the bench. As much as Tim Locastro can help, there doesn’t seem to be a scenario where his speed is helpful if another fast runner replaces him with more pop at the plate. He might find a roster spot if LeMahieu can’t return, but otherwise, there’s not a fit if Peraza is taken over him. And it doesn’t appear that Marwin Gonzalez is going anywhere, since the Yankees aren’t comfortable with Cabrera as the emergency first baseman.
One player who has also voiced his desire to be on the ALCS roster is reliever Ron Marinaccio, who made his mark in the big leagues this season before going down with a stress reaction in his left shin.
Ron Marinaccio says “I’ll be good to go if they call me” for Yanks’ ALCS roster.— Pete Caldera (@pcaldera) October 19, 2022
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Marinaccio take the place of Miguel Castro, who didn’t see any innings during the series against the Guardians. Starter Frankie Montas is also an option, as he’s been working out in relief and expressed a similar desire to be on the ALCS roster. But unless they’re dropping one of Castro’s fellow neglected relievers (Lucas Luetge and Domingo Germán), it’s hard to see a fit for a converted starter who hasn’t regularly worked out of the bullpen since early 2017.
Since it must be acknowledged: No, Aroldis Chapman will not be returning from his post-regular season exile. The Yankees are keeping him away, and I can’t imagine that many people outside of Houston are sorry to hear that.
Here is my optimal roster for the ALCS:
Catchers: Jose Trevino, Kyle Higashioka (2)
Infielders: Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Oswald Peraza, Josh Donaldson (6)
Outfielders: Oswaldo Cabrera, Harrison Bader, Aaron Judge (3)
Designated Hitters: Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Carpenter (2)
Utility: Marwin Gonzalez (1)
Starting rotation: Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino (3)
Bullpen: Jonathan Loáisiga, Ron Marinaccio, Lou Trivino, Clay Holmes, Wandy Peralta, Lucas Luetge, Clarke Schmidt, Domingo Germán, Jameson Taillon (9)
Let us know if you have any adjustments or preferred alternative picks in the comments.