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Yankees Mailbag: Playoff roster ideas and assessing the farm

The mailbag has a heavy emphasis on figuring out the playoff roster as we head into the stretch run.

New York Yankees v New York Mets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time for another edition of the mailbag. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Jon H. asks: The Yankees have dealt a lot of minor league pitching talent. What do they have left on the farm that might develop into major league talent, and when?

Of immediate note is Clarke Schmidt, who has been around the majors already but is stretching out at Triple-A and is showing definite promise. A starter’s role is definitely still within his grasp, and he could be in the rotation in a moment’s notice. For actual prospects and not players who have touched the big leagues already, Sean Boyle was recently promoted to Scranton alongside Schmidt, and he’s had an impressive first year as a full-time starter. He’ll likely need another year of seasoning, but Boyle could knock on the door sooner rather than later.

Jhony Brito is also up in Triple-A and has taken the next step in his development, dominating with a 2.66 ERA in 20 appearances (19 starts) and should push for a new career-high in innings down the stretch. Should he keep this up his ETA is likely next year, so keep an eye on him. Will Warren is a bit further down the pipeline, but the 2021 draft pick has already earned a promotion to Double-A Somerset this year and could be a fast-mover through the system.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” and Shoducky asks: Early playoff roster planning! Assuming everyone’s healthy and available, how do we squeeze the roster to 26? What do you think the postseason lineups will be?

Since these were very similar questions that went in tandem with each other I decided to combine them. Let’s tackle the overall roster first — we’ve got our obvious starters (assuming health) in Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Anthony Rizzo, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Jose Trevino, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, and Andrew Benintendi. Everything out of the Yankees’ camp indicates that if Harrison Bader is healthy he will start, so lump him in and push Aaron Hicks down to the backup outfield spot. Then, throw in Kyle Higashioka because they’ll always need a backup catcher in case of trouble.

The pitching rotation will for sure include Gerrit Cole, Frankie Montas, and Nestor Cortes, and the bullpen will carry Clay Holmes, Aroldis Chapman, Scott Effross, and Wandy Peralta. That’s 19 spots that we can reasonably assume are already slotted, and from there we have to play a bit of guesswork. Matt Carpenter will be fighting the calendar to return in time, but if he’s healthy and the Yankees are still playing baseball they should give him a roster spot. That brings us to 13 position players, and I think that’s where I’d stay — you could make an argument for Marwin Gonzalez or Tim Locastro but I’m a fan of enabling a quick hook in the playoffs and more arms allows for that. That leaves us with one more starter and some relievers to fill out; Severino if he can get back in time is the optimal fourth man with Taillon as the replacement if he can’t, and whichever one doesn’t start would probably go to the pen as a long reliever.

Now it get’s really tricky — six spots left with a host of names to pick from. If he can return in time it sounds like Zack Britton would play, though I am very hesitant to count on him getting into game shape in time. Likewise, I am not confident in rolling out Jonathan Loáisiga during a playoff game but the team appears ready to back their relief ace from 2021. When push comes to shove Ron Marinaccio should be one of the guys available and Lucas Luetge and Miguel Castro have been mainstays throughout the year. That leaves one spot left, which I would assume goes to Domingo Germán. Personally, I would prefer to find Clarke Schmidt a roster spot, and he could grab Britton or Castro’s if either isn’t healthy by the time October rolls around, but I think he’s on the outside looking in currently.

Finally, to touch on the lineup construction, I think it makes the most sense to leadoff with LeMahieu at second, have Judge next in right field, Rizzo bat third manning first, Giancarlo cleanup as the DH, Donaldson fifth playing third base, Benintendi sixth at left field, Bader seventh in center, Trevino eighth at catcher, and IKF ninth at shortstop. It’s hard to account for where Bader would slot in since we haven’t seen him, so perhaps you put Trevino above him, but otherwise this works out to be their strongest nine batters with flexibility. You could pinch-hit Carpenter into any of the bottom five slots at a key moment and have Torres or Hicks available to take the field afterwards if need be.

Range Rider asks: Boone has yet to demonstrate that he’s a manager capable of navigating his team on a successful PLAYOFF run. Is Boone the right man to do so?

There’s been more disappointing runs than promising ones during Boone’s tenure so far, but I would argue that the 2019 postseason was a successful playoff run. They got to Game 6 of the ALCS against a juggernaut team that we later found out were cheating (MLB only punished them for 2017, but the trash can evidence was found from that season, not to deliberate that mess again). Regardless, all of the pressure rides on this year’s run — will Boone and company guide the team to that previous mark and surpass it with a World Series berth or even a victory?

Josh had an article back in July attempting to assess the core of this question and compare him to his contemporaries around the league. He wrote this right before the team’s slide off of a historic pace truly began so I’ll take the main finding from back then and add to it — at the time, Boone was viewed as being back in the good graces of the fanbase with everything running smoothly for once. The core elements of what makes him preferred by management didn’t change: he still is a clubhouse guy that rallies the troops and has an effective read on how to get the most out of his bullpen (whichever arms they give him to use at least). Now that the tough times have come he’s under scrutiny again, and that’s largely his role — to be the lightning rod taking the brunt of the heat.

The coaching carousel is often made out to be more than it truly is because there’s simply no way to contextualize it beyond wins and losses. Boone is often looked at as an arm of the front office, but the players’ support of him is a major factor as well. As long as he’s got the clubhouse behind him he’ll probably be the right guy, and as soon as that isn’t the case they’ll jettison him a la Joe Girardi.