With the East division and two-seed locked up in the American League, the Yankees’ eyes are now largely set on the postseason. For the month of September the roster size has been 28, but that has to come down to 26 for each round of the postseason, including a limit of 13 pitchers. This roster crunch becomes one of the more difficult decisions to make at the end of the season, and could have huge impacts, all of which John detailed a few weeks ago here. With DJ LeMahieu on the brink of returning, and a few others having somewhat encouraging updates, there are some interesting debates when it comes to the Yankees position players in the roster crunch.
It was announced Wednesday that LeMahieu was expected to come off the injured list ahead of Friday’s game against the Orioles. With his anticipated return, who the odd man out on the bench is remains to be seen. The infielder was an excellent hitter for much of this season until the stretch before his IL stint, in which he was playing through his toe injury. He has a good, if not slightly-skewed 117 wRC+ this season, and would be a welcome addition to the roster, albeit pushing someone else off.
It is a similar story with Matt Carpenter, who is hopeful to return for the final series of the season against the Rangers. His return seemed murky basically from the start after his injury, but if he came back as any semblance of what he was before, it would be a big deal. He was basically Barry Bonds over his 154 plate appearances. His return is not guaranteed, however, and that level of production even less so. There is also the added aspect that he has not been in the batter’s box since early August, making the timing of his return even more difficult to navigate.
It appears Andrew Benintendi will not come back before the end of the regular season, but a return at some point is probably not out of the question. It has happened before (Kyle Schwarber), but bringing a player back directly into postseason play is a lot to ask. Regardless, it is a possibility on some level, and only adds to the potential roster questions throughout the postseason.
It’s safe to assume the lineup regulars have their spot on the postseason roster, including Harrison Bader and Kyle Higashioka. But there will have to be at least one position player, and maybe more, who will have to be left off.
Oswald Peraza has been great in his (very) limited time this season, but his limited experience in the big leagues let alone the postseason makes him the likely candidate to be left off. Marwin Gonzalez is probably the next in line, as his defensive versatility does him some favors while his 68 wRC+ does not.
Aaron Hicks might not be 100 percent safe, as he has alternated between solid months and almost unimaginably rough ones. It should be noted that he has looked a bit better of late, and may be playing himself on to the roster. Tim Locastro is the other bench bat in play, and although he doesn’t provide much at the plate, he’d likely serve exclusively as a pinch-runner. This skillset doesn’t guarantee him a spot, but we have seen players in that sort of role make a difference in the postseason.
The Yankees seem to have righted the ship after a long and brutal stretch of poor play, which really brought their potential in to question. As they look to have turned a corner, some important reinforcements appear to be on the way as well. How effective these reinforcements are, or if some of them return at all remains to be see, but it is a good problem to have. Regardless, the Yankees will have some important decisions to make as they head into the postseason.