by Joe Caputo
There has been much talk surrounding the New York Yankees this season as they have gotten off to a hot start and sit atop the American League East here on May 14th. Some will say they’re getting lucky, others will argue they saw this coming, but what I’m here to determine is, when all is well, and everyone is healthy, if the Yankees do make the Playoffs, what their roster should look like in October. In this article, I will NOT take salary or reputation into the equation. I will simply give you the best 25-man formula that would help the Yankees win a 28th World Series title.
Forgot about Pineda, didn’t you? Well, it seems he’s making progress in his rehab assignments so far, and an optimal case for the Yankees would be a Pineda return in late-July. This gives him plenty of time for him to pitch his way onto the Postseason rotation. Pineda was an EXTREMELY talented pitcher before he got hurt. With the Mariners in his rookie season of 2011, Pineda posted a respectable 3.74 ERA, but his peripherals were extraordinary for a rookie. A 9.11 K/9 coupled with a sub-3 BB/9 made him an extremely coveted asset. Additionally, in AA in 2010, Pineda struck out near 11 batters per 9 while walking less than TWO. The one thing that worries me about Pineda is the velocity. Coming off the torn labrum, will he be able to get his velocity back? Well, so far in rehab, he’s been reported to be throwing 93-95… Great sign for Yankee fans. As for the rest of the crew, somewhat self-explanitory. CC has been the Yankees’ ace since they won the title back in 2009, and I still trust him in that role. Kuroda is a rock at number 2. And, of course, you can never leave Andy Pettitte out of a conversation about the Postseason.
Some of these are no brainers (Rivera, Robertson, Logan, Phelps, Hughes). So I guess most are no brainers. I throw Vidal Nuno on this list because I like the idea of having the second left-hander in the pen. Of course, Logan will be coming in for the high-leverage at bats late in games vs. lefties, but what if you need to retire a lefty in the 6th or 7th? In addition to that, Nuno has starter’s experience, giving him the ability to pitch to both righties and lefties, meaning, if, say, 2 of the next 5 batters to hit are lefties, he’s your guy. Depending on the ballpark, either Hughes or Phelps is my next in line to get an emergency start. Of the teams threatening to make the Playoffs, I’d let Hughes start in Detroit and Oakland, and pretty much no where else. The reason? Way too many fly balls. I would not trust him in a park like Fenway, Camden, Arlington, or even Yankee Stadium for that matter. As for Shawn Kelley, he makes it over top competitors Adam Warren and Preston Claiborne simply for his ability to strike hitters out. If this was a starting role, I may go Warren, but Kelley’s career 9.21 K/9 in 142 innings in the majors shows me he has the ability to, in the middle innings, be able to come in and get the Yanks a big strikeout if need be.
No, you didn’t miss him. No, I didn’t forget him. What good would Alex Rodriguez ACTUALLY do on the Postseason roster after he was pinch-hit for in virtually every pressure situation a year ago? Well I can answer that question: None. He would do ZERO good on this roster, which is why I have utility man Jayson Nix on it over him. I assume by October the infield situation will be settled (Teixeira, Cano, Jeter, Youkilis) vs. both lefties and righties, leaving the outfield still a little foggy. My guess is against right-handed starters the Yanks would go with an outfield of Granderson-Gardner-Ichiro and against lefties they would replace one of those three with Vernon Wells. Yes, one of those three, and I would not be opposed to it being Granderson if he continues to show he cannot hit left-handed pitching. As for the DH vs. lefties, that’s really the only spot that A-Rod would be able to fit. However, if I’m Girardi, I’m giving that role to the hottest hitter on my team. The Yankees have done so well so far this year by riding the hot bats, slotting the hottest hitters into the key spots in the order, and it’s worked. So why stop now? If Nunez is hot in October, throw him at DH vs. lefties. Nix hot? Throw him at short and give Jeter a half-day off. Flexibility is a good thing in baseball, no reason it should be thrown out the window come Playoff time.