Figuring Out the Playoff Roster (Updated, 10/1)

There are only eight games remaining, and at this point it would take a pretty epic collapse for the Yankees not to at least grab that last Wild Card spot. Let’s try to figure out who does and doesn’t make the cut for the playoff roster. Here are the sure fire guarantees, broken down position by position:

Catcher (2): Russell Martin, Chris Stewart

First Base (1): Mark Texeira*

Second Base (1): Robinson Cano

Third Base (2): Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez

Shortstop (1): Derek Jeter

Outfield (4): Ichiro, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez

Starting Pitcher (4): CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes

Relief Pitcher (5): Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Phelps

That’s 20 players for now, which obviously leaves five remaining. The asterisk for Mark Teixeira, of course, is if he comes back healthy.

Here are some of the guys who will be considered for the last five spots:

Position Players: Eduardo Nunez, Jayson Nix, Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones, Chris Dickerson, Casey McGehee

Pitchers: Ivan Nova, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Derek Lowe, Freddy Garcia, David Aardsma

Right off the bat, I’d throw out any chance for Freddy Garcia, Derek Lowe, and David Aardsma. Garcia and Lowe unreliable, and Phelps can throw multiple innings if necessary, and has been solid out of the pen. Aardsma is coming off a serious injury. I’d also eliminate Casey McGehee from consideration given his poor performance, plus no imaginable scenario that he’d see much playing time.

That leaves eight players for five spots. Let’s consider the Yankees potential playoff opponents. If they don’t catch the Rangers, who they’re two games behind, they’ll be the second seed and will face the winner of the Central. This seems like the most likely scenario. Against either the White Sox or Tigers, I imagine they’ll want a second lefty in the bullpen, which would be Clay Rapada. That gives them a chance to match up against Adam Dunn or Prince Fielder twice in any given game.

With Rapada on board, there are four spots left. Given the four man rotation, plus one off day in the divison series, I don’t expect the Yankees to need an 11th pitcher. That eliminates Cody Eppley, who would pretty much be a waste since he’s he would just be another specialist.

That means the last four spots will all go to position players. The Yanks will want a defensive replacement in the outfield, and the best two options would be Gardner or Dickerson. If Gardner proves healthy, he’s got the advantage. Plus, he could be a lethal pinch-runner. Having Dickerson on the roster at that point would be redundant, which allows all three of Nunez, Nix, and Jones to get on the roster. Nix would be the emergency infield defensive replacement. Many are clamoring for Andruw Jones not to be on the playoff roster, but I’m positive he’ll be there. In a perfect world, he’ll show some semblance of the lefty masher we knew in the first half, and be the DH against lefties like Chris Sale. Nunez is a decent player, but he’s better suited as an additional pinch-run weapon on the bench. I know Jones has done absolutely nothing of late, but I have to imagine he’s more of a threat at the bottom of the order than Nunez.

Here’s your final 25-man roster for the Division Series:

Catcher (2): Russell Martin, Chris Stewart

First Base (1): Mark Texeira*

Second Base (1): Robinson Cano

Third Base (2): Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez

Shortstop (2): Derek Jeter

Outfield (6): Ichiro, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones

Utility (1): Jayson Nix

Starting Pitcher (4): CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes

Relief Pitcher (6): Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Phelps, Clay Rapada

If Joe Girardi decides Jones isn’t fit for the roster, Nova is likely put on the roster for the extra pitcher. I can’t imagine this though, as it would probably be a waste of a roster spot. You might say Jones is a waste of a spot too, but at least he has potential to be of use. There isn’t much value added on a playoff roster with an emergency long-reliever.

UPDATE (10/1):

Given the fact that Jayson Nix is now out for a couple of weeks, we have another roster spot up for debate. Since Nunez will slide in as the utility infielder, and there are already enough outfield bats on the bench, expect another pitcher on the roster. For my money, I would say it’s between Derek Lowe and Cody Eppley. I’m going to give the edge to Lowe here; he’s been effective of late, has plenty of postseason experience, can give distance, and isn’t one dimensional like Eppley. Additionally, with Mark Teixeira back and healthy (knock on wood), he’ll be around for the postseason. Here’s the amended roster:

Catcher (2): Russell Martin, Chris Stewart

First Base (1): Mark Texeira

Second Base (1): Robinson Cano

Third Base (2): Alex Rodriguez, Eric Chavez

Shortstop (2): Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez

Outfield (6): Ichiro, Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Brett Gardner, Andruw Jones

Utility (1): Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez

Starting Pitcher (4): CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes

Relief Pitcher (7): Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, David Phelps, Clay Rapada, Derek Lowe

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