Jorge Mateo near top of Baseball America’s top 20 South Atlantic League prospects


Baseball America’s look at the top 20 prospects in each minor league continued today with the Low-A South Atlantic League. The list is free but the scouting reports are not, as always. Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada predictably claims the top prospect and is followed by SS Jorge Mateo. He ranks second and is the only Yankees farmhand on the list.

“Mateo has tools to rival the league’s No. 1 prospect Yoan Moncada,” said the write-up. “Mateo is just as fast, just as prolific at stealing bases, has similar power potential and a better arm. Plus, he is a potentially above-average defender at shortstop … Mateo is a well-rounded prospect who could end up making an impact both offensively and defensively.”

Mateo, 20, hit .278/.345/.392 (114 wRC+) with two homers, a 19.6% strikeout rate, and an 8.6% walk rate overall this season, including .268/.338/.378 (106 wRC+) in 96 games with Low-A Charleston before being promoted to High-A Tampa. Mateo led the minors with 82 steals this season — no one else had more than 71 and only one other player had more than 65 — and was only caught 17 times for an 83% success rate.

The most common comp for Mateo is Jose Reyes because they’re speedy shortstops, but that’s optimistic. Mateo is a righty hitter, not a switch-hitter, and Reyes had a 102 wRC+ in the big leagues when he was Mateo’s age. That’s not a fair comparison. That said, with RHP Luis Severino having graduated to MLB and OF Aaron Judge struggling in Triple-A, you could argue Mateo is the Yankees’ top prospect right now.

The next list relevant to Yankees fans is the Double-A Eastern League, and boy, the Yankees should be well-represented. Severino, Judge, 1B Greg Bird, C Gary Sanchez, and 3B Eric Jagielo are the big names with OF Jake Cave and RHP Brady Lail other possibilities. Severino and Judge may rank one-two in some order. That’d be neat. That list is due out next week.

Other league top 20s: Rookie Gulf Coast League, Rookie Appalachian League, Short Season NY-Penn League, High-A Florida State League

Kaprielian, Degano among Baseball America’s standout top 20 non-qualifiers

(John Corneau Photos)
Grandmaster Kap. (John Corneau Photos)

Baseball America is still in the middle of their series looking at the top 20 prospects in each minor league. Inevitability, playing time criteria has left a lot of prospects on the outside looking in. They have to draw the qualifying line somewhere, and some talented players simply fall short of the top 20 list due to playing time. Recent draftees fall short more than anyone.

Earlier today, J.J. Cooper posted a look at the top prospects who failed to qualify for one of their league top 20 lists. It’s not a ranking, just a list of 13 players who stood out to scouts in limited playing time. Among the 13 are two of the Yankees top 2015 draft picks: rapper/RHP James Kaprielian (first round) and LHP Jeff Degano (second round). Neither made a top 20 list because they only threw a handful of innings after turning pro.

Kaprielian, 21, threw 23.2 innings with the Rookie GCL Yanks and Short Season Staten Island — 11.1 innings in the regular season and another 12.1 innings in the postseason — and finished with a 2.28 ERA (2.23 FIP). He struck out 24, walked six, and had a 56.5% ground ball rate. Cooper’s write-up is free, you don’t need a subscription, so here’s part of the blurb on Kaprielian:

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound righthander commands a four-seamer at 92-93 mph and touched 95 for Staten Island. Kaprielian’s plus 12-to-6 curveball was his go-to pitch with UCLA, but he mainly threw it early in counts with Staten Island, focusing instead on his changeup and slider. Both pitches generated swings and misses. His circle-change had firm, split-like downward action at 82-83 mph with good finish at the bottom of the strike zone, while the slider showed hard, late break … With his deep arsenal, above-average command and maturity, the righthander could be a quick mover in the Yankees system.

For what it’s worth, Michael Lananna heard Kaprielian’s changeup has progressed nicely in his short time as a pro. Kaprielian’s scouting report is damn impressive. Four pitches, command, and poise? It’s easy to understand why he was the fifth pitcher selected in the 2015 draft. The only reason the Yankees didn’t turn him loose this summer was his workload at UCLA — he threw 106.2 innings for the Bruins before the draft.

Degano, meanwhile, had a 3.80 ERA (3.72 FIP) with 24 strikeouts, eleven walks, and a 50.0% ground ball rate in 23.2 innings for the GCL Yanks and Staten Island. That’s regular season and postseason. The 22-year-old southpaw actually piggybacked with Kaprielian for a while at Staten Island to keep their workloads down after heavy springs in college. (Degano threw 99 innings for Indiana State.) Here’s part of the Degano blurb:

Degano did show excellent command of his 90-94 mph fastball inside to righthanded hitters, and his plus 78-82 mph breaking ball neutralized lefties. The development of Degano’s fringy changeup, however, will be crucial if he’s going to make it as a starter. It showed flashes of being an effective pitch, but Degano threw the change sparingly with Indiana State and still needs to gain a consistent feel for it.

Degano turns 23 later this month and is older than your typical college pitcher, but his development was delayed by Tommy John surgery. He made only three starts in 2013 before blowing out his elbow and then didn’t pitch at all in 2014 either. This spring was the only opportunity for scouts to get a look at Degano before he was draft-eligible, and he was working his way back from elbow reconstruction. The Yankees liked him enough to take him in the second round.

The Yankees have a very position player heavy farm system, especially now that Luis Severino has graduated to the big leagues, so Kaprielian and Degano help replenish the pitching pipeline a bit. The Yankees didn’t draft them for need, things just worked out that way. Kaprielian could help very soon. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in the big leagues next August or September a la 2007 Ian Kennedy.

Yankees limping to the finish line, but a fresh start is right around the corner


The Yankees are somehow pulling off the ultra-rare combination of exceeding expectations and being a huge disappointment this season. Not many people thought this team would contend coming into the season, yet here they are, on the verge of clinching a postseason spot. A win and they’re in. Nice and simple, right?

At the same time, expectations recalibrate, and the Yankees were seven games up in the AL East just two short months ago. That lead vanished in a matter of days, it seemed. The Yankees were eliminated from the division race yesterday and will have to settle for a wildcard spot. I think many of us would have taken a wildcard spot before the season. But in late July? Nah.

The Yankees are playing an awful brand of baseball right now. The rotation is shaky, the offense can never seem to get The Big Hit, and the bullpen has become such a liability that even Dellin Betances blew a lead last night. Nothing is going right at the moment. Nothing other than the new Dustin Ackley/Rob Refsnyder second base platoon, I guess. These last few games have not been inspiring.

The good news is the Yankees have a clean slate coming. The regular season ends Sunday and the postseason starts Tuesday. That’s a fresh start. A new beginning. I’m not sure how many years have to pass before it doesn’t have to be pointed out that being hot or cold heading into the postseason doesn’t matter one bit. Hot and cold streaks are not predictive. Hitting .400 over the last two weeks doesn’t mean you’ll get a hit tomorrow. (Tom Verducci wrote more on the myth of momentum.)

“We never want to lose,” said Andrew Miller to Chad Jennings following yesterday’s game. “We don’t want to lose one game, let alone two, three in a row, or whatever it is. At the same time, if we take care of business, we get a chance to start anew, and I think that’s what we look forward to. Anything can happen once you get there. I’ve seen it first hand multiple times. I think once you get into it, we’ve got the team to win games and get hot and take off and play as a unit, and I think that’s what’s important.”

Do I want the Yankees to turn things around and finish the regular season strong heading into the wildcard game? Of course. When you watch them play, there are times you wonder how they’re ever going to win again. But look at last night’s game — they had 21 (!) base-runners in the first nine innings. That’s really good. It didn’t lead to a win, but it’s a sign of good play. Leaving all the runners on base was ugly, sure, but those base-runners are a huge positive. That’s a good sign and it shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Yankees are backing into the postseason but hey, that’s still the postseason. It’s tough to watch and feel good about their postseason chances, that’s human nature, but the wildcard game is five days away. Five days is an eternity in baseball. We see it every year — every single year without fail — that the postseason is a clean slate and performance can change in a hurry, for better or worse. The Yankees desperately need that fresh start, and thankfully it is right around the corner.

Thoughts as the Yankees wait to clinch a postseason spot


The Yankees were unceremoniously eliminated from the AL East race yesterday afternoon, when the Blue Jays beat the Orioles in the first game of the doubleheader. They had a seven-game lead once upon a time, but boy, it disappeared in a hurry. The good news is New York is still in good position to clinch a postseason spot. Win one of the final four games and they’re in. Anyway, I have thoughts.

1. The Yankees are playing terribly right now — they didn’t even look good while taking three of four from the White Sox over the weekend, that was a grind of a series — and they look old and worn down. That’s because the Yankees always look old and worn down whenever they struggle, regardless of the time of year. Most teams do, but the Yankees are actually old, so there’s some truth behind it. Last night’s homer notwithstanding, I absolutely think it’s fair to wonder if Alex Rodriguez is running on fumes at this point. Joe Girardi admitted it was a concern yesterday. He’s 40 years old with two surgically repaired hips, and he was phenomenal at the start of the season. Really into late-July. But even as a full-time DH, A-Rod very well might be gassed after 157 games. It’s not just sitting on the bench, getting four at-bats and running to first a few times. There’s all the pregame work in the cages and the travel and all that stuff too. Baseball is a very demanding sport, it’s an endurance sport at heart, and as great as Alex is, he’s at the age where he can’t bounce back from the physical grind as well as he once did. The Yankees are struggling right now and they look old, because they always look old when they struggle. A-Rod is the only position player I am truly worried about being worn down though.

2. Even with his recent control issues, Dellin Betances has joined Andrew Miller to form the most dominant one-two bullpen punch in baseball. No other team has two relievers who can compare. Betances and Miller are the strength of the roster, and while that’s great when leading after six or seven innings, the Blue Jays also showed how quickly that strength can be negated. The Yankees and Blue Jays played 13 games after the trade deadline, and Betances and Miller combined for only nine appearances in the 13 games. Five by Betances, four my Miller. That’s all. Why didn’t they pitch more often? The Blue Jays had the lead. Betances and Miller are dynamite, but their usage is dependent on the other players on the roster, so the Blue Jays were able to remove those two from the equation by having a better offense and a better rotation than the Yankees. Having a dominant one-two bullpen punch is great! You need a strong bullpen to contend these days, especially with starters throwing fewer and fewer innings. Bullpen usage depends on the offense and rotation though, and if those parts of the team aren’t up to snuff, the great relievers get marginalized. That happened with Betances and Miller against the Blue Jays in the second half.

3. How about Dustin Ackley? It’s too bad he missed that month with a back injury after the trade considering how well he’s played the last two weeks. I didn’t think Ackley would have any sort of impact at all — he was terrible with the Mariners (76 wRC+) and he was replacing Garrett Jones, which meant he was probably never going to play — but here he is, mashing taters and playing second base nearly everyday. It’s very easy to get excited about a player like this, a former elite prospect and super high draft pick coming to a more competent organization with a more hitter friendly ballpark. I have no idea what the plan is for Ackley next year. We’ve got an entire offseason ahead of us to think about that. Right now though, Ackley has been tremendous the last two weeks. I’m not buying in all the way yet, but Ackley has talent, and it’s easy to understand why the Yankees wanted to pick him up. Classic change of scenery guy who has produced right away. The Yankees have done well with players like this this season (Didi Gregorius and Nathan Eovaldi are two other examples.)

4. Greg Bird‘s role with the Yankees going forward has been a much discussed topic the last few weeks. He’s clearly the first baseman of the future, but Mark Teixeira is still under contract next season, and neither Teixeira nor Bird can play a position other than first base or DH. Teixeira’s not going anywhere — he has full no-trade protection and no reason to uproot his family — and, frankly, he’s the better player and should be at first base in 2016. As good as Bird has been, Teixeira was a monster before getting hurt. The Yankees miss him, especially against lefties. Anyway, I made this handy flow chart to help you figure out what the Yankees should do with Bird next season:

Bird flow chart

That sums it up, right? When Bird is hitting homers and doing well, we all want him in MLB. When he’s striking out in bunches, eh maybe some more time in Triple-A wouldn’t be the end of the world. Then we all wait until for his next at-bat to change our minds again. As with Ackley, this is a “worry about it in the offseason” problem. (“Problem.”) Get through the season first. Besides, A-Rod and Teixeira (and Bird, for that matter) haven’t been the most durable players in recent years. This could easily take care of itself and all three guys end up playing 100-120 games or so. I’m just glad Bird has put himself in this discussion. I had no expectation of him playing in MLB this season, let alone producing in an everyday role.

5. This has not been Girardi’s finest month in terms of on-field moves. I think he’s an average-ish strategic manager who does his best work behind closed doors in the clubhouse. The Yankees are, amazingly, a distraction-free team, and I think Girardi deserves a ton of credit for that. On the field though, there have been really questionable moves in September. Last Wednesday’s game stands out the most, when a bunch of Triple-A relievers decided a close game against the Blue Jay the Yankees more or less had to have to stay alive in the AL East, but there have been some other weird ones. Pinch-running for A-Rod at first base with the bases loaded a few weeks ago, for example. Using four different second baseman in four innings against the Mets because of unnecessary double switches. That sorta stuff. Girardi doesn’t hit or pitch, he can push the correct button every time and it still might not work out. That’s baseball. His job is to put his players and his team in the best possible position to succeed, and I’m not sure he’s done that consistently this month. I don’t think Girardi should be fired or anything that. I’m just making an observation. This hasn’t been a great month for the skipper.

Yankees miss chances, drop one in the extras against Boston for a 9-5 loss

Well, the Yankees came close to two big feats tonight: the 10,000th franchise victory and a postseason berth. I do think both will happen soon but it would have been nice to get those out of the way tonight, especially against the Red Sox in a game that should have been won. New York missed multiple chances late in the game and allowed one to slip away on a cold night in Bronx. You know what they say, the 10,000th win is the hardest.


Masahiro, not a hero tonight

Masahiro Tanaka had a good beginning for the first two hitters – a strikeout of Mookie Betts and pop out of Dustin Pedroia. However, he allowed a single to Xander Bogaerts and walked David Ortiz to put two on with Travis Shaw on plate. Shaw, as you may know, has become somewhat of an unprecedented slugger in ML. His numbers in the bigs have completely surpassed the minor league ones. The Boston first baseman took a 89-mph fastball down in the zone out of the park to give his team a 3-0 lead. That went from 0 to 100 real quick.

Tanaka had an easy one-two-three second inning. In the third, however, he allowed a ground-rule double to Pedroia to start the rally. Two batters later, Ortiz drove him in with an RBI single to give Sox a 4-1 lead. Well, that’s about all the damage Tanaka allowed. He had two more one-two-three innings for a mixed bag of an outing — five innings, four runs, five hits, one walk and three strikeouts. He labored and breezed at different times. Hopefully he’s getting some rust off before his next start, which, possibly could be, the AL Wildcard game.


Miley, what’s good?

Wade Miley had a pretty rough start to the season but he’s progressed for better. Prior to tonight’s game, he had a 4.39 ERA/3.80 FIP in 188.2 IP, good for a 2.5 fWAR. Not bad. The Yankee bats didn’t really leave him alone though. In the bottom of second, trailing 3-0, Chris Young singled and Greg Bird walked to put two runners on with two outs. Rob Refsnyder, in the lineup as a righty bat platoon for second base, hit an outside fastball to opposite field for a ground-rule double. That was not a good break for the Yanks – had the ball stayed in the park, they would have scored two. Nonetheless, the Yankees deficit cut down to 3-1.

Fast forward to bottom of fifth (4-1 Red Sox by then), when Yankees put together a bigger rally. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. With one out, A-Rod worked a walk and Carlos Beltran drilled a ground-rule double to trim the deficit to 4-2. With one out and runners on second and third, Brian McCann hit an RBI groundout and Chris Young hit an infield single to drive in another – a 4-4 tie game. Unfortunately for New York, the team would not be as successful with runners on later in the game.


Getting the lead and spitting it back

Former UConn product Matt Barnes came in for Boston in the sixth to relieve Wade Miley. With two outs, A-Rod took his 95-mph fastball and turned it into a go-ahead home run. That was his first home run since September 15 against the Rays. Also since that game, up to tonight, he had only been hitting .147/.268/.206, which is not great. Hopefully his bat will start to get hot heading into the postseason and beyond. Oh, and Yankees took their first lead of the game, 5-4.

In the bottom of seventh, however, after Justin Wilson got the two first outs, Joe Girardi replaced him with Dellin Betances because why not? That’s how things had been going. However, Dellin allowed a booming, game-tying solo homer to Mookie Betts on a 96-mph fastball right down the middle. 5-5. According to Ian Browne of, that was 96 mph in, 105 mph out. Whoosh.

Missed opportunities

Against Heath Hembree in the seventh, McCann worked a walk and was immediately lifted for Rico Noel because, running. Noel stole second and advanced to third on a long Brett Gardner fly out. Noel did make a big turn at third for maybe a chance to get to home but he didn’t bite. Boy, he’s fast. In the postseason, where late-inning runs can be very, very precious, I’d love to see some Noel pinch-running heroics. Torey Lovullo switched Hembree to lefty Tommy Layne and Yankees countered the move by pinch-hitting for Bird with John Ryan Murphy.

After a 3-2 count battle, Layne got Murphy fishing with a 84 mph slider diving in. Red Sox opted to intentionally walk righty-hitting Refsnyder and face lefty-hitting Didi Gregorius. And, well, Boston’s strategy worked. Didi flew out to strand two runners and kept the score tied at 5-5.

The Yankees’ futile offensive attempts continued into the eighth. Ellsbury walked to lead off but got picked off by Layne. Not ideal. Chase Headley did get on base via walk and A-Rod also walked. All of sudden, here was another good scoring chance for the Yanks. Lovullo brought in the Red Sox closer Jean Machi against Carlos Beltran, who grounded into force out to make it two outs and runners on corners. With it being Brendan Ryan’s turn to hit, Girardi put Dustin Ackley to pinch-hit and … he walked. Yankees had four base-runners reach in that frame by then and none of them were via hits and they did not get any run — Brett Gardner grounded out weakly to leave the bases loaded. That’s 13 runners left on base.

Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless ninth to keep it 5-5. Bottom of ninth, Red Sox put Alexi Ogando to pitch and Murphy led off the frame with a single. However, Refsnyder struck out (after multiple missed bunt attempts), Didi popped out and Ellsbury flew out to waste it. In the tenth, Beltran walked with two outs to put another base-runner on (would also be lifted for pinch-runner Heathcott) but Dustin Ackley flied out to deep left to strand another Yankee base-runner. Yep, in case you haven’t noticed, it’s that kind of night.


Falling apart

Andrew Miller tossed two scoreless so Yankees turned to the next option to keep the game tied in the 11th inning, so they went with Andrew Bailey, the former All-Star. Travis Shaw reached on an infield single but All-Star Brock Holt bunt popped-out for the first out. Bailey battled Swihart to the 3-2 count and allowed a single to put runners in the corner with only one out. The next hitter, Deven Marrero, hit the first pitch just out of reach of Didi and Refsnyder to give Red Sox a 6-5 lead. It was far from over — Girardi brought in Chasen Shreve, whose charm seemed to have ran out lately. With runners on corner, Jackie Bradley Jr. pulled a suicide squeeze to drive another one for a two-run lead. And Mookie Betts connected for his second homer of the game to put the nail in the coffin, 9-5 Red Sox.

Robbie Ross Jr. came into pitch in the bottom of the frame to close it out for the Sox. Gardner led off with a single to keep the hopes alive but Murphy lined out and Refsnyder GIDP’d to end the game. Yankees are stalled out at 9,999 wins for another day.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees and Red Sox wrap up this series Thursday night. CC Sabathia and Rich Hill will be the pitching matchup.

Game 158: Tanaka Returns

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

After a 12-day hamstring-related hiatus, Masahiro Tanaka returns to the mound and rejoins the rotation tonight. And not a second too soon either. The Yankees need to line him up for next Tuesday’s wildcard game, and they need to actually clinch a postseason spot too. That hasn’t happened yet. It can happen tonight though.

For the Yankees to clinch their first postseason berth since 2012 tonight, they first need to beat the Red Sox, and then any two of the following have to happen as well:

– Twins lose (doubleheader at Indians)
– Astros lose (at Mariners)
– Rangers OR Angels lose (Rangers home against Tigers, Angels home against A’s)

Got all that? I miss the days of “you win, this other team loses, and you’re in” clincher scenarios. Life was much simpler before that second wildcard spot came along. Anyway, as long as the Yankees win and two of those other three things happen, they’ll clinch a postseason spot tonight. Gotta take care of the Red Sox first. Here is Boston’s lineup and here is New York’s lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 2B Chase Headley
  3. DH Alex Rodriguez
  4. RF Carlos Beltran
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. LF Chris Young
  7. 1B Greg Bird
  8. 2B Rob Refsnyder
  9. SS Didi Gregorius
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Good news on the weather front: there is only a small chance of rain throughout the night. At this time yesterday the forecast said it was supposed to pour basically all day and night. That hasn’t happened. Hasn’t rained since the late-morning. The sky does look mighty threatening though. Tonight’s game will begin just after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Try to enjoy.

Building the Wildcard Game Roster: Position Players


The Yankees are in position to clinch a wildcard spot very soon, possibly tonight, so it’s time to start thinking about the wildcard game roster. Earlier today we sorted through the pitching staff, trying to figure out which ten or eleven pitchers the Yankees will carry in the wildcard game. It was easier said than done.

Ten or eleven pitchers — my guess is ten, but you never know — leaves 14-15 position player spots to fill. Joe Girardi will have a decent-sized bench at his disposal, but ideally it won’t come into play too much. The starting lineup will decide the game. As we did with the pitchers, let’s go through the position player group and try to figure out who will be on the wildcard game roster next Tuesday.

The Locks

This is the easy part …

Catcher: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy
First Base: Greg Bird
Second Base: ???
Shortstop: Didi Gregorius
Third Base: Chase Headley
Outfield: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran
Designated Hitter: Alex Rodriguez

That’s nine of the 14-15 position player spots right there and they’re all self-explanatory right? Right. That is eighth-ninths of the starting lineup and the backup catcher. All easy calls. Next.

Second Base

For most of the summer, Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan platooned at second base. That is no longer the case. Drew has been dealing with some dizziness/concussion issues that may end his season, but even before that Dustin Ackley wrestled the starting job away from him. Ackley got some playing time, hit right away, and he’s continued to play against right-handers.

Meanwhile, Rob Refsnyder has started each of the Yankees’ last four games against left-handed starters, not Ryan. Chances are Refsnyder will start against lefties Wade Miley, Rich Hill, and Wei-Yin Chen the next three days too. Like Ackley, he got a few at-bats, got some hits, and has received more playing time. That Drew/Ryan platoon was together for 140 games or so. The last 16 have gone to Ackley/Refsnyder.

Smackley. (Presswire)
Smackley. (Presswire)

At this point there is no doubt Ackley will be on the wildcard roster. The rest of the guys is where it gets tricky. Refsnyder is starting against lefties, but would the Yankees actually start him in the wildcard game if they face, say, Dallas Keuchel or Scott Kazmir or Cole Hamels? I get the sense Girardi would stick with Ackley in that situation and just roll with his best player.

If Refsnyder’s not going to start the game, then what’s his role? Pinch-hitter against a lefty reliever. That’s all. I guess he could pinch-run too, but there figure to be other guys on the roster to do that. Refsnyder’s not going to come in for defense. Pinch-hitter against a lefty is a big deal though! It could be the difference in the late-innings of a close game. Given the extra bench spots, I think Refsnyder’s in.

With Ackley and Refsnyder on the roster, the Yankees will need to carry a shortstop-capable backup infielder. Neither of those guys can play short. Not even in an emergency. That leaves a spot for Drew or Ryan. In a vacuum, I’d take Drew over Ryan eight days a week and twice on Sundays. But Drew isn’t healthy and we shouldn’t count on him getting healthy before the wildcard game. He’s still dealing with this dizziness/concussion stuff and has been for almost two weeks now. That puts Ryan on the wildcard game roster along with Ackley and Refsnyder.

The Pinch-Runner

Rico Noel will be on the wildcard game roster. I’m sure of it. One of the benefits of shrinking the pitching staff in the postseason is creating an open roster spot for someone just like Noel. A burner who can come off the bench to pinch-run in the late innings of a close game. Look at Rico run:

The kid can fly and his speed can potentially have a huge impact in the wildcard game. The Yankees brought Noel up this month strictly to pinch-run and I fully expect him to be on the postseason roster. Remember, they carried Freddy Guzman on the postseason roster in 2009 for this exact reason. Noel’s on the wildcard roster. I have no doubt about it.

(Since he wasn’t called up until September 1st, Noel will technically have to be an injury replacement. The Yankees have two position player injury spots available thanks to Mark Teixeira and Mason Williams.)

The Backup Outfielder

Noel will be on the wildcard game roster but he’s not really a backup outfielder. He’s a pinch-runner and that’s all. (The scouting reports indicate Noel is a pretty good defender, but the Yankees haven’t used him defensively all that much.) The Yankees will still need to carry a legitimate backup outfielder if for no other reason than to replace Beltran for defense in the late innings. Chris Young, who is the only righty hitting outfielder on the roster, held that job all season and I expect him to be on the wildcard roster. I know he’s stumped lately, but there’s no reason to think the Yankees won’t carry Young in October. In fact, I’m not sure how you can look at the 39-man active roster and saying Young doesn’t belong on the wildcard game roster. He’s in.

The Final Roster Spot

We still have one last roster spot to fill. The nine locks above plus Ackley, Refsnyder, Ryan, Noel, and Young gets us to 14 position players. I suppose the Yankees could carry eleven pitchers, but I doubt it. It was hard enough coming up with ten pitchers worth a spot on the wildcard roster. One last position player makes sense.

There’s no point in carrying three catchers, so Austin Romine and Gary Sanchez are out. The remaining candidates are Jose Pirela and Slade Heathcott, assuming Drew is indeed done for the year. With Refsnyder on the roster, there’s no need for Pirela, another righty hitter. Yeah, Pirela can play the outfield if necessary, but he’s an emergency option out there only. Noel and Ackley are available as emergency outfielders. I also think Pirela would have played more this month if he was a serious wildcard game roster candidate.

Slade. (Presswire)
Slade. (Presswire)

That leaves it between Heathcott and a possibly but not likely healthy Drew. If Drew is not over high dizziness/concussion symptoms by next week, this questioned gets answered for us. In the unlikely event Drew is healthy though, would it make sense to carry another infielder or another outfielder? I think an extra outfielder makes more sense. Between Ackley, Refsnyder, and Ryan, you’ve got the second base starter and two backups. The only backup outfielder is Young considering Noel’s job is pinch-running.

Heathcott gives the Yankees another potential pinch-runner — he’s no Rico, but he’s faster than Young or Refsnyder — and another quality defender, as well as a left-handed bat on the bench. In fact, Drew and Slade are the only possible lefty bats off the bench, and one’s hurt. Besides, if Drew is healthy, it’s Ryan or Heathcott, not Drew or Heathcott. I’d take Heathcott over Ryan.

With Slade on the roster, the Yankees would have two backup infielders even without Drew (or Ryan), and Heathcott at least has a chance to contribute offensively and defensively. I mean, if Drew’s healthy and on the roster, what’s the point of Ryan? What does he offer in a winner-take-all game? I’d expect neither guy to actually play in the game, but, if pressed into action, it’s easy to see Slade having more potential impact than Ryan.

So after all of that, here’s the 25-man wildcard game roster we’ve kinda sorta pieced together today:

Catchers (2) Infielders (7) Outfielders (6) RHP (5) LHP (5)
McCann Bird Gardner Masahiro Tanaka (SP) Andrew Miller
Murphy Ackley Ellsbury Dellin Betances Justin Wilson
Gregorius Beltran Adam Warren Chasen Shreve
Headley Young Andrew Bailey Chris Capuano
A-Rod (DH) Heathcott Nova/Severino/Pineda CC Sabathia
Refsnyder Noel (PR)

Remember, the Yankees can change their 25-man roster prior to the ALDS should they advance, and they’ll have to change it too. They’d need to get more starting pitchers on the roster. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. One thing at a time.

That appears to be the best 25-man roster the Yankees can carry in the wildcard game. Maybe not the most talented, but the most useful given the circumstances. We’re not planning for a best-of-five or best-of-seven series. It’s one game. One stupid little game where anything can happen. Hopefully Girardi won’t have to use anyone beyond the nine starting position players, Beltran’s defensive replacement, Tanaka, and the big three relievers. That’s the best case scenario. If the Yankees need to dip any deeper into their wildcard game roster than that, then, well, just hang on tight.