The Up & Down Position Players [2015 Season Review]

Run run Rico. (Presswire)
Run run Rico. (Presswire)

The big league roster portion of our 2015 Season Review series is winding down, and now it’s time to wrap-up the position players with the extras. The up-and-down guys who saw brief time in the Bronx this year. Every team goes through a few of these players each season and the Yankees are no different. Here are the final few position players who saw action in pinstripes in 2015.

Cole Figueroa

Last offseason the Yankees inked Figueroa to a minor league contract because they needed some infield depth in Triple-A. They didn’t have any obvious shortstop or third base options for the level, so Figueroa was brought in. He played a bunch in Spring Training — .269/.321/.308 in 23 Grapefruit League games — but never really had a chance to make the team, so off to Triple-A Scranton he went at the end of camp.

Figueroa, 28, started the season as the everyday third baseman for the RailRiders, and he had himself a nice little start to the season: .291/.357/.382 (118 wRC+) with two home runs in 68 games through June. He’s not a power hitter, he’s a contact guy — Figueroa had a 5.4% strikeout rate and an 8.6% walk rate in those 68 games — and he was holding up his end of the bargain.

In early July, when Chase Headley was dealing with a minor calf issue, the Yankees called up Figueroa because his left-handed bat and solid defense made him a capable stopgap. Figueroa started two games with New York, going 2-for-4 with two doubles on July 9th and 0-for-4 on July 10th. Those two doubles helped the Yankees take the lead then tack on some insurance runs in an eventual win over the Athletics.

The Yankees sent Figueroa back to Triple-A after those two games and he remained there the rest of the season, playing mostly shortstop. He was designated for assignment on September 1st to clear 40-man roster spot for other call-ups. Figueroa finished the year with a .292/.355/.359 (108 wRC+) batting line and more walks (8.7%) than strikeouts (5.3%) in 121 Triple-A games. He became a minor league free agent after the season. It wasn’t much, but Figueroa did help the Yankees win a game in 2015.

Rico Noel

Noel, who spent the 2010-15 seasons in the Padres’ farm system, asked San Diego for his release in June because he wanted to look for a better opportunity. According to Billy Witz, he approached the Yankees about a possible pinch-running role in September. The team agreed and signed him to a minor league deal even though it was the middle of the summer.

Noel, 26, spent a few weeks with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton, rarely starting. He was instead getting accustomed to his September role. The Yankees used Noel as a pinch-runner and spot starter in the minors — Noel was an everyday guy for most of his career and they wanted him to get used to sitting on the bench all game before coming in to pinch-run — before calling him up on September 1st.  He went 5-for-50 (.100) with 13 steals in 17 attempts in the minors.

Noel made his big league debut on September 2nd, but not as a pinch-runner, as a defensive replacement in right field. His lineup spot came up with a runner on third and two outs in the eighth inning of a hectic back and forth game at Fenway Park, and with Noel literally standing in the batter’s box, Joe Girardi called him back to the dugout for a pinch-hitter. It worked, the run was driven in, but man, that’s harsh. Noel was in the batter’s box for his first MLB at-bat when he was lifted.

Over the next few weeks Rico was limited to pinch-running duty only. He pinch-ran 12 times in the final month of the season, going 5-for-7 in stolen base attempts and scoring five runs. Noel was successful in each of his first five attempts. He finally got his first big league at-bat on October 3rd, on the second to last day of the season. Rico beat out an infield single for his first career hit.

Noel batted again in Game 162, so he went 1-for-2 for the Yankees and stole five bases in a dozen pinch-running assignments. He was on the wildcard game roster but the team didn’t generate much offense against Dallas Keuchel and the Astros, so Rico didn’t get into the game. The Yankees dropped Noel from the 40-man roster after the season and he elected free agency. He remains unsigned.

Gregorio Petit

Thanks to a sudden rash of injuries, the Yankees were short a utility infielder at the end of Spring Training, so they made a cash trade with the Astros to get Petit on April 1st, five days before Opening Day. The 30-year-old Petit made the Opening Day roster and actually played. He started seven of the team’s first 15 games (!) and pinch-hit three other times. April was weird.

Girardi used Petit as a platoon partner for Stephen Drew and he didn’t hit (3-for-20 in those 15 games), which wasn’t unexpected. Petit’s a glove-first infielder who happened to hit right-handed. He did, however, come up with a rather big bases clearing double against David Price and the Tigers on April 22nd. Unexpected!

Petit was optioned to Triple-A Scranton on April 28th to make room for spot starter Chase Whitley, then he was called back the next day when Masahiro Tanaka landed on the DL. He hung around until early-May, when he himself was placed on the DL with a right hand contusion after being hit by a pitch. When Petit was activated almost six weeks later, the Yankees sent him to Triple-A.

Petit spent most of the rest of the season with the RailRiders but he did make another big league cameo in late-June and early-July. The Yankees eventually designated Petit for assignment on July 25th, clearing a 40-man roster spot for Nick Goody. Petit cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment, then spent the rest of the summer with the RailRiders.

In 20 games with the Yankees, Petit went 7-for-42 (.167) with three doubles and 16 strikeouts while playing second and third bases. He also hit .230/.264/.322 (65 wRC+) in 46 Triple-A games. Petit became a minor league free agent after the season. Can’t imagine many have gone from a non-roster invitee with the Astros to the Yankees’ Opening Day roster in the span of five days like Petit.

Pirela. (Presswire)
Pirela. (Presswire)

Jose Pirela

When Brendan Ryan went down with a calf injury in Spring Training, it opened the door for the 26-year-old Pirela to make the Opening Day roster. He had a monster camp — .370/.433/.630 in 15 Grapefruit League games — before crashing into the center field wall and hitting his head on the warning track near the end of spring.

Pirela suffered a concussion and missed the first six weeks of the regular season. His injury plus Ryan’s injury led to the Petit pickup. Pirela, an infielder by trade, had plenty of outfield experience in the minors and winter ball, he just got turned around and landed hard. Sucks.

Once he returned to the team, Pirela more or less replaced Petit as Drew’s platoon partner, and he hit quite well in limited time. At least at first. He went 5-for-14 (.357) in his first four games before falling into a 6-for-29 (.207) slump. Pirela’s not a great defender anywhere on the field, so if he’s not hitting, he has no value to the Yankees. The team sent him to Triple-A in mid-June.

Pirela spent most of the rest of the summer in Triple-A, though he did get another chance in late-June/early-July, going 3-for-23 (.130) in eleven games. He was called up when rosters expanded in September and went 3-for-8 (.375) down the stretch. He was the pinch-hitter who replaced Noel in what would have been Rico’s first at-bat. On October 4th, Pirela grounded out to second base against Zach Britton for the final out of the 2015 regular season.

All told, Pirela hit .230/.247/.311 (47 wRC+) with one homer in 37 games and 78 plate appearances for the Yankees this summer. That includes a .302/.333/.419 (106 wRC+) batting line in 45 plate appearances against southpaws. Pirela played second base and the two corner outfield spots for New York, and also hit .325/.390/.433 (142 wRC+) in 60 Triple-A games.

The Yankees traded Pirela to the Padres for minor league righty Ronald Herrera early last month. Brian Cashman admitted the move was made to clear 40-man roster space. Rather than designate Pirela for assignment and potentially lose him for nothing, they flipped him for a non-40-man roster pitching prospect. If nothing else, the Pirela trade shows the Yankees are pretty confident in Rob Refsnyder as the primary right-handed hitting second base option.

* * *

Special shout-out goes to outfielder Taylor Dugas, who was called up to the big leagues for two days this summer but didn’t actually play. Carlos Beltran was nursing an oblique strain, and the Yankees didn’t want to place him on the 15-day DL just yet, but they couldn’t recall Ramon Flores because he’d just been sent down and the ten-day rule was still in effect. Dugas, who hit .235/.336/.279 (84 wRC+) in 82 minor league games in 2015, got the call instead.

The 25-year-old Dugas was added to the 40-man roster and called up on July 1st, optioned down on July 3rd, designated for assignment July 9th, and outrighted to Double-A Trenton on July 12nd. Sounds crummy, but two days in the bigs is a huge deal for a organizational player like Dugas. He got two days of big league pay (roughly $5,600!) and now has access to a great health care program for himself and his family for life. No, Dugas didn’t get to play, but those two days changed his life for the better.

DotF: Sanchez continues to put up big numbers in AzFL

C Gary Sanchez was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game last weekend, going 1-for-3 with a two-run home run off Rockies LHP Kyle Freeland, the eighth overall pick in the 2014 draft. Sanchez also threw out a runner trying to steal second. Eric Longenhagen said he clocked his pop time at 1.82 seconds. That’s nuts. A 1.9-second pop time is great. The videos are above. Sanchez been a monster in the AzFL.

In other news, Matt Eddy has posted this year’s collection of six-year minor league free agents. Here are the Yankees farmhands now on the open market:

RHP: Andury Acevedo (AAA), Scottie Allen (AA), Joel de la Cruz (AAA), Diego Moreno (AAA), Wilking Rodriguez (AAA), Cesar Vargas (AAA)
LHP: Jose De Paula (AAA), Aaron Dott (AA)
C: Francisco Arcia (AA), Juan Graterol (AAA), Kyle Higashioka (AAA)
3B: Cole Figueroa (AAA)
SS: Ali Castillo (AAA), Jose Rosario (AA)
OF: Ericson Leonora (Hi A), Rico Noel (AAA)

1B Kyle Roller also became a free agent, says Eddy. Moreno, de la Cruz, DePaula, Figueroa, and Noel all spent time with the Yankees this past season. (De La Cruz was called up but didn’t pitch.) Allen was acquired from the Diamondbacks for Juan Miranda way back in the day. Castillo is probably the best prospect of the bunch but he’s a fringy light-hitting utility type at best. Good prospects don’t get to minor league free agency.

Thanks to the minor league free agents and the recent UTIL Jose Pirela trade, the crop of Yankees farmhands playing winter ball thinned out considerably this week. Here’s the weekly update.

Arizona Fall League

  • OF Tyler Austin: 18 G, 18-16 (.269), 11 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 9 BB, 16 K, 7 SB, 2 K (.269/.355/.463) — very quietly tied for fourth in the AzFL in steals
  • OF Dustin Fowler: 12 G, 15-48 (.313), 11 R, 2 2B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K, 7 SB (.313/.340/.417) — tied with Austin for fourth in steals
  • C Gary Sanchez: 18 G, 23-77 (.299), 12 R, 4 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 3 BB, 16 K, 4 SB, 1 CS, 1 HBP (.299/.329/.619) — leads the league in homers and RBI by two each … last time someone hit 7+ homers in the AzFL was 2011, when Robbie Grossman (seven) and Mike Olt (13!) both did it … Sanchez has another week to pad his total
  • SS Tyler Wade: 14 G, 9-41 (.220), 6 R, 2 2B, 6 RBI, 6 BB, 7 K, 2 SB, 1 CS (.220/.313/.268) — life outside Single-A ball has been tough
  • RHP Domingo Acevedo: 6 G, 0 GS, 10 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 2 HB (2.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP) — all three runs came in one outing, so his other five appearances have been scoreless
  • LHP Ian Clarkin: 5 G, 5 GS, 20.1 IP, 26 H, 13 R, 13 ER, 13 BB, 12 K, 2 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (5.75 ERA and 1.92 WHIP) — looks like he has one start left in the AzFL season
  • LHP Chaz Hebert: 5 G, 0 GS, 11.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 9 BB, 9 K, 1 WP (2.38 ERA and 1.41 WHIP) — Eric Longenhagen said Hebert topped out at 91 mph with a low-80s slider, an upper-70s changeup, plus a cutter in the Fall Stars Game … on the 20-80 scouting scale, Longenhagen gave the changeup a 55, the slider a 50, and the cutter a 45 … 50 is MLB average so that’s three pitches right at average … that’s really good!
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 8 G, 0 GS, 10 IP, 12 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 1 WP (7.20 ERA and 1.50 WHIP) — he’s making up for lost time after missing the second half with a finger injury

Dominican Winter League

  • IF Abi Avelino: 1 G, 0-1, 1 K — appeared in one game two weeks ago and hasn’t played since … believe it or not, that’s pretty common in the Caribbean winter leagues … they’re very competitive and he may have been dropped from the active roster because the team didn’t think he could help them win
  • SS Jorge Mateo is listed on a roster but has not appeared in a game yet. At this point, I’m guessing he won’t play at all. He had a long season and he ended the year on the DL, remember, so the Yankees can hold him back from winter ball.

Mexican Pacific League

  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 12 G, 0 GS, 8 IP, 14 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 4 BB, 12 K, 2 HR, 1 WP (11.25 ERA and 2.25 WHIP) — woof
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 6 G, 6 GS, 30.2 IP, 24 H, 15 R, 14 ER, 17 BB, 20 K, 2 HR, 2 HB, 1 WP (4.11 ERA and 1.34 WHIP)

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico)

  • IF Cito Culver: 6 G, 2-19 (.105), 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K (.105/.150/.105)
  • RHP Bryan Mitchell: 3 G, 3 GS, 13.1 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 5 BB, 11 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (2.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP) — the season doesn’t end until early-January but I don’t think Mitchell will pitch that long … either way, there’s still time for him to make a few more starts and throw a few more innings after working out of the bullpen for much of the regular season
  • 2B Angelo Gumbs is listed on a roster but has not appeared in a game yet.

Venezuelan Winter League

  • OF Ben Gamel: 23 G, 22-82 (.268), 8 R, 4 2B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 10 BB, 17 K, 3 SB, 1 CS (.268/.337/.427) — between the regular season and winter ball, he’s up to 152 games played this year … long season
  • OF Teodoro Martinez: 28 G, 28-105 (.267), 14 R, 2 2B, 2 3B, 11 RBI, 4 BB, 12 K, 2 SB, 2 HBP (.267/.304/.324) — he’s still in the organization apparently … the Yankees signed him out of an independent league at midseason when they needed some healthy outfielders and that’s not usually a job with a lot of staying power
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 5 G, 0 GS, 5 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 1 WP (5.40 ERA and 1.80 WHIP) — remember when he was nursing that sub-1.00 ERA early in the season?
  • RHP Jaron Long: 6 G, 6 GS, 33.2 IP, 36 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 7 BB, 15 K, 2 HR, 2 WP (2.94 ERA and 1.28 WHIP) — he’s up to 188.1 innings on the year
  • RHP Mark Montgomery: 11 G, 0 GS, 9.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 5 BB, 13 K, 1 HR (6.52 ERA and 1.34 WHIP) — relief prospects will break your heart
  • IF Thairo Estrada is listed on a roster but has not yet played in a game.

Yankees outright Rico Noel to Triple-A Scranton

Run run Rico. (Adam Hunger/Getty)
Run run Rico. (Adam Hunger/Getty)

We have our first roster move of the offseason. This afternoon the Yankees announced outfielder Rico Noel has been outrighted to Triple-A Scranton, so he remains in the organization, but as a non-40-man roster player. I think Noel will be a minor league free agent after the season, however.

Noel, 26, was called up in September to serve as the designated pinch-runner. He pinch-ran 12 times, stole five bases, and scored five runs. Noel also went 1-for-2 at the plate, beating out an infield single for his first and so far only big league hit. The Yankees signed Noel in the middle of the season after he asked the Padres for his release.

I’d like to see the Yankees keep Noel next year so he can pinch-run again in September — gosh, is this kid fast or what? — but if he can become a minor league free agent, then he should go out and look for a better opportunity. The Yankees have a ton of upper level outfield depth in the minors.

There are now 39 players on the 40-man roster, though the Yankees still have six players on the 60-day DL. They’ll have to be activated after the World Series. There’s no DL in the offseason.

Refsnyder, Heathcott, Sanchez all make Wildcard Game roster

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Rosters for the 2015 AL wildcard game were due at 10am ET this morning, and shortly thereafter the Yankees officially announced their 25-man squad for their first postseason game in three years. Here is the Astros’ roster and here is the Yankees’ roster for tonight’s winner-take-all game at Yankee Stadium:

PITCHERS (9)
RHP Dellin Betances
LHP Andrew Miller
RHP Bryan Mitchell
RHP Ivan Nova
LHP James Pazos
RHP Luis Severino
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
RHP Adam Warren
LHP Justin Wilson

CATCHERS (3)
Brian McCann
John Ryan Murphy
Gary Sanchez

INFIELDERS (7)
2B/OF Dustin Ackley
1B Greg Bird
SS Didi Gregorius
3B Chase Headley
2B Rob Refsnyder
DH Alex Rodriguez
IF Brendan Ryan

OUTFIELDERS (6)
RF Carlos Beltran
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
LF Brett Gardner
OF Slade Heathcott
PR Rico Noel
OF Chris Young

I’m glad the Yankees took only nine pitchers. There’s really no need for more than that. Plus it’s not like the Yankees are swimming with options right now. CC Sabathia is unavailable after checking into rehab and next in line is probably Andrew Bailey, who wasn’t too good during his September cameo.

Both Severino and Nova started Saturday, so they aren’t fully available tonight. Today is their usual between-starts throw day, so they can probably give an inning or two, maybe three if they’re really efficient, but I doubt it would be much more than that. Obviously the plan is Tanaka to Wilson to Betances to Miller. Anything other than that is probably bad news.

Sanchez had only two garbage time at-bats at the end of the regular season, and the fact he is on the roster suggests the Yankees may start Murphy against the left-hander Dallas Keuchel. Murphy starts, McCann takes over once Keuchel is out of the game, and Sanchez is the emergency catcher. Sanchez could also be a pinch-hitter or DH option if A-Rod gets lifted for Noel at some point.

The rest of the roster is pretty self-explanatory. As I said this morning, I think Young will start tonight’s game, likely in place of Gardner. Young has good career numbers against Keuchel and Joe Girardi loves his head-to-head matchups. Gardner figures to come off the bench as soon as Keuchel is out of the game though. With any luck, no one outside the starting lineup and big three relievers will be used.

Workout Day Notes: Eovaldi, Capuano, Shreve, Beltran

Today is an off-day around baseball, but both the Yankees and Astros held a workout at Yankee Stadium this afternoon. Needless to say, CC Sabathia checking into rehab was the big story. Everyone in the organization stood behind him, from Brian Cashman to Joe Girardi to his teammates. “We play for CC now,” said Alex Rodriguez.

While Sabathia’s announcement dominated the workout today, there is some other news and notes to pass along. Here’s the important stuff from today’s workout:

The wildcard game rosters do not have to be made official until 10am ET tomorrow. An official announcement should come around that time.

Building the Wildcard Game Roster: Position Players

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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)
Drew/Ryan

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.

Bailey, Refsnyder, Romine among first wave of September call-ups

Bailey. (MLB.com)
Bailey. (MLB.com)

11:45am ET: To clear the three 40-man roster spots, the Yankees transferred Domingo German to the 60-day DL and designated both Tyler Austin and Cole Figueroa for assignment, the team announced. German, who is out following Tommy John surgery, was technically called up to MLB for the first time and placed on the DL. He’ll get big league pay for a month. Good for him. Austin has had a poor year (92 wRC+) and the Yankees have a ton of upper level outfield depth. That made him expendable.

9:30am ET: Following last night’s loss, the Yankees announced their first wave of September call-ups, and the list runs eight players deep. They wasted no time beefing up the roster. The eight players: catcher Austin Romine, infielder Rob Refsnyder, outfielder Rico Noel, utility men Dustin Ackley and Jose Pirela, righties Andrew Bailey and Caleb Cotham, and lefty James Pazos. They’ll all be active tonight.

Technically, Ackley is being activated off the 15-day DL. He’s missed the last month or so with a back problem and had been rehabbing with Triple-A Scranton the last few days. Everyone else was simply called up. Refsnyder, Pirela, and Cotham were all up earlier this year while both Bailey and Romine have been up in previous years. Noel and Pazos are big leaguers for the first time.

Bailey, 31, has not pitched in MLB since July 2013 due to a biceps injury and shoulder capsule surgery. The Yankees signed him prior to last season knowing he was unlikely to pitch, rehabbed him, brought him back this year, and will now hopefully be rewarded for their patience. Bailey had a 1.80 ERA (2.87 FIP) with good strikeout (29.8%) and walk (7.8 BB%) numbers in 35 minor league innings this year.

It’ll be interesting to see how Joe Girardi uses Bailey this month. He’s not the typical September call-up fodder — this a former All-Star, remember. His minor league performance was good and I’m sure the team’s reports on his stuff were good too, otherwise he wouldn’t have gotten called up. Will Bailey step right in and assume a late-inning role or be eased back into things? We’ll see. He’ll remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2016, by the way.

Pazos, 24, was the team’s 13th round pick in the 2012 draft. He would have been Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, so the Yankees are getting a head start on things by adding him to the 40-man roster. Pazos had a 1.27 ERA (2.39 FIP) with a good strikeout rate (28.8%) and a perhaps too high walk rate (8.8%) in 42.2 minor league innings this year.

The southpaw is a hard-thrower — PitchFX data from the 2013 Arizona Fall League says Pazos averaged 94.3 mph and topped out at 96.4 mph — with a good slider, so he’s an actual prospect. A bullpen prospect, but a prospect nonetheless. Pazos has a little funk in his delivery too. Here’s some video:

With Andrew Miller, Justin Wilson, and Chasen Shreve ahead of Pazos on the left-handed reliever depth chart, I expect Pazos to work in super low-leverage spots this months. This is just to get his feet wet at the big league level so he can prepare to ride the bullpen shuttle next season. Phil Coke turned a 2008 September call-up into a 2009 MLB roster spot. Pazos will try to do the same.

The 26-year-old Noel will be the team’s pinch-running specialist down the stretch. Maybe he’ll play some late-inning defense too, but nothing more. He is the 2015 version of 2009 Freddy Guzman. Pirela, Cotham, Romine, Ackley, and Refsnyder are all spare parts. Romine will be the barely used third catcher and Cotham will soak up garbage time innings. I suppose Pirela and/or Refsnyder could take second base platoon at-bats away from Brendan Ryan.

The eight call-ups require the Yankees to clear three 40-man roster spots. Refsnyder, Ackley, Pirela, and Cotham are all already on the 40-man, plus the team has one open spot after designating Chris Capuano for assignment the other day. The Capuano spot will go to one of Noel, Bailey, Romine, or Pazos. The Yankees need to clear 40-man spots for the other three. Those moves will be announced later today.

The fact Slade Heathcott, Chris Martin, and Cole Figueroa were not called up from Triple-A Scranton suggests they may be on the chopping block. Tyler Austin was not called up from Double-A Trenton, though that wasn’t surprising. Jacob Lindgren (elbow) and Domingo German (elbow) could be called up and placed on the 60-day DL, which would clear 40-man spots but also allow them to accrue service time.

Either way, the Yankees suddenly have a nine-man bench — well, eight-man bench with Mark Teixeira sidelined — and a ten-man bullpen. It’ll become a 12-man bullpen in a few days when Nick Goody and Nick Rumbelow are recalled. (They were sent down last week and can not be brought back for ten days.) The Yankees wasted no time making their call-ups. The regulars are still going to play everyday because the team is in a division race, but the extra bodies have arrived.