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.

Yanks have found a productive new second base platoon late in the season

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

For much of the summer, we couldn’t help but focus on second base. The Yankees are locked into their starters at every other position and Stephen Drew was unproductive for long stretches at a time, so finding an upgrade was a reasonable idea. Whether that upgrade was Rob Refsnyder or Jose Pirela or a trade target, it made sense to look for a new second baseman.

Instead, the Yankees stuck with Drew all summer and he’s put up a .201/.271/.381 (76 wRC+) batting line in 428 plate appearances. That’s a long leash. Drew platooned with Brendan Ryan for much of the second half, and while Drew’s production ticked up later in the summer, the No. 9 spot in the lineup was still an eyesore. For the most part the rest of the offense picked up the slack, allowing the Yankees to carry the Drew/Ryan platoon and their defense.

The second base picture has changed over the last two weeks or so. Trade deadline pickup Dustin Ackley, who got hurt almost immediately after being acquired, returned from the DL and hit his way into a regular lineup spot. Ackley has been really awesome in an extremely limited number of at-bats. He’s holding his own in the field — to be fair, he is being lifted for a defensive replacement on the regular — and taking aim for the short porch. It’s working.

Ackley has wrestled the starting job away from Drew, and lately Joe Girardi has been using Refsnyder against lefties. Refsnyder started against the three White Sox lefties over the weekend, started against Eduardo Rodriguez last night, and will probably start against Wade Miley and Rich Hill in the coming days as well. Refsnyder has hit in his recent limited action — 5-for-12 (.417) with a double — even though the Yankees aren’t scoring a ton of runs.

“It’s a kid that in the past has swung pretty good against left-handers and since we’re seeing so many of them, I put him in there. He’s done a decent job,” said Girardi to Ryan Hatch. Outside of a four-game cameo back in July, the Yankees didn’t Refsnyder much of a chance this season, not even earlier this month, but they’re doing it now and it’s better late than never. Ackley? He took the job from Drew almost immediately after getting healthy. That happened even before Drew’s bout with dizziness and a possible concussion.

The Yankees have gone from six games up in the AL East on August 1st to five games down today, and a tumble down the standings like that wouldn’t have been prevented by changing second baseman earlier this season. Too much other stuff has gone wrong. The new second base platoon can help the Yankees going forward though, and at this point of the season that means October. The Yankees will clinch a wildcard spot in the coming days in all likelihood.

“I think it’s too early (to talk about the postseason second base situation). We’ve liked the way (Refsnyder)’s swung the bat and defensively he’s done a good job, so I’ll continue to give him more opportunities,” said Girardi to Chad Jennings over the weekend. My guess is lefty or righty, Ackley will start the wildcard game at second base because Girardi will simply go with his best players. It would be a real shock to me if the kid with 30-something big league at-bats started a winner-take-all game.

The offense has been stumbling of late and, for once, it’s not because of second base. The unproductive Drew/Ryan platoon has been replaced by Ackley/Refsnyder, who’ve both hit. Will it last? Who knows. It’s working right now and that’s all that matters. The season ends Sunday and the postseason is right around the corner. It only has to work for a few more weeks. The Yankees finally have a new second base platoon, and it’s better late than never.

Yankees have little use for Refsnyder now, but that is not necessarily the case long-term

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Last week the Yankees called up seven players from Triple-A Scranton when rosters expanded, not including Dustin Ackley, who was activated off the DL. Five of those seven players have since appeared in a game with the Yankees. One of the two who didn’t is Austin Romine, the third catcher who was only called up because Gary Sanchez‘s hamstring acted up at the wrong time.

The other is second baseman Rob Refsnyder, the team’s top prospect at the position. The Yankees called him up very briefly earlier this season — Refsnyder played four games in July with the All-Star break mixed in — but otherwise stuck with the Stephen Drew/Brendan Ryan platoon at second. Drew has picked it up of late, but boy, he was pretty unproductive for much of the summer. Ryan had his moments too, but he’s back to being an offensive black hole.

So, when Refsnyder was called up last week, it seemed he would at least take some platoon at-bats away from Ryan. That hasn’t happened. Drew started against Henry Owens last week, Ryan started against Matt Moore over the weekend, and Jose Pirela started against Wei-Yin Chen yesterday. All lefties yet no Refsnyder. In two pinch-hitting opportunities against lefty relievers over the last week, Joe Girardi turned to Pirela.

Refsnyder’s usage — or lack thereof — has been surprising this season, at least from the perspective of those who expected him to get a shot at the second base job had Drew struggled for much of the summer, which he did. (He had a sub-.250 OBP as late as June 20th. Yeesh.) Drew didn’t hit last year, and didn’t hit early this year, so it made sense the Yankees would turn to their Triple-A second base prospect, right? Well, no. That didn’t happen.

At this point, it’s becoming obvious there is something more to Refsnyder’s lack of big league work than “we want him to improve his defense.” A few weeks ago Mike Francesa said some of the team’s veteran players didn’t appreciate Refsnyder’s attitude and/or arrogance during his July cameo — that report has not been confirmed, though I highly doubt anyone on the roster would throw a teammate under the bus — and his post-send down comments didn’t exactly put out the fire either.

“I wasn’t expecting this, but I had a great experience,” said Refsnyder to Dan Martin after being sent back down in July. A rookie with four games in the show probably shouldn’t be saying he didn’t expect to get sent down. I know it sounds silly, but literally every other player in the clubhouse has been in the “just got called up and now I’m trying to stick around” situation, and hearing a kid with that little MLB time say he didn’t expect to be sent down could rub some the wrong way. I get it.

Of course, the team’s decision to not give Refsnyder an extended look could be performance based. When they called him up in July, he was hitting .290/.387/.413 (137 wRC+) at Triple-A. He then hit .238/.307/.392 (100 wRC+) after being sent down. The end result was a .271/.359/.402 (123 wRC+) batting line in 522 Triple-A plate appearances this year, and I hate to break it to you, but that’s not good for a bat first prospect. I mean, it’s good, but that’s not forcing the issue. Pirela hit .329/.402/.406 (139 wRC+) after his last demotion, for comparison.

Do the Yankees not trust their young players? Please. That’s a lazy and outdated complaint. Greg Bird is playing everyday right now and Luis Severino is in the rotation. When Jacoby Ellsbury got hurt, Slade Heathcott came up. When Heathcott got hurt, Mason Williams came up. Just about every young Triple-A and Double-A reliever was called up at some point this summer. The Yankees have done nothing but turn to their young players this season, for better or worse.

And yet they haven’t given Refsnyder an extended opportunity. They aren’t even giving him platoon at-bats this month. Doesn’t that say a lot about his standing in the organization? At least from the “can he help us win during this postseason race?” point of view? I think it does. The Yankees are very good at self-evaluating — who’s the last young player they traded that they really regret? — and they have way more information that us. It would be kinda silly to call them dumb for not playing Refsnyder in a playoff race. They’re smarter than us.

None of this means Refsnyder is not in the team’s future plans, however. We shouldn’t assume that. He doesn’t fit into their plans right now. Next season? Who knows. There’s an entire offseason looming. Refsnyder could be given the second base job out of Spring Training next year, he could be trade bait, or he could be asked to continue working on his defense in Triple-A. There’s something keeping the Yankees from turning to Refsnyder right now, in September 2015. That thing may not exist next year.

For now, it seems Refsnyder will be nothing more than a spectator and the equivalent of a position player mop-up man. Drew has been hitting of late and his defense has always been there. Pirela had a better season than Refsnyder in Triple-A, is more versatile, and has a tiny bit more MLB experience. That’s why he’s ahead of Refsnyder on the second base depth chart. That’s understandable, right? Refsnyder’s not some kind of elite prospect. He’s a flawed prospect who happens to fill a position of need. If the Yankees thought he could help, he’d be getting a chance right now. But there are better options on the roster. The Yankees have made that clear.

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

Bailey. (
Bailey. (

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.

DotF: Ackley doubles in first minor league rehab game

Got a bunch of notes to pass along, via Chad Jennings, Bryan Hoch, and Brendan Kuty:

  • C Gary Sanchez suffered a hamstring injury running out a double play ball last night and has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL. Sanchez was on track to be the third catcher when rosters expand Tuesday. Stinks. Consider this a reminder to never hustle, kids. Gotta think the Yankees will go with Austin Romine as the third catcher now. They’ll need to clear a 40-man spot for him.
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder will be called up when rosters expand, but OF Aaron Judge will not. “We’re not going to bring somebody just to bring them. In Judge’s case, there’s currently not a need,” said Brian Cashman. Also, there’s no point in adding him to the 40-man roster yet.
  • LHP Jacob Lindgren (elbow) is on a throwing program but is not yet throwing bullpen sessions, so right now he is unlikely to return to the big leagues next month. The Yankees could put him on the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot for someone else though.
  • The Arizona Fall League rosters will be announced next Tuesday, according to Josh Norris. Lindgren and Eric Jagielo (knee) seem like good bets for the AzFL to make up for lost time, if healthy. Maybe LHP Ian Clarkin (elbow) too, but that seems unlikely.
  • Congrats to Rookie Pulaski manager Tony Franklin, who was named the Appalachian League Manager of the Year. Also, 2B Gosuke Katoh, OF Carlos Vidal, and LHP Nestor Cortes were named to the league’s end-of-season All-Star Team.
  • And finally, make sure you check out Norris’ article on SS Hyo-Jun Park. Park, 19, signed for $1.2M out of South Korea as part of last summer’s international spending spree, and he has impressed on both sides of the ball in his pro debut this year.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (5-0 win over Lehigh Valley) makeup of last Thursday’s rainout

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB — he’s hitting .383/.432/.642 in his last 30 games … wowza
  • 2B Jose Pirela: 2-4, 1 R
  • DH Dustin Ackley: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K — first rehab game … my guess is he stays here until Monday, then rejoins the Yankees when rosters expand Tuesday, assuming his back holds up
  • RF Aaron Judge: 1-2, 1 RBI, 1 BB — September pinch-runner candidate OF Rico Noel pinch-ran for him late in the game and stole a base
  • LF Slade Heathcott: 2-3, 2 RBI
  • C Austin Romine: 0-2, 1 BB
  • LHP Chaz Hebert: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 3/13 GB/FB — 64 of 88 pitches were strikes (73%) … that is one hell of a spot start for the kid who spent most of the year with High-A Tampa … he was up to help out during the doubleheader

[Read more…]

Yankees have no shortage of candidates for September call-ups this year

Didi and Slade. (Presswire)
Didi and Slade. (Presswire)

Twelve days from now, the Yankees and every other team in baseball will be able to expand their rosters and carry up to 40 active players. September call-ups are somewhat controversial, lots of people don’t like seeing the final month of the season played with different rules, but I’m a fan of expanded rosters. Players get worn down during the course of the season, so the extra bodies in September are welcome.

For the 2015 Yankees, expanded rosters will be about much more than adding a third catcher or some spare arms for blowouts. They will be in position to add some real weapons to the roster even though most call-ups will be used in limited roles. Still, adding the extra players will be very beneficial. The Yankees have used their depth quite a bit this season and next month they’ll be able to have everyone on the roster at once.

During an interview with YES over the weekend, Brian Cashman said the player development staff has been told to prepare for mass call-ups on September 1st, so the Yankees won’t waste any time. They’re not going to wait for the Triple-A postseason to end or anything like that. The big league team is the priority and the Yankees are going to call guys up as soon as possible. Here’s a breakdown of who we will and could see next month.

Locks To Be Called Up

During that YES interview, Cashman said “any and all” of the relievers who have been shuttled up and down this summer will return in September, and it’s a long list. Caleb Cotham, Nick Goody, Branden Pinder, and Nick Rumbelow are the notables. (Rumbelow is up right now but that could change in a day or two the way things have been going this year.) Those are four extra arms on the 40-man roster who will be able to soak up any miscellaneous innings.

On the position player side, Slade Heathcott and Jose Pirela are safe bets to be called up to serve as the extra outfielder and extra infielder, respectively. Both are still on the 40-man and were up earlier this year — Pirela was sent down due to performance, Heathcott got hurt — and both offer different things. Heathcott adds speed and defense, Pirela offers versatility and another right-handed bat. Heck, I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Heathcott snuck onto the potential postseason roster as a pinch-running specialist.

Called Up If Healthy

Lindgren. (Presswire)
Lindgren. (Presswire)

Bryan Mitchell was just placed on the 7-day concussion DL after taking a line drive to the face, though earlier this week Joe Girardi told Chad Jennings there’s a chance Mitchell will be back in the bullpen within a week. That sounds … optimistic. Either way, Mitchell will be on the roster in September if he’s healthy. No reason to expect otherwise. He’s been on the 25-man roster for a big chunk of the year already.

Righty Chris Martin and lefty Jacob Lindgren are both on the Triple-A DL with elbow problems and figure to return in September, if healthy. Lindgren had surgery to remove bone spurs and the Yankees have said they expect him to return this year, so it’s just a question of whether he gets through his rehab in one piece. The nature of Martin’s injury is unknown. We’re just going to have to wait and see whether he’s healthy and able to pitch in September.

The Obligatory Third Catcher

Cashman confirmed the Yankees will call-up a third catcher because duh. Every team brings up a third catcher. The only catcher on the 40-man roster aside from Brian McCann and John Ryan Murphy is Gary Sanchez, who has hit a bit of a wall with Triple-A Scranton after crushing the level immediately after his promotion. Austin Romine has had a nice year too, but he’s not on the 40-man roster. My guess is Sanchez gets the call as the third catcher but rarely catches, sorta like Jesus Montero in 2011. (Also, Romine would require clearing a 40-man spot.) That is especially true if the race for a postseason spot goes right down to the wire, as expected. Sanchez might only catch in blowouts or after the team clinches all it can clinch.

Likely To Be Called Up, But Not Locks

There’s really only one player in this category: Rob Refsnyder. He’s had a good year in Triple-A, not a great year, and his brief four-game cameo in pinstripes earlier this year was a bit of a mixed bag. Some good, some not so good. There have been unconfirmed reports floating around that the Yankees were less than enthused with Refsnyder’s attitude during his call-up — not so much that he didn’t work hard, but that he was arrogant and acted entitled — and I suppose the club could keep him down in September as something of a wake-up call. My guess is Refsnyder comes up and takes second base platoon at-bats away from Brendan Ryan. I just wouldn’t put his chances at a call-up at 100%. Maybe it’s more like 95% or so.

Unlikely To Be Called Up

Among the healthy 40-man roster players, the only one who I think has less than a 50/50 chance of getting a September call-up is Tyler Austin. Another righty bat would be neat, but Austin’s had a very rough year and was recently demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton. Players who have struggled like Austin usually don’t get called up unless there’s no other option. There’s a “reward” aspect to being a September call-up, and he didn’t earn this year.

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

The biggest name among non-40-man players is Aaron Judge, the team’s top prospect. The Yankees added both Refsnyder and Greg Bird to the 40-man early and called them up this year, but they were both performing in Triple-A. Judge has been striking out a ton of late and he won’t be Rule 5 Draft eligible for another few years, not another few months. I would be surprised if the Yankees tied up another 40-man spot by adding Judge. His time will come eventually. Just probably not this September.

Other non-40-man players I don’t expect to be called up in September: Ben Gamel, Brady Lail, James Pazos, and Johnny Barbato. Lail and Barbato just reached Triple-A and there are too many arms ahead of them on the depth chart to add them to the 40-man roster early. Gamel’s had a breakout season and I wouldn’t necessarily put his call-up chances at 0%. Heathcott will fill the “extra lefty hitting outfielder” role though, and I’m not sure the Yankees should clear a roster spot to add another. Pazos could be a victim of the number’s crunch more than anything. There simply might not be any room for another lefty reliever.

The Non-40-Man Wildcard

The non-40-man player who I think has the best chance of being called up in September is Andrew Bailey. He’s working his way back from shoulder surgery and been able to stay healthy for a few weeks now, plus he’s pitched effectively in all sorts of situations (back-to-back days, multiple innings, etc.) in the minors. The Yankees have put a lot of time and effort into helping him rehab these last two years, remember.

Cashman admitted Bailey was recently held out of a Triple-A game in case he needed to be called up to help the tired bullpen, but that didn’t happen. Bailey wasn’t needed. That they’ve already come thisclose to calling Bailey up this month leads me to believe they will bring him to the show once rosters expand. Bailey hasn’t pitched in MLB since getting hurt in July 2013. It’s been a long and difficult road back. Hopefully he stays healthy these next two weeks and gets the call in September.

The 40-Man Situation

The 40-man roster is full right now. It’s actually extra full. The Yankees have four players on the 60-day DL (Sergio Santos, Diego Moreno, Mason Williams, Chase Whitley) and none of them will be ready to be activated in September following their season-ending surgeries. The Yankees will need to clear a spot to call up, say, Bailey or Romine, and there are a few ways to do that.

First and foremost, the Yankees could call up an injured 40-man roster player and place them on the 60-day DL. Martin (elbow) and Domingo German (Tommy John surgery) are two candidates for that move. The Yankees haven’t done the call-up/60-day DL thing often — they did it with Justin Maxwell and Heathcott a few years ago, that’s pretty much it — but it is an option. Not wanting German to accumulate service time is understandable. Martin though? Who cares. Of course, he’d have to actually be hurt to pull this move. Can’t 60-day DL a healthy player.

Figueroa. (Presswire)
Figueroa. (Presswire)

The Yankees could always outright or designate a player for assignment to clear 40-man space. There just aren’t many obvious candidates. Perhaps they’ll decide to cut Chris Capuano again in September since they’ll have all the extra relievers and won’t necessarily need a long man. Cole Figueroa could also get the axe, especially if Refsnyder does get called up and/or Dustin Ackley gets healthy. Martin? He could lose his 40-man spot if healthy as well.

Capuano, Figueroa, and Martin are the three main 40-man casualty candidates. It would be a surprise if the Yankees dropped someone like Austin, Pirela, or Cotham from the roster. Those guys are probably the next three in line, if anything. Aside from Bailey and maybe Romine, the Yankees don’t figure to need any 40-man spots this September, though they could clear two with the call-up/60-day DL move. We’ll see.

* * *

Once September rolls around, the Yankees will obviously add a bunch of pitchers and a third catcher, plus a few extra position players. The extra arms will be a huge help, the bullpen has worked a ton this year, and Refsnyder could really help if he gets those platoon at-bats instead of Ryan. If not him, then Pirela. Also, Heathcott could be a factor as a defensive replacement/pinch-runner.

No one in their right mind is an expecting major impact from a September call-up — guys who do what Francisco Rodriguez did in 2002 are extremely rare — but they can help in limited roles. Those extra pitchers and platoon bats and pinch-runners are valuable in their own way. Given how tight the AL East race is at the moment, every little upgrade helps. September call-ups this year will be about more than resting regulars in blowouts.

Saturday Links: A-Rod, Best Tools, 810 River Ave., CLEAR

(Tom Pennington/Getty)
(Tom Pennington/Getty)

The Yankees and Blue Jays resume their three-game series early this afternoon. Until then, check out these stray links and news items to help you pass the time.

Pre-game ceremony for A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit

This is rich. The Yankees will hold a special on-field pre-game ceremony for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th career hit later this season, the team announced. It’ll be held Sunday, September 13th, before the team’s 1pm ET game against the Blue Jays. They ask you to be in your seats by 12:30pm ET. So just a few weeks after refusing to pay A-Rod his $6M home run milestone bonus because they claimed it was unmarketable, the Yankees are honoring Alex for his 3,000th hit. Guess they’re hoping for a late-season attendance bump.’s farm system rankings

Jim Callis posted his updated ranking of the top ten farm systems this week, and the Yankees placed tenth. I’m not sure where Callis had the Yankees coming into the season, but most other publications had them in the 18-25 range. “New York has position prospects at every spot on the diamond, including speedy shortstop Jorge Mateo (No. 99), sweet-swinging second baseman Robert Refsnyder and slugging catcher Gary Sanchez,” wrote Callis. I don’t know if the Yankees truly have a top ten system yet — this is just one person’s rankings, of course — but the system is clearly on the rise, even if Severino graduates to the big leagues before the end of the season.

Baseball America’s Best Tools

Baseball America published their annual Best Tools survey this week, in which they poll managers, coaches, scouts … basically everyone about the best players and best tools in their individual leagues. Several Yankees players and prospects appeared throughout the survey, so here’s a quick rundown:

All of the surveys are free, you don’t need a subscription, so click the links and you can read through each category and each league. Obviously this is all very subjective — I can’t imagine there are many Yankee fans who consider Gardner the best bunter in the AL — but I’ve always found it interesting and fun to see who coaches and scouts feel have the best skills.


New apartment tower being built next old Yankee Stadium site

According to Ondel Hylton, a new 17-story apartment building is being built on River Ave. between 157th and 158th Streets, on the old Ball Park Lanes site. (The bowling alley closed years ago.) The 134-unit building at 810 River Ave. is right across the street from the old Yankee Stadium site and is a few blocks away from the new Stadium. The neighborhood was re-zoned for buildings up to 30 stories back in 2009, and this is the first new high-rise going up in the area. Construction started in May.

CLEAR comes to Yankee Stadium

As you know, MLB mandated all 30 ballparks must have metal detectors at the entrances this season, which is a total pain. Couldn’t be any less convenient and, frankly, it doesn’t make me feel any safer. (Not that I’ve ever felt unsafe at a game, but that’s besides the point.) The Yankees recently partnered up with CLEAR to expedite the process, the team announced. It’s the same biometrics technology they use at airports for TSA pre-check. You can sign up at Gate 4, and, if approved, you’ll be able to simply scan your finger at a designated fast access lane and skip the whole metal detector process. Yankee Stadium is the third stadium with CLEAR technology, joining AT&T Park and Coors Field. So if you’ve ever wanted that airport experience at a ball park, this is your lucky day!