As we inch closer to the 2019 postseason, we begin to take a look at which pitchers the Yankees may carry on their postseason roster.
The 2019 regular season is coming to a close and before we know it, it’ll be time for October baseball to return to the Bronx for the third straight year, thankfully without the added obstacle of yet another Wild Card Game. The Yankees’ starting pitching has been the team’s weak point at many times this year, which raises the question of how the team will decide which pitchers make the postseason roster.
Some starting pitchers will be at risk of being left off the roster, as most teams only roster three or four starters in the playoffs. The way it stands right now, it seems as if the Yankees probably have 10 pitchers who are locks to make the playoff roster. Domingo German, Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton have been the team’s three best starters this season, and Chad Green, Zack Britton, Adam Ottavino, Tommy Kahnle and Aroldis Chapman have all been key components of the bullpen, with Green also often serving as the “opener” when the team implements a bullpen game. Luis Severino and Dellin Betances have yet to pitch this season due to injury, but both of them are expected to return in September. With Severino being the team’s ace and Betances arguably the team’s top bullpen arm, they will both almost certainly make their way onto the roster as well.
Teams usually keep 12 or 13 pitchers on their postseason roster, meaning that the Yankees should have 2-3 spots still up for grabs. With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the pitchers who could be on the bubble for those last few spots.
Happ was the team’s undisputed top starting pitcher after they acquired him from Toronto at the trade deadline last year, so it made sense for them to bring him back on a two year deal with an option for the third year this past offseason. However, he has been all around abysmal this year so far, posting a 5.58 ERA in 25 starts to date.
In his last outing against the Athletics, he allowed five earned runs in just four innings. It doesn’t help that he struggled mightily in his one playoff start in last year’s ALDS either. Happ is a long shot to make the playoff roster unless he puts together an incredible September.
Sabathia is in the midst of the last season of his illustrious career, and he definitely has a legitimate chance to break the playoff roster. He is far from the pitcher he was in the early stages of his Yankee career and has looked shaky at times this season, but he has been serviceable more often than not.
In his last start against the NL-leading Dodgers, Sabathia pitched four innings of two-run ball, striking out seven batters in the process. Nothing to write home about, but knowing what the Dodgers offense is capable of (and knowing that the team was unlikely to let Sabathia pitch more than five or so innings regardless), not the most terrible line in the world. He may not start a playoff game, but he is definitely someone the team could feel comfortable asking for two innings of relief at some point.
Loaisiga has spent much of this season on the IL with a rotator cuff injury and hasn’t been too effective when he has been on the field, as evidenced by his 5.12 ERA in 19.1 innings across six appearances. Since his debut last year, the team has dabbled with using him as both a starter and a reliever, though now it seems that they’ve concluded that his best role with the team is as a multi inning reliever. He pitched 2.2 innings of relief on Tuesday against Oakland, allowing no runs and just one hit while striking out two of the nine batters he faced.
His numbers this season may not be the best, but his pitch repertoire and “stuff” is incredible when he’s on, and if he can build off Tuesday’s performance across his next few outings, he could pave his path to a potential roster spot for the playoffs.
Nestor Cortes Jr.
Cortes has been a Swiss Army Knife of sorts for the Yankees this year, filling multiple roles within the pitching staff. He has been used as a mop-up reliever in blowout games and a long reliever capable of pitching multiple innings, but he has been most effective when serving as the long man following the “opener” in a bullpen game.
Usually coming into the game in the 2nd or 3rd inning, Cortes has been fantastic as keeping opposing offenses at bay once through the order before giving way to the team’s more talented relievers. He has allowed one or fewer earned runs in 12 of his last 15 appearances dating back to the start of July, recording two wins in the process. If he cracks the playoff roster, one way he could be utilized is right before or after Luis Severino, who is likely to be on a pitch or innings limit due to having spent most of the season on the IL.
After years of fans begging for him to be DFA’d, Cessa is in the midst of the best season of his career so far. Although his ERA is still in the high 4’s, he has still been surprisingly effective for much of the season, as he has allowed one or fewer earned runs in 26 of his 34 appearances. Like Loaisiga and Cortes, he has also been capable of going more than one inning, as he has recorded five or more outs in 21 of his 34 appearances.
However, he is still rather unreliable and goes through very bad stretches at times, including from August 12-18 when he allowed seven earned runs in 5.2 innings across three appearances, which equates to an ERA north of 11. While Cessa has been reliable at times and has definitely shown improvement from previous years, whether he makes the playoff roster will likely be largely based on how his last few outings of the regular season go.