Now that the Yankees have clinched a playoff berth, attention turns to their wild card-game roster.
We can guess at the composition of most of that 25-man roster, beginning with about 16 sure things:
C Brian McCann
C John Ryan Murhphy
1B Greg Bird
SS Didi Gregorius
3B Chase Headley
OF Carlos Beltran
OF Jacoby Ellsbury
OF Brett Gardner
OF Chris Young
DH Alex Rodriguez
P Masahiro Tanaka
P Dellin Betances
P Andrew Miller
P Justin Wilson
P Adam Warren
Beyond those 15, the Yankees will likely carry two additional starting pitchers, in case of emergency, and might as well bring along pinch-running specialist Rico Noel, bringing our total to 18 (seven pitchers, 11 position players). Throw in three more relievers (Rumbelow? Shreve? Capuano? Bailey? Pinder? Pazos? Does it even matter?) and we’re down to four spots, which will likely all go to position players.
Which brings up to the central question of Yankee wild-card-game roster-building: Which and how many of the Yankees’ five second basemen will be tabbed for a spot.
This decision will come down to two key variables. 1) Is Stephen Drew healthy? and 2) Is the opposing starting pitcher right-handed or left-handed?
Here are the contingencies.
1. If Drew is healthy and a right-hander is on the mound, the Yankees will start Drew and carry Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder off the bench.
Drew was the Yankees’ starting second baseman all season, so if he’s fully healthy (and we’ll get to that in a minute) he likely gets the start. Refsnyder will come along to pinch-hit against a lefty, and Ackley adds positional versatility. It’s possible the Yankees would take Brendan Ryan instead of Ackley, valuing late-game defense over offensive pop and positional versatility.
2. If Drew is NOT healthy and a right-hander is on the mound, the Yankees will start Ackley and carry Refsnyder and Ryan off the bench.
This one is pretty straightforward. If Drew can’t go, the left-handed Ackley gets the nod against a righty, with Refsnyder available to pinch-hit and Ryan waiting to enter as a defensive replacement.
3. If Drew is healthy and a left-hander is on the mound, the Yankees will start Refsnyder and carry Ackley and Drew off the bench.
Given how well the right-handed-hitting Refsnyder has performed in September, he’ll clearly get a start against a lefty, with Ackley there for his versatility and ability to pinch-hit against a righty. The only question with this scenario is whether Drew or Ryan gets the final spot. There’s a strong argument that because Ackley will be available as a bat off the bench, the Yankees can worry exclusively about defense for the final spot and opt for Ryan, but Drew is no slouch in the field either and is a better hitter.
4. If Drew is NOT healthy and a left-hander is on the mound, the Yankees will start Refsnyder and carry Ackley and Ryan off the bench.
If Drew can’t play, Ryan comes along as a defensive sub essentially by default.
It is somewhat possible that if Drew is healthy the Yankees would roster all four of those second basemen (and theoretically possible they would take Jose Pirela if Drew isn’t ready to go). Yes, Ackley can also play the outfield, but Joe Girardi would probably be wiser to carry Slade Heathcott in case of emergency than to bring along a fourth second baseman.
As for which scenario is most likely… Joe Girardi said Friday that Drew is “doubtful” to return, so the Yankees will prepare to move forward without him. The Astros will likely start Dallas Keuchel, pitching on three days rest for the first time in his career.
That means the best bet for Tuesday’s game is a lineup featuring Rob Refsnyder, a rookie with 39 career plate appearances, at second base.
(Photo: Jonathan Dyer-USA Today Sports)