The postseason is here at last, with the Yankees having achieved their first objective of calling themselves champions of the American League East. Eleven more victories separate the Bombers from hoisting their first World Series trophy since 2009, with the first three of those needing to come against the Twins in an AL Division Series that is scheduled to begin on Friday evening in The Bronx.
• ALDS presented by Doosan, Game 1: Friday, 7 p.m. ET on MLB Network
General manager Brian Cashman said that the club is likely to use every available minute between now and Friday morning to set its roster for the ALDS. Cashman and assistant general manager Michael Fishman accompanied the Yanks for their final regular-season series in Arlington, where they huddled with manager Aaron Boone to go over that possible roster, including heavy input from the analytics staff.
“We’ve gone through a lot of permutations, but we have not made any decisions as of yet,” Cashman said on Sunday. “I think we’re going to take as much time as we need. We might have to take all that time to really get all of the information necessary for us to make the final, official call.”
As they continue to crunch the numbers, here is our final prediction for the Yankees' 25-man roster that will begin their quest through October:
Catchers (2): Gary Sánchez, Austin Romine
Sanchez returned from a left groin strain during the final series of the regular season and caught twice, including six innings on Sunday. That gives Sanchez and the Yankees confidence that he is ready to serve as their starting catcher during the ALDS.
Romine provides a capable understudy, but the Yanks will be counting on Sanchez to provide thump and lengthen their dangerous lineup, coming off a season in which he slugged 34 homers in 106 games. Sanchez’s defense, particularly his ball-blocking ability, have improved markedly after serving as a hot discussion topic one season ago.
On the bubble: Kyle Higashioka
Infielders (6): Edwin Encarnacion, Didi Gregorius, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, Tyler Wade
Two developments have impacted our thinking here. One, though Encarnacion was not able to return from his left oblique strain during that final series in Texas, he is expected to participate in simulated action this week at Yankee Stadium. Encarnacion believes that will be enough to prove he is ready to swing the bat at full force. He says he’s between 80 and 85 percent so far.
Two, Luke Voit finished the season in a 1-for-32 tailspin, with 13 strikeouts. He said that the sports hernia is not a factor, but Voit really hasn’t seemed like the same player since the London Series in June. The Yanks seem covered at first base between Encarnacion and LeMahieu, which could make Voit a luxury to keep on the bench. What’s more, Mike Ford is in the conversation as well, though we believe the Yanks are going to opt for an extra pitcher instead.
On the bubble: Thairo Estrada, Ford, Voit
Outfielders (4): Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin, Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton
This appears to be set, as Stanton returned from the injured list to bat .286/.382/.571 with two doubles, two homers and six RBIs in nine September games. Here’s our fearless prediction: There will be at least one game during this postseason when Stanton delivers in a big spot, something we’ll refer to as “The Stanton Game.” Wait and see.
Stanton seemed to have no issues patrolling left field following his right knee injury, Gardner should see almost all of the innings in center field and the same will be true for Judge in right field. Maybin’s ability to play all three positions will free Boone to give Stanton a few innings off, or to use him as a designated hitter if desired.
On the bubble: Clint Frazier
Starting pitchers (3): James Paxton, Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka
The Yanks set their pitching for the final series of the regular season as Paxton-Severino-Tanaka, though Boone said that does not necessarily indicate they’ll be set that way for the ALDS. Paxton remains the likely choice as the Yanks’ Game 1 starter, despite being limited to 21 pitches in his final regular-season start by nerve irritation in his left glute.
Severino had some bumps in his third outing, following nine scoreless innings over his first two starts of the year. The Yankees are contemplating using Chad Green as an opener in the ALDS -- and that could come before Tanaka, something they tried on Sunday and that Tanaka said he would be fine with.
With Games 1 and 2 to be played in New York, it’s important to remember that Tanaka has pitched much better at home (3.10 ERA in 16 starts) than on the road (6.05 ERA in 16 games, 15 starts). Then again, that dips to a more manageable 4.06 ERA if you take out his three road starts against the Red Sox, including the one in London where he didn’t get out of the first inning.
Relief pitchers (10): Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Green, J.A. Happ, Jonathan Loaisiga, Tyler Lyons, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, CC Sabathia
In each projection prior to now, we’ve had the Yankees taking 12 pitchers, as they did in last year’s ALDS. That is shifting to 13, as Boone’s bullpen handling in the season’s final week suggested that they are entertaining the idea of carrying an additional relief pitcher over a position player (again, the odd man out could be Voit, who seems redundant if Encarnacion is healthy).
The new addition could be the left-handed Lyons, whom Boone said has “opened eyes” since rejoining the club in early September. In his final appearance, Lyons was summoned to handle a two-on, one-out jam against the Rangers. Lyons extinguished the threat, striking out Shin-Soo Choo, loading the bases on an intentional walk and then getting Willie Calhoun to pop out.
The late-inning mix is a lock, with Britton, Kahnle and Ottavino advancing the ball to Chapman. Sabathia and Happ lend veteran presence to the mix, with the ability to pitch long relief or in shorter stints. Green could be utilized as an opener or in the middle innings.
On the bubble: Nestor Cortes Jr., Cory Gearrin, Ben Heller, Stephen Tarpley
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.