The New York Yankees will play their first postseason game on Tuesday. It could be in Minnesota, Chicago, or Cleveland (or Tampa… but let’s hope not), but regardless, the quest for #28 will take place entirely away from the Bronx. Given the circumstances, every team’s road to a championship will be extremely difficult this year. What will it take for the Yankees to accomplish their ultimate goal? Here’s what the Yankees need from every player in order to be a threat in October.
D.J. LeMahieu: Keep doing what he’s been doing. The guy just hits (he’s competed for the AL batting title both years in New York). It’s unbelievable.
Aaron Judge: Be the world-beating, MVP candidate we saw early on in 2020. If the Yankees expect to make a deep postseason run, Judge needs to be a huge part of that.
Giancarlo Stanton: The Yankees need Stanton to be patient, take walks, and when his pitch comes, hammer it. Don’t want him trying to do too much and striking out four times a game.
Luke Voit: Don’t let the recent slide get to him. Voit’s been one of the best players in baseball this year, no reason he shouldn’t mash in the postseason, too.
Gleyber Torres: I would love for Gleyber to heat up and hit like the guy we saw in ALCS Game 1 last year. My main concern right now, however, is his defense. He doesn’t need to be Ozzie Smith, but he absolutely has to make the routine plays.
Aaron Hicks: Take walks, hit for some power, play a Gold-Glove caliber center field.
Gio Urshela: Gio just needs to keep putting the bat on the ball. He’s currently on a 13-game hitting streak, and it would be great to see him carry that momentum going into Tuesday.
Clint Frazier: Clint should feel confident going into October. He’s turned a lot of heads this year, enough to be named the starting left fielder by Aaron Boone. He’ll probably be hitting near the end of the lineup, so it’ll be crucial for him to get on base in front of guys like DJ, Judge and Stanton.
Gary Sanchez/Kyle Higashioka: We’re going to see Higgy catch Gerrit Cole’s starts, but I think Gary will get the nod in every other playoff game. The most crucial responsibility both of these guys have is to call a good game and keep the opposing batters guessing. If they can do that, anything they do with the bat is a plus.
Gerrit Cole: Be the best pitcher in the playoffs. That’s what the Yankees gave him $324 million for. Whether he’s facing likely AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber, Lucas Giolito, Kenta Maeda or one of the Tampa stud starters in Game 1, Cole needs to outduel them. It’s that simple.
Masahiro Tanaka: Be playoff Tanaka. His regular season inconsistencies mean little to Yankee fans given how dominant he’s been in the postseason. His start in Game 2 will either come with the Yankees up 1-0 with a chance to advance with a win, or down 0-1, fighting to keep their season alive.
J.A. Happ: The Yankees need Happ to keep pitching how he has been. What a turn of events for Happ this season. From having an ERA approaching double-digits and complaining that the Yankees are skipping his starts, to potentially being entrusted with starting a win-or-go-home game. Baseball is crazy.
Deivi Garcia: Deivi needs to continue pitching with the confidence we’ve seen from him thus far. He may be 21, but he pitches with the presence of a seasoned veteran. Whether it’s as a starter or a reliever, the Yankees need Garcia to step up this postseason.
Jordan Montgomery: Montgomery will only get a start if the Yankees make it to the ALCS. However, he could be called upon before then to get a tough lefty out. It’s been a mixed bag for Monty in 2020. There’s no time for that in the playoffs, though.
Aroldis Chapman: Throw strikes and dominate. Have trust in his stuff. If the Yankees are to have a chance in October, they’ll need dominant Chapman, and not the guy we saw blow a pair of saves to the Mets this season.
Zack Britton: The Yankees will rely heavily on Britton this postseason, maybe sometimes for a handful of days in a row. They need him to be dominant.
Chad Green: Be the fireman. In 2017, we saw Green come into the AL Wild Card Game in the first inning. With one out, runners on second and third, and the Yanks already down 3-0, Green struck out the next two Twins to keep the game close. In my mind, if Aaron Boone feels the game slipping away, he has to go to Green ASAP — no matter what inning it is.
Adam Ottavino: Be the guy we pay him to be. Ottavino has mostly been a shell of himself since late in 2019. He was brutal last postseason, and has had some bad moments this season as well. You can see it on his face sometimes, the guy is petrified on the mound. Throw strikes, use that power slider, strike batters out. With Tommy Kahnle out, it’s crucial for Ottavino to be effective this postseason.
Jonathan Loaisiga/Jonathan Holder/Luis Cessa: Step up. These three guys will all be crucial to the Yankees’ postseason success. As I just mentioned, the Yankees are down Kahnle, and Ottavino hasn’t been great. There are no off days in any postseason round until the World Series. If the Yankees make a deep run, expect to see all three of these guys in some high leverage situations.
Clarke Schmidt: Schmidt will start the Yankees’ final game of the season on Sunday. If it goes well, I expect him to make the playoff roster. Whether it’s as a starter or a reliever, he’ll need to come through when his number is called.
Tyler Wade: Wade is a weapon as a pinch runner. It’s very plausible he could run for Voit because of his foot stuff late in games. Wade would then play second, and LeMahieu would move to first. Wade could also potentially replace Gleyber at shortstop late in games, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.
Brett Gardner: Gardner will likely be another pinch running weapon that subs in for Frazier defensively most games. However, it isn’t out of the question to think he could start a few playoff games.
Mike Tauchman: I can’t envision a scenario where Tauchman gets playoff at-bats. He’ll be on the roster for defense, and defense only.
Miguel Andujar/Mike Ford: I don’t see either of these guys making the roster. Maybe if Montgomery is left off for the Wild Card round, one of these two would replace them. Regardless, I’m not sure who you would pinch hit either of them for. But crazier things have happened.
What are your thoughts? Do your expectations differ from mine? Is there someone I missed that you’d like to see on the postseason roster? Let me know: @ncostanzo24.