Late March is the most absurd part of the baseball calendar. Every media outlet obsesses over who’s going to make the roster— which player will win the final bullpen spot or fourth outfielder job. The transiency of a modern roster renders the discussion foolish. Through the first 91 games of the season, the Yankees have already used 64 different players. Last year, they used 68 of them in a 60-game season. All the players who “miss the cut” at the end of Spring Training will have just as big a role on the team as the ones who beat them out.
Sometimes, roster fluidity causes bizarre circumstances. Such is the case when seven players landed on the IL immediately following the All-Star break— six due to COVID and one Luke Voit because of more knee trouble. Here are some screenshots of Roster Resource’s Yankee page on Sunday morning (by the way, it’s a great site worth bookmarking). It will undoubtedly have changed by the time this article publishes because that’s how rosters work. Sometimes all you can do is laugh (so you don’t cry), and this is one of those moments.
Behold! The 13 position players on the New York Yankees active roster:
If you had predicted what the July 18 roster would look like back in March, you would have gotten no more than six of them correct. Gary Sánchez, Giancarlo Stanton, Gleyber Torres, and perhaps Tyler Wade are the only ones right where they’re supposed to be, setting aside the circumstances surrounding Torres batting fifth. DJ LeMahieu leading off makes sense, but playing third base was not the intention. Brett Gardner batting sixth as the starting center fielder would have been a head-scratcher.
It’s possible to have envisioned Chris Gittens as the starting first baseman or Greg Allen in right field, but that would have meant they are without their two best hitters from 2020 (hopefully not for long). The same goes for Rob Brantly, who has been their nominal third catcher all year. Trey Amburgey and Hoy Jun Park were never big-time prospects, but they’re solid minor leaguers who sort of aged into a Quadruple-A role. Park has played 295 games at shortstop, 225 at second base, and five in the outfield in his minor league career, so of course, he made his MLB debut in right field.
That leaves the two trade acquisitions: Rougned Odor and Tim Locastro. Ten years ago, the Yankees’ #3 hitter was Robinson Canó in his prime. 60 years ago, Roger Maris’ hit 61 home runs from the third spot in the lineup. 100 years ago, Babe Ruth led them to their first World Series from the three-hole with a .512 OBP and 59 home runs. Now it’s Odor, a player cut by the moribund Texas Rangers. Locastro has been a great story with a gruesome ending. His torn ACL necessitates yet another roster move before today’s game.
Speaking of 100 years ago, a three-man rotation would’ve been perfectly acceptable in 1921. The Yankees lost that best-of-nine World Series in eight games, with Waite Hoyt and Carl Mays starting six of them. In the present day, it’s basically a shrug emoji that says, “We have no idea who’s starting next.” Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Jordan Montgomery in the rotation are to be expected. Domingo Germán is the only other active pitcher who has been a starter this year. He threw 17 pitches in relief on Friday, but with an off-day Monday, he could still rejoin the rotation on Tuesday or Wednesday. Bear in mind, he lost his starting gig for a reason though.
Setting aside the fact that Zack Britton has thrown only 4 1/3 innings and Aroldis Chapman is actually on hiatus from the closer role, the rest of this bullpen looks fairly normal. It’s the most transient part of the roster, and everyone listed was expected to play a part at some point in the season.
The Injured List of Doom
If the pitching staff was “yikes,” this is quintuple yikes.
On paper, the injured Yankee position players look more formidable than the healthy lineup. They surely need Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela, and especially Aaron Judge back in action as soon as possible. Also Aaron Judge.
As strange as it seems, the pitcher they miss most of all is Nestor Cortes. It’s quite clear the starting pitching is sparse in his absence. Jonathan Loaisiga has been one of their most valuable relievers as well. The biggest boost of all would be the return of a healthy Luis Severino, but we haven’t really seen him take regular turns through the rotation in three years.
The 1931-1933 Yankees set a major league record with nine future Hall of Famers on their roster. It’s hard to pick out more than four players with any shot at the Hall on the 2021 team, including one on the IL. This club more closely resembles the frenetic schedule at Penn Station than Murderers Row. It helps to take a picture every so often before everything changes.