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    Coles: Yankees Rolling to Playoffs, but Logjam Questions Loom

    A big part of the Yankees’ success story this season has been their replacements. From Gio Urshella to DJ LeMahieu to Austin Romine and to Mike Tauchman, the Yankees have been able to fill the gaps of their roster. Yes, D.J LeMahieu did not start the season. But the mainstays are making their ways back to the Bronx. While Dellin Betances and Luis Severino have potential to be big-time additions to the Yankees pitching staff, the big hitters returning are going to create a logjam on the Yankees’ roster.

    Those big hitters are Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, and Edwin Encarnacion. The problem? Two of those players are outfielders, and two are first basemen. To get a better understanding of the Yankees’ roster today, specifically their starting lineup, let’s look at their opening day starting nine:

    1. Brett Gardner CF
    2. Aaron Judge RF
    3. Giancarlo Stanton LF
    4. Luke Voit DH
    5. Miguel Andujar 3B
    6. Gary Sanchez C
    7. Greg Bird 1B
    8. Gleyber Torres 2B
    9. Troy Tulowitzki SS

    Since this lineup was rolled out Andujar had season-ending surgery, Tulowitzki retired, Bird is nowhere to be found and Gio Urshela, Didi Gregorius and D.J Lemahieu made their ways to the Bronx and produced.

    Even beyond that, they added Edwin Encarnacion, Stanton has played 9 games all season, Voit has been out since July and Aaron Hicks has not been able to stay healthy. What this all culminates in are tough decisions for the Yankees as they head into October.

    First of all, it’s hard to imagine that D.J LeMahieu’s spot at the top of the order is anywhere close to in jeopardy. Can you believe he wasn’t a starter from the beginning? He has slashed .330/.377/.525 with 21 home runs and 86 RBI. He’s the only Yankee in the top 30 in WAR at 4.4, good for 18th best in baseball. So we can basically slot him into the infield the rest of the way. The real question is where?

    Who Gets the Bench?

    Gio Urshela

    Does Gio Urshela get flexed out of the lineup? Probably, but even that could cause some raucous if Voit or Encarnacion fail to produce upon arrival. In 110 games Urshela is slashing .333/.373/.564 with 18 home runs and 66 RBI. He is third on the team with 3.0 WAR, behind DJ and Gleyber Torres.

    Brett Gardner

    What about Gardner? When Hicks returns is Gardy out of the lineup? That’s also tough to believe. He’s 4th on the team in WAR at 2.8. He has defied his age to slash .253/.332/.478 with 17 home runs and 51 RBI. He’s also undoubtedly a leader on this team, and it’s hard to be a leader when you are not on the field.

    Aaron Hicks

    But it’s also hard to just keep Hicks on the bench, too. He’s one of the better center fielders in baseball defensively and his services could be much needed. But then why can’t Gardner just move over to left? That’s because Giancarlo Stanton is nearing a return. I know many people will say to just bench Stanton for the rest of the season. But is that really a sound strategy? I’m not so sure.

    Voit or Encarnacion?

    And then there’s the abundance of depth at the first base position. Luke Voit and Edwin Encarnacion, both on the IL, are going to return prior to season’s end. Both players are having productive seasons. Voit is slashing .278/.392/.493 and Encarnacion is still mashing home runs. But one would think that they should both be in the lineup.

    Some of the Variations

    So the Yankees are going to have a problem, albeit a good problem to have when everyone is finally healthy. Here are some variations of Yankees lineups when fully healthy. The lineups are in no truly specific order, it’s just more to see who can play where.

    One: Without Hicks and Urshela

    1. DJ LeMahieu 3B
    2. Aaron Judge RF
    3. Giancarlo Stanton LF
    4. Didi Gregorius SS
    5. Gary Sanchez C
    6. Gleyber Torres 2B
    7. Edwin Encarnacion 1B
    8. Luke Voit DH
    9. Brett Gardner CF

    Two: Without Stanton and Urshela

    1. DJ LeMahieu 3B
    2. Aaron Judge RF
    3. Didi Gregorius SS
    4. Edwin Encarnacion 1B
    5. Gary Sanchez C
    6. Gleyber Torres 2B
    7. Aaron Hicks CF
    8. Brett Gardner LF
    9. Luke Voit DH

    Three: Without Gardner and Urshela

    1. DJ LeMahieu 3B
    2. Aaron Judge RF
    3. Giancarlo Stanton LF
    4. Didi Gregorius SS
    5. Edwin Encarnacion 1B
    6. Gary Sanchez C
    7. Gleyber Torres 2B
    8. Aaron Hicks CF
    9. Luke Voit DH

    Four: Without Voit and Gardner

    1. DJ LeMahieu 1B
    2. Aaron Judge RF
    3. Giancarlo Stanton LF
    4. Didi Gregorius SS
    5. Edwin Encarnacion DH
    6. Gary Sanchez C
    7. Gleyber Torres 2B
    8. Aaron Hicks CF
    9. Gio Urshela 3B

    Five: Without Encarnacion and Gardner

    1. DJ LeMahieu 1B
    2. Aaron Judge RF
    3. Giancarlo Stanton LF
    4. Didi Gregorius SS
    5. Luke Voit DH
    6. Gary Sanchez C
    7. Gleyber Torres 2B
    8. Aaron Hicks CF
    9. Gio Urshela 3B

    There are many variations to be had, but one thing is for sure, the Yankees have a lot of difficult decisions to make. The returns of Stanton, Voit, Hicks, and Encarnacion mean playing time for one of those four as well as one of Urshela or Gardner is going to be reduced at the biggest point of the season. Sure, this is a good problem to have, but I actually don’t know how true that is given the nature of the team and the Yankees fan base and media scrutiny. Especially in regards to Stanton and Voit, if they aren’t producing the Yankees are going to be answering questions all season as to why they put them out there after having potentially better options.

    The Bottom Line

    There are 11 players that can be big parts of this postseason run but only nine can be in the lineup at one time. The eleven are:

    1. DJ LeMahieu
    2. Aaron Judge
    3. Giancarlo Stanton
    4. Didi Gregorius
    5. Gary Sanchez
    6. Gleyber Torres
    7. Edwin Encarnacion
    8. Luke Voit
    9. Brett Gardner
    10. Aaron Hicks
    11. Gio Urshela

    Tough decisions are ahead for the Yankees.

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