It was a bit closer than most would have liked, but the Yankees defeated the Cleveland Guardians in five games to advance to the American League Championship series. The series had some interesting twists and turns, and it will be interesting to see what the Yankees lineup will look like against the Houston Astros.
Let’s start with what we know for sure. We know that Anthony Rizzo, Gleyber Torres, Josh Donaldson, Aaron Judge and Harrison Bader are locked into their positions. Shortstop and left field are up in the air.
All indications are that Andrew Benintendi will not be ready for the ALCS, so he shouldn’t factor into the equation. Aaron Hicks’ season is over due to an injury suffered from colliding with Oswaldo Cabrera in game five, and that’s where it becomes interesting.
The Yankees started Cabrera at shortstop in games four and five, benching Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Due to Cabrera’s ability to play left field, we could see the Yankees put Kiner-Falefa back into the starting lineup. But there are some other possibilities.
Matt Carpenter has been exclusively a pinch hitter so far in the postseason, and it makes sense because Giancarlo Stanton takes up the designated hitter spot. However, the dimensions in Houston present an opportunity to play either Carpenter or Stanton in left field. Much like Fenway Park, there isn’t much grown to cover because of how close the wall is in left field.
Asking Carpenter to be a threat off the bench with the amount of time he has missed is basically putting him in an impossible situation. If the Yankees want to get a sense of whether he can be anywhere near the threat he was earlier in the season, they should try to get him multiple at-bats in one of the games in Houston.
There is no way the Yankees would put Stanton or Carpenter in left field when the series shifts to the Bronx in game three. But if Carpenter gets some level of consistent at-bats in Houston, it could provide more faith in him pinch-hitting in the Bronx.
Due to this being a seven-game series, the Yankees will likely go with 13 pitchers and 13 hitters. It seems like Ron Marinaccio will be on the roster, and there is a chance that Frankie Montas and DJ LeMahieu make it as well. The last remaining question is whether Oswald Peraza will be on the roster. Does the Kiner-Falefa situation change how the Yankees construct their roster?
There are a bunch of questions to be answered, and some of them will remain unanswered when ALCS roster comes out.
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