Fall is Coming! We're almost to September, which means the Yankees will be able to call up as many as fifteen new players. This year's group is a lot more exciting than the last few, where quite a few 40-man spots were taken up by players who were clearly not yet ready for the major leagues.
Who should we expect?
On September 1st: Domingo German, Ben Heller, Tyler Austin, Luis Cessa, Jonathan Holder, Caleb Smith, Kyle Higashioka, Miguel Andujar
These guys have all played some time in the major leagues this season due to injury or the bullpen shuttle. All should be valuable assets on the major league team. Tyler Austin, Kyle Higashioka, and Miguel Andujar are all arguably better than many of the team's current bench options. Caleb Smith will be auditioning for a role as LOOGY for the postseason. Domingo German could make a spot start or two, but I'm very interested to see what he can do in one-inning stints. Luis Cessa, as always, is DFA bait, but we'll get to that soon.
It's become conventional wisdom lately that September call ups are unfair, because they allow some teams to play a very different game during the month. The Yankees look to be one of those teams who will benefit the most from the expanded roster, especially once Starlin Castro, Greg Bird, CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, and Clint Frazier get back, adding Tyler Wade, Ronald Torreyes, Jordan Montgomery, and one of the outfielders to the bench.
Andujar, in my book, is the most interesting player here. There's a very good chance that he is better than either Todd Frazier or Chase Headley right now. I'm a little surprised that the Yankees haven't called him up already.
After the Minor League Playoffs: Ronald Herrera, Giovanny Gallegos
These guys are promising young pitchers who should never have been asked to pitch in the majors leagues in 2017. They were on the 40-man to protect them from the Rule V draft. The Yankees may choose not to call them up given the huge number of players above, but Gallegos at least as earned a shot with his insane numbers at Triple-A this year (1.69 ERA/1.71 FIP, 42%/6% K/BB). If the Yankee bullpen weren't so stacked, I'd call him a sleeper to be this year's K-Rod.
40-Man Addition Candidates: Billy McKinney, Jake Cave, Mike Ford
McKinney and Cave are in almost exactly the same boat. Both have had otherworldly seasons at Triple-A. Cave has hit .349/.395/.636 (186 wRC+). He's had a pretty strong platoon split, hitting .350/.393/.659 against righties this season. I don't think there's any doubt that Cave would be in the majors on a team with a less stacked outfield. He's also good enough in the outfield to fake it in center. He deserves a September call-up. McKinney is a little less clear, but has still been excellent this season. He's at .331/.366/.669 (184 wRC+) in 35 Triple-A games with poorer defense.
I've been beating the Mike Ford drum for awhile, so I won't belabor the point here. He's clearly behind a bunch of players on the internal Yankee depth chart: Frazier, Cooper, Austin, Choi, Bird. However, I'm pretty convinced that Ford is a better hitter than all but Bird at this point. We won't see him in the majors as a Yankee.
All three are Rule V eligible this offseason. The Yankees don't have a lot to lose by adding them to the 40-man roster early (although strictly speaking they are more likely to retain them by exposure to the Rule V draft than on waivers). I'd love to see all three given shots off the bench in New York.
The Coming Rule V Bloodbath: Chance Adams Isn't Coming Up
Let's talk about Chance Adams for a minute here. He's clearly the best pitcher currently pitching for the Yankees in the minor leagues. While he has had some flaws (elevated walk rate, average strikeout rate), the results have been dominant for him. At the very least, Adams is an interesting temporary relief pitcher conversion.
However, I'm betting Adams does not get called up this year. As mentioned above, the Yankees have more young relief pitchers than they could possibly use efficiently in September. The Yankees have been reluctant to call him up all season, and I think I know why: Adams is not Rule V eligible this offseason; a ton of other players are.
This deserves its own post, but the Yankees have a horrible Rule V draft coming. They will have to protect Domingo Acevedo, Albert Abreu and Thairo Estrada, and will have to consider all of Daniel Camarena, McKinney, Cave, Ford, JP Feyereisen and Stephen Tarpley. Gleyber Torres may also be eligible, but I think he's got one more year. There are a few obvious DFA candidates (Cessa, Mitchell, Shreve), but the Yankees will have one fewer tough choice to make if Adams stays down.