The Red Sox kick off their postseason quest on Thursday, and they have until the night before to submit their playoff roster. A good portion of that roster is locked in, as is the case with most teams. However, towards the bottom of the roster, there are still some spots that could go in a number of different directions. The way I see it, there are two spots in the bullpen that are up for grabs and three spots on the bench for position players. Today, we’ll take a look at the competitors for those spots and who holds the inside track. Before we do that, let’s just take a quick look at the locks.
C: Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon
1B/DH: Mitch Moreland, Hanley Ramirez
2B: Dustin Pedroia
3B: Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nuñez
SS: Xander Bogaerts
LF: Andrew Benintendi
CF: Jackie Bradley, Jr.
RF: Mookie Betts
SP: Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Rick Porcello/Doug Fister
RP: Craig Kimbrel, Addison Reed, David Price, Carson Smith, Joe Kelly
I should note that I believe that one of Rick Porcello or Doug Fister is a lock, as the Red Sox tend to plan for using four starting pitchers in an ALDS. I do believe that, if they are down 2-1 heading into Game Four, they could very well use Chris Sale in that game, but I don’t see that as being something they plan on doing. They will carry at least four starting pitchers. So, with all of that the Red Sox, by my estimation, have 20 locks for their playoff roster, leaving five open spots. John Farrell has said that he’ll likely carry 11 pitchers, which means that the Red Sox have three more spots for position players and two more for pitchers. Let’s take a look at both groups, starting with the position players.
Contenders: Rajai Davis, Deven Marrero, Chris Young, Brock Holt
It seems certain that these four are in contention for the final three spots. With a better September, Sam Travis may have been able to work his way into the conversation but there is seemingly no way that’s the case at this point. Going one by one, the first two are near-locks in my mind. Davis isn’t going to provide much at the plate and he’s not someone you want starting any games, but the Red Sox won’t (or, at least they shouldn’t) go away from their Killer B outfield regardless of the handedness of Houston’s starter. They also won’t need to worry about a defensive replacement. What they could need for about half the starting lineup is a pinch runner, and that’s Davis’ best role. That is why he was acquired, and I find it hard to believe they’ll pass up on that potential value now that they’ve made it to October.
Marrero is also a near-lock to me, which is a somewhat new development. Granted, I’ve thought he was someone who should be on the postseason roster for a little while now, but I didn’t think it would happen. The last two weeks of the season changed that. Again, Marrero isn’t going to be someone who will come in to pinch hit and you don’t want him starting a game, but his defense is such a huge asset. With Devers’ defense being a big question mark at third base, the Red Sox have shown that they are willing to go with Marrero’s glove late in close games. That should be the case in the postseason as well.
So, that leaves the last spot to go to either Young or Holt. Although Farrell has stuck with Young all year, I can’t see a role for him on this bench. His job all year was a platoon player against lefties, but he didn’t do well in that role. If Farrell wouldn’t start him against someone like Dallas Keuchel in this series — and he absolutely shouldn’t — then Young has no place on this roster. They wouldn’t even need him as a primary right-handed bat off the bench, as one of Nuñez, Moreland or Ramirez should be on the bench every day. The one way I could see Young making the roster is if Nuñez isn’t healthy enough to play.
That leaves Holt as the winner by default. He likely won’t play much in this series, but he’s looked a bit better of late and he provides a bat from the left side and unmatched versatility.
Verdict: Davis, Marrero, Holt
Contenders: The loser of the Porcello/Fister battle, Matt Barnes, Brandon Workman, Robby Scott, Fernando Abad, Austin Maddox
So, we’ll start with the first name on this list, which is actually phrase. At this point, I think I have a little more faith in Fister than Porcello, though I fully expect the latter to get the start in Game Four. Either way, it’s close enough that I wouldn’t be upset either way. Assuming Fister does miss the cut, I still expect him to make the roster. Farrell has to be nervous about his final three starters (Pomeranz has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt but his dropping velocity could come back to bite him at any point), so having a stretched out starter ready to go early in a game would be huge. Price is also an option in this scenario, of course, but he won’t be available in every game. I think the lack of use for some of the other names on this list also play into this.
Barnes was originally my pick for this final spot up until I actually started writing this sentence. He is someone that has been trusted all year and played a huge role in the unit’s success early in the year. However, he’s been worse in the second half and this bullpen is loaded with trustworthy righties. Because of that, my pick is Scott. I’m not sure they need another lefty in this bullpen, but at the end of the day I can see more uses for someone like Scott than someone like Barnes, who has so many righties ahead of him on the roster.
The other names certainly have a case, but I would be mildly surprised to see any of them. Workman has shown some serious flashes, and when he’s at his best I’d take him over Scott and Barnes. However, he’s been really inconsistent in September and I think he’s pitched himself out of October consideration. Abad has been better than many would give him credit for, but he hasn’t been trusted in high-leverage situations all year so it wouldn’t make sense for him to suddenly be valued above Scott. Maddox showed big flashes this year and was highly impressive, but he’s hit a wall. He will play a role next year, but barring some injuries we won’t see him again in 2017.
Verdict: Fister, Scott