Late Wednesday night — or early Thursday morning, I suppose — the Angels lost to the Indians, a loss that clinched a playoff spot for the Red Sox. Now, this was only clinching a guaranteed spot in the wildcard game and there is still plenty of work to do clinching the division. The Yankees are red hot right now and have a favorable schedule moving forward, so the Red Sox have to take advantage of their own favorable schedule. Despite the work that still needs to be done, though, with just over a week left in the season it’s not too early to start thinking about the playoff roster. Below are the names I expect to see on the roster. To be clear, this isn’t necessarily what I’d do, but rather what I think the team will do. Good? Good.
Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez
There are only two real questions with this one. The first is whether they would go with three or four pitchers in a five-game series. My guess is that they’ll go with four, and there’s a couple reasons for that. For one thing, they used four pitchers in the 2013 ALDS. On top of that, it’s clear that they prefer Sale on regular rest. I don’t know that this will be set in stone, and if they are entering Game Four with a 2-1 deficit in a series with their offense struggling mightily, I could see them turning to Sale on short rest. If they have their way, though, I’d expect them to go with a fourth starter.
The other question is simply the order in which they use their starters. The top two are obvious. No one else is starting Game One besides Sale, of course, and no one has any case to start Game Two over Pomeranz. As for the last two, there was some question about whether Doug Fister would get one of those slots, but his last two starts have ended that discussion. Now there’s little doubt that Rodriguez and Porcello will get the starts. The order in which they’re used could go either way, but I’m guessing they’ll go with the veteran in Porcello for Game Three. The fact that he’s right-handed and could break up the rotation a bit helps, too. That being said, if I were running things I’d probably throw Rodriguez for Game Three, though that is subject to change depending on how each finishes their season.
Craig Kimbrel, Addison Reed, Joe Kelly, David Price, Brandon Workman, Carson Smith, Robby Scott
This is easily the most interesting part of the roster. The first four spots, I would argue, are a lock. There’s obviously no way that Kimbrel or Reed is going to be left off the roster. I think Kelly has done more than enough to lock his spot as well, and I can’t imagine they’d bring Price back and then not use him in the postseason as long as he doesn’t implode in his next few outings. From there, it’s much more confusing. The way I look at, there are six pitchers fighting for three spots. Those six are: Workman, Smith, Scott, Fernando Abad, Matt Barnes and Austin Maddox. With the way Smith has pitched of late, I think he’s close to a lock, particularly since he’s been able to pitch on back-to-back days. I also think they’ll carry a second lefty to serve as an early-inning LOOGY if they need it. I have a little more faith in Abad at this point myself, but the team has preferred Scott all year and I can’t imagine that’ll change now. That leaves one more spot, and to me it comes down to Workman or Barnes. Again, it is all about who I think they trust more at this point, and it certainly seems like Workman is in front of Barnes on John Farrell’s depth chart. This could go a number of different ways, and I may put Barnes on over Scott or Abad myself, but if I were putting money on it this is how I expect the bullpen to play out.
Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon
No, I don’t think Blake Swihart is making the playoff roster. And if you’re wondering whether or not they’ll let Vazquez catch Sale in the postseason, I would guess that’s also a big ol’ no.
Mitch Moreland, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Eduardo Nuñez, Hanley Ramirez, Deven Marrero
After the bullpen, this is where the other intrigue lies on the roster. The first six spots are guarantees as long as everyone is healthy. Whether or not Nuñez or Ramirez gets DH duties against right-handed pitching is an interesting question, but that will depend partially on health and we don’t have enough information to speculate on that just yet. The last spot, though, comes down to Marrero or Brock Holt. Tzu-Wei Lin could also be in the conversation, but I don’t think he’ll get serious consideration. If you asked me a week ago, I would have said there’s no chance that Holt doesn’t make the playoff roster. Oops. It’s not because of anything he or Marrero did, to be fair, but with Devers starting to look extra shaky at third base, I think that last roster spot will have to prioritize defense. There’s no doubt in my mind that Marrero is the better option as a late-inning defensive replacement. Farrell seems to have real questions about Devers’ glove, and at this point I’d be surprised if they didn’t prioritize infield defense with their last roster selection.
Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Rajai Davis, Chris Young
The first four on this list are locks. The top three, of course, are going to be starting every day. Davis was brought in specifically for October and his ability to run. He won’t be watching from home. Young, on the other hand, could very well miss the cut. He hasn’t really given them much of anything this year, and with either Ramirez or Nuñez on the bench for every game they already have one pinch hitting option that is better than Young. That being said, the team has seemed to trust him all year and I don’t think that will change at this point. For what it’s worth, I’d probably put Holt on the roster over him because there is a serious lack of left-handed hitting on the bench in the scenario I currently have laid out.
What do you think? Which parts did I get wrong?