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Predicting the active roster

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The season will start with a 30-man active roster. Here’s how we see things shaking out assuming everyone is healthy.

Red Sox Spring Training Workouts Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

As we all know by now, MLB has a plan in place to get through a shortened 60-game season in 2020. Camps are going to start rolling this week at home parks across the country, and the regular season is currently slated to get going on July 23 and 24. The rules are obviously going to be a little bit different this year given, well, everything happening in the world, and while we’re not going over everything today we will be focusing on the roster.

Today is the deadline for teams to submit their spring training rosters to the league, with that having to be done by 4:00 PM ET today. They do not have to submit all 60 players today and players can be added later, but a player cannot be added now, taken off later and then added again. Once a player comes and goes, that’s it. Also of note for these rosters: Only players on the active roster and 30-man taxi squad may be traded through the year.

We’ll have more on that part a little bit later this morning, but we’re going to be splitting this into two parts today, with this one focusing on the active roster. Rosters were always supposed to expand this year with plans in place to get 26 men on the roster all year, but they will be even higher to start the year. Given the short time for players to ramp up, the league will be giving extra roster spots with teams carrying 30 players for the first two weeks and 28 players for the next two weeks after that before getting down to the 26-man rosters roughly halfway through this shortened season. Below is my prediction for how the 30-man active roster to start the season will shake out. It goes without saying this is assuming health through the summer workouts.

Catchers

Christian Vázquez, Kevin Plawecki, Jonathan Lucroy

If you can remember all the way back to the before times when the world wasn’t on fire and a pandemic didn’t shut everything down, catcher was one of the most interesting spots on the roster. Vázquez is obviously the starter and a no-brainer. I don’t need to explain this one. The battle for backup between Plawecki and Lucroy, though, was a fascinating one. The former had been the team’s original signing and was/is on the 40-man roster. Lucroy was a late signing during spring training and was/is not on the 40-man. Despite that, it seemed most every beat writer saw Lucroy having the advantage given that he has a better track record and has a rapport with manager Ron Roenicke from their days together in Milwaukee.

Personally, that always seemed crazy to me. I thought Plawecki made more sense for a variety of reasons including that fact that he was on the 40-man. Even beyond that, because making room there isn’t all that difficult if you really want to, Plawecki is much better defensively and that aforementioned track record for Lucroy was a long time ago at this point. All of that is moot now, at least to start the year. I would be very surprised if all three didn’t make it and this battle didn’t extend into the regular season.

Infielders

Mitch Moreland, Michael Chavis, José Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, Jonathan Araúz, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers

Again, there is no point in talking about the starters or really the shoo-ins here. That would be Moreland, Chavis, Peraza, Bogaerts and Devers. All five of them will be getting regular playing time, with the latter two playing every day and the first three presumably playing most days in some combination on the right side of the infield.

For the remaining spots, there are still some interesting decisions to be made — most interesting for me was whether or not Bobby Dalbec makes it with the expanded rosters. Obviously, for me that answer ended up being no. Lin and Araúz both need to be on the active roster for different reasons — the former is out of options and the latter was a Rule 5 selection — to stay on the 40-man. Given the weirdness of the season I’m not as convinced those are as big of a deal as they would be over a full 162-game year, but I’m sticking with that projection until I hear otherwise.

Outfielders

Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley Jr., Kevin Pillar, Alex Verdugo, J.D. Martinez

There’s really not too much going on here that we need to explain. The only difference between how this looks and how it would’ve looked in a normal year is that Verdugo was not going to be ready for the original Opening Day. He should be good to go by the end of July, though, and will be spending most days in right field.

Rotation

Eduardo Rodriguez, Nathan Eovaldi, Martín Pérez, Ryan Weber, Collin McHugh

Again, most of this is pretty much settled and there’s not a whole hell of a lot to say. The top three are obvious rotation candidates if healthy. Weber had pitched himself into that role with a strong spring performance before the league shut down in March, though that probably says more about the Red Sox rotation options that Weber. Either way, unless he comes to the summer workouts looking terrible he’ll be in here.

McHugh is the interesting one. A later signing, the righty has a better track record than Weber (or Pérez for that matter) but there are a couple of questions here. First of all, like Verdugo above he was not expected to be healthy for the start of this season. Unlike Verdugo, it’s no guarantee he’ll be healthy by the end of July. Additionally, it’s not clear if he’ll be a reliever or a starter, as he’s been better in the former role over the last few years. Still, I think the Red Sox’s needs for rotation help are strong enough that he’ll fit in there if he’s healthy.

Bullpen

Brandon Workman, Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor, Darwinzon Hernandez, Marcus Walden, Austin Brice, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Colten Brewer, Brian Johnson

This was one of the most discussed groups on the roster before the league shut down in spring training, and I think it is a more interesting set of relievers than most give it credit for. It’s not quite elite, but there is plenty of talent here and given how much of a mystery bullpens are in small samples, there’s no reason this group can’t string together a very, very strong 60-game stretch. The top five here are the top pitchers here and will handle the big stops. Brice had been well on his way to pitching himself into a spot in spring. Brasier had looked good too. Hembree I’m not as sure about for the same reasons as Lin above — Hembree is also out of options — but I think as long as he looks healthy and ready to go in camp he’ll make it. Brewer was my hardest pick and I think it’s between him and a handful of others for this spot, while Johnson gets the long man role that will likely be needed plenty given how short of a time pitchers have to ramp up.