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Predicting the taxi squad

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Who will be in Pawtucket staying ready?

2020 Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/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.

The said taxi squad is probably the most interesting portion of all of this and also the hardest to predict. There are some obviously players, including pretty much everyone on the 40-man roster who didn’t make my active roster projection from earlier today. Note that it’s not a rule for all of the 40-man members to make this 60-man roster, but I would suspect all of Boston’s too. But the most interesting part of this is which teams bring top prospects who aren’t quite ready for the majors and how many of said prospects they bring. Given how new all of this is we don’t have history off of which we can base these predictions, but I’m going to try it anyway. Players in bold are on the 40-man.

Catchers

Juan Centeno, Jett Bandy, Connor Wong

All total I have the Red Sox carrying six catchers between the two rosters. That may seem like overkill, but keep in mind that catchers are the most likely non-pitcher group to suffer injuries. Plus, with all of the pitchers that will be present at camp you need catchers to catch them. Centeno and Bandy are your typical third and fourth catcher types with some major-league experience who will serve as safe depth. Wong is, of course, a prospect received in the Mookie Betts trade. I’m not sure the likelihood of him making it to the majors, but he’s not too far away and can serve as depth both as a catcher and on the infield.

Infielders

Bobby Dalbec, C.J. Chatham, Marco Hernández, Chad De La Guerra, Yairo Muñoz, Josh Ockimey, Jeter Downs, Triston Casas

The first three are shoo-ins, and really the more interesting question with them is whether or not they make the active roster. Obviously they didn’t make my projection, but with injuries and just time to show off in camp that could change. De La Guerra I think is close to a lock, too, as he can play all over the diamond and is underrated with the bat. Muñoz provides some all-over-the-field utility, including outfield, as well as major-league experience. Ockimey was probably the most borderline for me on this list, but I think he makes it despite the lack of defensive value because of his power and ability to crush righties. On the prospect side, Downs and Casas I think are pretty much locks. They might not see the majors — Downs has a chance, Casas I would think does not — getting them into the summer-long camp in Pawtucket is certainly worth it.

Outfielders

Marcus Wilson, Jarren Duran, César Puello

This was tough, and at first glance it would seem crazy that they would only bring three outfielders. If we’re being perfectly honest, this was the group I was least sure about. The specific players I think will all make it. Duran is the most interesting player here because he is the top prospect. He’s an interesting candidate for the active roster, too, if for no other reason than to serve as a pinch runner. Remember, in extra innings this year teams will start with a runner on second base. Having someone with Duran’s speed could be a boon. I wouldn’t expect that to start, but that kind of edge could become important if the Red Sox are in contention for the second half of the year.

The question of if there are too few outfielders, though, is a legitimate one. I’m less worried about that for a few reasons. One, they can sign more outfielders if there are injuries. Players will still be avialable in free agency and can be signed. Two, just because players have gotten infield designations doesn’t mean they can’t play on the grass. Beyond the three starters, the Red Sox have Kevin Pillar, J.D. Martinez, José Peraza, Tzu-Wei Lin, and Muñoz as depth options.

Pitchers

Matt Hall, Mike Shawaryn, Kyle Hart, Chris Mazza, Phillips Valdez, Jeffrey Springs, Josh Osich, Yoan Aybar, Bryan Mata, Thad Ward, Jay Groome, Tanner Houck, Durbin Feltman, Trevor Hildenberger, Eduard Bazardo, Mike Kickham

There are three ways to divide this group, although some players certainly fit multiple groups. The first is the 40-man players, who are above in bold. All of them are shoo-ins to me on this roster, with Aybar being the one who could potentially be left off. I think they’ll see the developmental value in keeping him around, though.

The next group are the prospects, which is almost all of the rest. That would be Mata, Ward, Hocuk, Feltman and Bazardo. I think Mata, Ward and Houck are locks to be included, with all three having a chance to contribute in the majors this summer. I wouldn’t bet on the first two, but there is a chance. Houck should be up at some point and could potentially pitch his way onto the Opening Day 30-man roster. Feltman and Bazardo I seem to be on an island on, but I think the Red Sox have enough “safe” relief options on this squad that they can go with more upside in these two. Plus, Feltman remains an important prospect in my mind and I think getting him the development here will be important. Groome is like Casas above as a guy who won’t be playing in the majors but being present is a big deal. He needs all the development time he can get and with the minor-league season all but cancelled I think he is the most negatively affected prospect in the system.

Finally, there’s Hildenberger and Kickham, who are simply solid, non-40 man pitchers with some major-league experience.

Also considered

Nick Longhi, John Andreoli, Rusney Castillo, R.J. Alvarez, Daniel McGrath

Longhi is the name here I thought the most about and went back and forth between him and Ockimey about 100 times. I ultimately went with Ockimey because I think he has a better bat, but Longhi’s ability to play in the corner outfield could ultimately give him an edge. Andreoli and Castillo also fit that outfield mold, but I explained about that they can get by without having more. Alvarez is another reliever with some major-league experience and McGrath is a borderline prospect who can provide some length.