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Projected Red Sox Playoff Roster


With the Red Sox firmly in control of the American League East (Magic Number 2 after the weekend).  The Sox have spent the past few weeks either resting key players, or, in the case of the bullpen, auditioning different players to determine who is capable of stepping up and performing in a high leverage playoff situation.  In the past two weeks we analyzed what we wanted to see from the Red Sox as they cruise to a Division Title. 


Now, with two weeks left in the regular season, we attempt to project on the postseason roster.  There are the obvious locks and several other players that are as good as locks due to injuries or lack of performance from other players.  The final one or two spots will likely be decided based on those factors and the opponent in the first round and, hopefully, beyond.  For arguments sake, our projected roster looks like this.


Photo courtesy of bostonherald.com
Locks

Starting Pitchers - 4

Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Eduardo Rodriguez:  Though it is conceivable to only need three starters due to travel days, it is doubtful the Red Sox would bring back Sale (assuming he is the Game 1 starter) on only four days rest.  These four seem set, though Porcello and Rodriguez could flip-flop games depending on the opponent.

Relief Pitchers - 3

Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Brasier, and Steven Wright:  Kimbrel has shown flashes of last season’s dominance over the past week – a very positive sign.  Brasier has faultered a bit, but not enough to be left of the playoff roster.  He’s earned a spot.  Wright has similarly shown enough to be worthy of a spot, and could be used anywhere from setup for Kimbrel to lomg relief mop-up duty.

Catchers – 1

Sandy Leon:  Leon’s struggles at the plate have been well documented (.092 since the All-Star Break), but he has become the personal preference for both Sale and Porcello, and is on the roster for that reason and that reason alone.  Expect for him to be pinch hit for as soon as the starter is out of the game, or in any key situation beyond the fifth inning. 

Infielders – 5

Mitch Moreland, Steven Pearce, Ian Kinsler, Xander Bogaerts, and Eduardo Nunez:  Nunez returned to health and began to drive the ball with authority.  He also provides a more stable alternative at third.  He remains in this group only if his recent knee problems are minor.  Moreland and Pearce will platoon at first and offer a pinch hitting alternative for Leon.

Outfielders – 4

Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and J.D. Martinez:  No surprises in this group.  Martinez likely will not see any time in the outfield unless the re-occurrence of Betts’ oblique injury is more significant than initially reported.

Utility Players - 2

Brock Holt and Blake Swihart:  Holt is a no-brainer, given his versatility and ability to provide a spark off the bench.  Swihart makes the team as well due to his improved play behind the plate (much improved receiving, blocking, and probably the fastest pop time on the team), his versatility to play other positions, and his speed to be used as a pinch runner.

This leaves us with 19 players on the 25 man roster, with a significant hole in the long to middle relief role.  Let’s size up the rest of the field for the final six spots.

On the Bubble

Relief Pitchers - Candidates:  Former starters Nathan Eovaldi Brian Johnson and Drew Pomeranz, relievers Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly, Bobby Poyner, Robby Scott, Tyler Thornburg, Hector Velazquez, and Brandon Workman.  Depending on whether the Red Sox decide to carry 11, 12 or 13 pitchers, this leaves four to six slots in the bullpen after the four starters and three relievers.  With the additional rest afforded with travel days, the bet here is it will be the lower number to allow for more flexibility among the position players.  This leaves only four spots for eleven pitchers.

In - 4:  Eovaldi has the best chance of the starters to land a spot in the bullpen.  He recently pitched well for three innings in relief of Sale against Houston.  He could be a one or two inning weapon.  Barnes should be on the team if his hip problems subside.  Workman has pitched well of late, and despite repeated trips between Boston and Pawtucket this season, has playoff experience from 2013 and should also get a spot.

The remainder of the bullpen is a crap shoot, and will likely come down to the final two weeks to gauge performance to decide the final spot.  Kelly has the highest potential upside and the stuff to get strikeouts, and therefore gets the final spot over the rest of a disappointing group. 

Out: Hembree, Johnson, Pomeranz, Poyner, Scott, Thornburg, and Velazquez.  If Barnes can’t go, Poyner may be the surprise pick based on his recent performances.

Position Players - Candidates:  Catcher Chrstian Vazquez, infielders Rafael Devers, Tzu-Wei Lin, Brandon Philips, and Sam Travis.

In - 2:  Vazquez has had a disappointing season after what appeared to be his breakout season in 2017, and his inking of a new three year contract in the off-season.  But he grabs one of the final two spots thanks to the struggles of Leon at the plate and the likelihood that Leon will frequently be lifted for a pinch-hitter.   Vazquez has also established a rapport with Rodriguez that gives him additional value. 

Devers claims the final spot only because of the uncertainty surrounding Nunez’s knee.  Devers has looked lost at the plate and is an adventure in the field, but the only viable alternative at third is Holt, which limits moves later in the game.  Devers backs in.

Out:  Lin, Philips, and Travis.  Of the trio, only Philips could be considered as having a chance for a spot.  His homerun in Atlanta was one of the greater moments in a season full of them, but he has only made one start since then.  He’s obviously not in Alex Cora’s plans, and is likely only insurance for Nunez.

Toughest Omission:  Johnson.  He’s pitched well and has done everything asked of him this season, but there is no need for what he can offer the team other than long relief, and with the bullpen struggles, that is a luxury the Sox can’t afford.

Hardest Inclusion:  Kelly.  He has the ability and you have to hope he can find it again.

Biggest Disappointment:  Pomeranz.  He's gone from being a 17 game winner in 2017 and a potential number four starter coming into the season to not even getting consideration for a playoff roster spot.  Not ideal for a player headed into free agency in the offseason.


Follow Bill on Twitter @BTravers_BSoT.

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