The Dodgers haven’t totally wrapped up the NL West yet, but it’s close enough where I can put together a first crack at a playoff roster without feeling like I’m being entirely too presumptuous. Last year, they took 11 pitchers and 14 position players into the NLDS against Atlanta. Some teams will take 12 pitchers and 13 position players, as you have during most of the regular season. Let’s see what makes sense.
Not a lot of controversy there, I think. Maybe Gordon or Crawford don’t start every game against a lefty, or maybe Ramirez gets himself hurt even further, but these eight are pretty obviously on the team.
The first three names here are pretty obvious. You need a backup catcher, of course, and while you can argue for Tim Federowicz over Butera, it won’t be, nor will it matter. Turner has been an outstanding backup who can play all four infield spots; Van Slyke is the lefty-masher who could merit a start or two. Between these three, you’ve got every position on the field backed up. Not simultaneously, though. That would be difficult.
Rojas can’t hit at all, but you absolutely need a true shortstop on this roster, because the only thing more foolish than counting on Ramirez’ health is counting on his defense. Maybe this ends up being Darwin Barney or Erisbel Arruebarrena — the three feel somewhat interchangable — but I’ve chosen Rojas here, because he has more versatility than the other two, and because Arruebarrena’s shoulder always seems to be sore. I can’t say I care all that much which of the three it is, just know that it’s definitely one of them.
There’s going to be some discussion about whether the little-used Ethier will make it over Joc Pederson, since there’s some redundancy between the two as lefty hitters who can play all three spots, but I think this is going to be a pretty easy decision. Pederson has absolutely shown skills, but he’s also not really forcing his way onto the roster, especially in the “making contact with the ball” department. He’s also received just three starts, none since Sept. 6 — that will probably change in the final days of the season — as Don Mattingly hasn’t really felt it all that necessary to get him playing time. I imagine that the team will go with Ethier’s experience, and while I generally prefer talent, it’s understandable in this situation.
Obviously. Ryu sounds like he’ll be ready for the third game of the NLDS, but there’s also plenty of “I’ll believe it when I see it,” too. He only just began playing catch again this weekend, remember, and he’s unlikely to be able to pitch in the regular season. Would it really shock any of us if we found out that there was enough worry about his shoulder, and not enough opportunity for him to test it out, that Roberto Hernandez was in the rotation instead? That’s bad. That’s real bad.
Oh, good lord. Do I have to?
This wasn’t fun. This was awful. Jansen and Howell are givens, but after them, I hated every second of this. Wilson, despite his velocity issues, is making this roster. Let’s not pretend he isn’t — like this team is really going to not take a reliever with World Series experience — and this is me trying to predict what the team will do, not necessarily what I would do. League terrifies me because he doesn’t miss bats and is entirely dependent on BABIP and the defense behind him, and that’s not ideal. But there’s almost no one in baseball who gets more ground balls than he does, he does not allow homers, and when you badly need a double play, there are worse gambles to take. I already hate this.
Baez is probably going to make it because he’s been given more and more important opportunities lately, and he’s generally kept runs off the board. But while he throws hard, it’s not like he’s blowing hitters away either, and his shiny ERA is very dependent on an unsustainable .183 BABIP. I like him, but I don’t think he’s as good as everyone seems to think. (Also, I wrote that paragraph before Brim’s informative post on Baez this morning, which seems to agree that there’s plenty to worry about on Baez.)
Wright hasn’t been great, but he serves two purposes: He’s something of a long man, which you’ll need because it’s tough to count on Ryu in his first game back, and he’s decent against lefties, and Howell might be the only southpaw here. You could argue for Hernandez there, I guess, in the long man role, too. Have I mentioned I hate this bullpen yet? Speaking of which, Perez! No, I don’t much like him. Yes, I am worried that the seven scoreless innings he’s thrown since returning from the DL will be viewed favorably.
This bullpen is going to keep me up at night, and the playoffs haven’t even started yet.
The final man
Now we’ve named 24 players, and the final one could go in a few ways. Last year, they kept six bench players, partially because Gordon existed only as a pinch-runner at the time. If they did so again, maybe they’d keep Barney or Arruebarrena to go with Rojas, which would really hedge against a potential Ramirez injury. Pederson probably still isn’t likely; Alex Guerrero would be a fun idea as a bench bat, but he’s been given just about no opportunity to play this month and has just one hit to his name. It’s probably not going to be him. Imagine if it was actually Roger Bernadina?
Instead, I think they’re going to add that eighth reliever, just because the bullpen is so unpredictable that there’s no such thing as having too many arms down there. If they do, I think that comes down to four names: Paco Rodriguez, Yimi Garcia, Hernandez, and Carlos Frias. (Sorry, Kevin Correia!) Rodriguez is probably the best bet when fully healthy, and a second lefty would be wonderful. He’s looked great since returning; there’s just the question of how much time he missed and how little he’s pitched. (That goes double — triple? — for Scott Elbert.) Garcia, like Baez, has a very shiny ERA that hides the fact that he’s really not been very impressive at all. Frias, like Wright, gives you the opportunity for length if you need it, though if they really trusted him, Sunday might not have been a bullpen game, would it? I suppose you could keep both Rodriguez and Hernandez (or Frias) and dump Wright, but that seems unlikely.
Let’s go with Rodriguez for now. That’s eight relievers, and 12 pitchers. I think I trust 4 of the 12 right now. This is terrifying.