Now that the Dodgers have officially clinched the NL West (you can stop wanting to murder me, Chad), it’s time to look at the postseason roster.
There are, obviously, the locks, but the final few spots are definitely up for debate. The roster will shrink back to 25 active players for the playoffs. In fact, September is the only time in the baseball season when the active roster is expanded.
First, the locks:
That’s 17 stone cold, lead pipe locks. There is no debating that any of the above players do not belong on the postseason roster. That leaves eight spots. Obviously the bullpen needs to be filled out with at least four more pitchers, and probably five. There needs to be one more outfielder and a couple more bats off the bench.
The roster for the National League Division Series against the Nationals will be slightly different than if the Dodgers advance. For instance, they will absolutely need a for sure No. 4 starter beyond the NLDS, but in the first round, a fourth starter isn’t necessary (because you know Kershaw is getting the ball in Game 4, if applicable).
Here’s who we can rule out right away due to injury, poor performance and/or suspension:
Fields is about 79th on the reliever depth chart, Howell has not performed well at all, Kazmir left his most recent start after one inning, Ravin was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs, Thompson has two fractures in his back and Van Slyke had surgery. Pretty straightforward.
So, let’s put together the rest of the roster.
That’s six of the remaining eight spots filled. Those are the four-best remaining pitchers, with Stripling and/or Urias serving as long relievers (if needed). And while Hernandez has struggled mightily since hitting two home runs off Madison Bumgarner … in April, his positional versatility wins out. Toles is an easy inclusion because he has been good in a short stint and he’s the fastest player on the roster.
Two more spots; what to do? Brandon McCarthy was actually not bad on Sunday. He only allowed five baserunners in 5 1/3 innings, and he also struck out six. If he has one more good start, he could find himself on the postseason roster — but maybe not until the NLCS (same goes for Brett Anderson, though, that seems less likely). It seems the bullpen needs one more right-hander (sorry Luis Avilan). Here are the options:
This is tough. Three of these guys are terribly home run-prone. Chavez has a 1.1 HR/9, Stewart 2.3 and De Leon 2.4. Coleman is at 0.8, so he’s not exactly Liberatore out of the bullpen.
Of the four, Chavez gets the nod. He’s a veteran, not as homer prone and has some good velocity. Putting the postseason pressure on guys like De Leon (who looks a little tired) and Stewart (who has eclipsed his highest innings total by 47 innings) doesn’t seem like the best idea at the moment. That said, Stewart would be the second choice because he’s still maintaining his velocity and he wouldn’t throw that many innings in October (if he does, something has gone terribly wrong). Not sure De Leon is ready for the postseason, despite thinking he might be the No. 4 starter just a couple weeks ago.
On the bench, we need one more player. Do the Dodgers take a seasoned veteran who hasn’t played a lot in Andre Ethier, a defensive guy (and obviously clutch player) in Charlie Culberson, a younger and probably better version of Culberson in Chris Taylor, a versatile catcher/infielder in Austin Barnes, a right-handed bat who may or may not be able to hit lefties in Rob Segedin or specialized speed guy in Micah Johnson, which is something the club considered last season with last year’s 38th-round pick Edwin Drexler?
We can probably rule out Ethier, as having him and Reddick is redundant. Plus, he just hasn’t gotten enough playing time to be effective. He’d, most likely, be neutralized in the late innings of a game. Taylor can be excluded since he’s behind Culberson on the depth chart. While it’d be nice to have a third catcher, it isn’t necessary, so bye bye Barnes.
That leaves Culberson, Johnson or Segedin. Culberson on a playoff roster just seems unfathomable. Segedin hasn’t done much since his first week or so in the majors, and Johnson didn’t have even a good season in Triple-A. Reluctantly, this spot goes to Culberson. While it’d be nice to have Johnson’s speed so Toles can be saved for a bigger situation, Culberson’s steady glove wins out (and Johnson isn’t exactly a premium defender at second base, either).
Final Eight Spots: Chavez, Culberson, Hernandez, Liberatore, Stripling, Toles, Urias, Wood
Culberson and/or Hernandez getting starts against lefties in the postseason is an unappealing possibility. But with the way the roster is constructed, it looks like it could be a real thing. More so with Hernandez than Culberson, as Utley would probably draw starts against lefties ahead of Culberson in the postseason.
Things could change with performances this week, of course. Maybe McCarthy pitches a gem and finds himself on the roster? The prospect of him pitching out of the bullpen isn’t appealing, but perhaps he shows he can be the guy the Dodgers need in the second round. Maybe De Leon pitches well and bumps a guy like Chavez. Maybe the Dodgers like Coleman’s skill set and different look from the right side. Who knows.
There aren’t a ton of picks that would be surprising at the moment. Having said that, watch the front office tab a guy like Kyle Farmer to be the 25th man.