Who Would Be On Your Playoff Roster?

The playoffs are coming up next week, which starts the discussion of playoff rosters. If you’re unfamiliar with the rules for selecting a playoff roster, you can read James Santelli’s article here. The key points are:

1. A player had to be on the 25-man roster, the 15-day or 60-day DL on August 31st to be eligible.

2. Any player on the DL on August 31st who is also on the DL during the playoffs can be replaced by anyone who was in the organization on August 31st (commonly referred to as “flex spots”).

3. The Pirates have four flex spots: Phil Irwin, Jeff Karstens, Michael McKenry, and Wandy Rodriguez. That means they can roster four guys who weren’t on the active roster, but were in the organization on August 31st.

Here is a list of players who are eligible for the playoff roster. Anyone not on that list could be added using a flex spot. Below are the players I would choose for the playoff roster, with a ** next to players who would require a flex spot.

Francisco Liriano will be the starter for the Wild Card game. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Francisco Liriano will be the starter for the Wild Card game. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Rotation

Francisco Liriano

A.J. Burnett

Charlie Morton

Gerrit Cole

This is the easiest place to start, since everyone can pretty much agree on the four-man rotation for the post-season. In the Wild Card game, I’d leave off Cole and Morton, since they would have started over the weekend. There is one exception.

The team that wins two or more games this weekend will take home field in the Wild Card game. If either the Pirates or Reds win the first two games of the series, then Cole’s start on Sunday would be meaningless. If that’s the case, I’d save him for the Wild Card game on Tuesday, and use him in long relief after Liriano is done, as kind of a piggyback situation.

The Bullpen

Jason Grilli

Mark Melancon

Tony Watson

Justin Wilson

These are the easy choices. Grilli and Melancon are returning to their 8th/9th inning roles. Wilson recently returned to his old velocity after a short break and some time off. Tony Watson has been one of the best relievers in baseball in the second half. After this, you need at least three more relievers, or more if you’re going with extra spots in the Wild Card matchup. My choice for those three relievers:

Tony Watson has been one of the best relievers in baseball in the second half. (Photo credit: David Hague)

Tony Watson has been one of the best relievers in baseball in the second half. (Photo credit: David Hague)

Jeanmar Gomez

Vin Mazzaro

Kyle Farnsworth**

Gomez has been solid all year, and can pitch in any role. He could add length out of the bullpen, throwing multiple innings if a starter runs into trouble or goes down with an injury. Mazzaro has put up strong numbers this year, and isn’t a bad option for the number six guy in your bullpen. I didn’t think I’d be adding Kyle Farnsworth to this list a month ago, but he has pitched well in his limited time with the team. He was in the organization on August 31st, but wasn’t on the active roster, so he would use one of the flex spots.

If the Pirates went with an extra reliever in the Wild Card game, my choice would be Stolmy Pimentel. The Pirates might be more inclined to go with Bryan Morris or Jared Hughes, but neither pitcher has done well this year. Pimentel hasn’t had a lot of innings in the majors, but he’s a hard thrower (average fastball velocity: 95.6) and can go multiple innings.

The Lineup

C – Russell Martin

1B – Justin Morneau

2B – Neil Walker

SS – Jordy Mercer

3B – Pedro Alvarez

LF – Starling Marte

CF – Andrew McCutchen

RF – Marlon Byrd

The above is pretty self-explanatory. No need to go into details. This leaves us with six spots for bench players, or seven spots in the Wild Card game. Here are my choices:

The Bench

Tony Sanchez

Tony Sanchez is a better backup catcher in every way compared to John Buck. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Tony Sanchez** – I like him over John Buck in every way. He’s a better hitter, a better defender, and he works better with the pitching staff. He should be the backup catcher. He’s also a guy who would require a flex spot.

Gaby Sanchez – He’s a good hitter against left-handed pitchers, which will be important, especially against the Reds.

Josh Harrison – Same as Sanchez, and he can platoon with Neil Walker.

Clint Barmes – Strong defense at shortstop for the late innings.

Jose Tabata – His hitting has been enough to guarantee him a spot.

The final spot is a debate between either Garrett Jones or Travis Snider. In the Wild Card game you can add both players. When it comes to the regular playoffs, you can only take one of them. Neither player has been playing well this season. Snider seems to hold the advantage because of his two home runs this month, although he is 3-for-14 in that time. Honestly, I don’t think either player stands out, and I see this as the 25th man on the playoff roster, with minimal impact. I’d be more inclined to go with Jones, due to his success in the past, and as recently as July. If he gets hot in the playoffs, that will be a huge boost off the bench. Snider has never had that success, and I can’t pick him based on 14 at-bats in September. I wouldn’t fault someone who went with Snider over Jones, since neither player is really a strong option.

Who would be on your playoff roster? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/ToddSm66 Todd Smith

    I’m pretty much in total agreement, but I might take Buck over Jones or Snider. That allows Hurdle to use Sanchez (or Buck) as a pinch hitter without worrying about losing your backup catcher in case of an injury. At this point, Buck pretty much provides the same thing as Jones or Snider anyway – a guy who has struggled at the plate this year but has some power as a pinch hitter. I’d rather let Tony Sanchez hit in an important spot than any of Jones, Snider or Buck…carrying the third catcher would allow that.

    • smurph

      That makes sense todd, and it could be determined by whether they would be more likely to want a RH or LH pinch hitter late in the game.

  • https://www.facebook.com/bruce.humbert Bruce Humbert

    My gut is that Jones would be the best choice – he has a history of getting hot and has been here a long time – through good and not good. I am guessing he won’t be back next year – but he should be a good option for a left handed bat off of the bench – Gabby takes care of the righty – along with Harrison

  • letsgobucs22

    Tim, according to James Santelli’s article, the Pirates can’t leave Morton or John Buck off the wildcard playoff roster or future playoff round rosters without DFA’ing them since they are out of options (I’m referring to his Point #6: If a player on an Aug. 31 active roster does not make a playoff roster, he has to be optioned, designated for assignment or placed on a disabled list).

    Am I not understanding this rule correctly? It seems like it places major restrictions on who you can keep off the playoff roster. Also, if Cole pitches Sunday and is optioned to keep him off the Wild Card round, would that burn up one of this 3 options?

    • CalipariFan506

      Well in regards to Cole, let’s hope burning his options doesn’t really matter haha.

      As for Buck, I see no reason you couldn’t DFA him if that is the rule. If so, disregard my post below. He is a free agent after this season and I think he could clear waivers to be called up if Martin or Sanchez were to get hurt. Nobody is claiming him for their 25 man playoff roster and nobody is claiming him to get exclusive negotiating rights. If you need to put him back on the 40 man at some point due to injury, you can DFA a guy like Snider who is most likely heading for a non tender.

    • brilemon

      I don’t think moving from the 25 to the 40 is an option… Is it? So confusing. I’ll go back and read james’ points

  • CalipariFan506

    Against the Reds I don’t think it’s dumb at all to carry 3 catchers. You do not want Jones or Snider with any possibility of having to face Chapman. I mean none.

  • PiratesFan1981

    Tim, I agree pretty much with you on roster spots. I really want Gomez just in case they need to rest Cole do to his innings. Buck is my choice over jones or snider. You have Tabata to cover any of position and gabby Sanchez can cover 1st base if needed. Then you have Harrison and Barmes that are able to cover from 2b to 3b. Plus Harrison has some speed off the bench if we need to pinch run for aleverz or some other big man. You have Tabata and Harrison as speed and buck and gabby for power off the bench. Tony Sanchez is your 9th hole dh guy. I just like the 2 options for both speed and power coming from the bench. If marte stalls, Tabata is an option to play OF while marte provides the speed to run around the bases. Either way, the roster is already set in stone. Players that are going to the postseason, you see almost everyday.

    • rphbuc

      I would also add that Martin will catch every game in the post season, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Sanchez was optioned and Buck was kept active simply b/c of his power off the bench. Then, with Snider having been on DL Aug 31, I can’t imagine a scenario where Jones is healthy and left off roster. GI would have to be DFAd while Snider can be optioned leaving both available moving through each round. And, I don’t see them keeping Pie over Jones when you consider Pie for WC would cost any chance of Jones moving forward.

  • jg941

    Two important WC-game tweaks (I think) – Agree with all of the position players, but if the 7th bench spot for the WC only comes down to LH-hitting OF Travis Snider, then you may want to go instead with LH-hitting OF Felix Pie, for the added luxury/option of pinch-runner possibilities.

    On the pitching rotation, also agree with all – and would also like to have Pimentel, but if he’s the last spot, I think the safer play would be to bring Kris Johnson or Brandon Cumpton (whoever doesn’t start on Sunday if Cole doesn’t have to go then). As your 10th available pitcher, one (or both, if Cole does go on Sunday) of those two provide your best insurance against an extra-inning scenario, which you do have to be prepared for to some extent, like it or not.

    The only real risk left is that same extra-inning scenario, where you’ve only brought two catchers. I’d also take Tony Sanchez over Buck, keep my fingers crossed and hope that the announcers don’t start pondering who the Bucs’ “emergency catcher” is. (who is it now, BTW?)

    • smurph

      I agree. Pie gives you defense and baserunning. Snider gives you nothing.

  • backstreets

    Jones just didn’t do it this year. He needs left off roster. Snider is one way PH and nothing else. Pie has more value. 3 catchers sounds good since we don’t have a lot to pick from. Its going to come down to have a LH off the bench so Snider or Jones will be in the mix. If Cumpton pitches good today I like him and Gomez to be on the team moving forward once we reach NLDS…