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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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 is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.