Danny Duffy might have pitched his way out of the playoff starting rotation last night. His effort was matched by his teammates, who floundered through nine innings with only five hits. I don’t feel like talking about that.
I am trying to avoid discussions that contain phrases like ‘put Omar Infante back in the lineup’, ‘should not have moved Escobar out of the the lead off spot’, ‘Johnny Cueto is evil and does not care’….things of that nature. There is a lot of that going around right now and some of it among people who should have more of a clue. Listen the folks whose baseball awareness spans a time from September of 2014 through now and is limited to a confines of Kaufmann Stadium, they can spout off as they want: that’s part of being a casual fan. When your job is to talk sports (or write sports or whatever) then you need to do better than blather about how taking Infante out of the lineup destroyed the chemistry of the team or other such nonsense.
But we’re not talking about that today.
The Royals will be in the post-season and will not be in the Wild-Card. As such, they have certainly already started constructing their playoff roster for the opening five game American League Divisional Series. They will start on the 8th, play again on the 9th and 11th of October. If necessary, Game Four will be on the 12th and a Game Five on the 14th. The Royals will have three days off between the end of the regular season and the first game of the the ALDS. With the exception of the starting pitcher for the last game of the season, everyone on the roster will be rested. Most of you know, but some of you don’t, that the team can change its roster for each playoff series, so this first roster only applies to the ALDS.
How will it shake out? Let’s start with the easy stuff.
CATCHER – Salvador Perez and Drew Butera. They’ll carry two and it will be these guys. Butera is mostly injury insurance, but he might also make an appearance if the Royals pinch-run for Perez. Doing so is not a certainty as a game in which you use a pinch-runner is also one in which Ned Yost is going to want to keep Perez behind the plate. That said, if Perez gets on base in the ninth inning representing the tying or winning run, we could see a pinch-runner. More on that later.
INFIELD – Eric Hosmer, Ben Zobrist, Alcides Escobar and Mike Moustakas. Let’s throw in Kendrys Morales here, too. Locked in as your starters.
BACKUP INFIELD – Omar Infante. Hey, this is the Royals’ roster, not mine. Infante is a second baseman only at this point and it is not a horrible stretch of the imagination to see him inserted for defense at second with the Royals enjoying a late game lead. Zobrist is really your utility infielder (and outfielder for that matter), so any injuries or substitutions – like a pinch runner for Moustakas (see the Perez discussion above) – would have Infante coming in to play second and Zobrist moving to any of the other five positions he can play.
OUTFIELD – Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Alex Rios. As Craig noted yesterday, Rios has almost certainly make the post-season roster with his somewhat hot last few weeks. If the Royals were not planning on playing Rios in right, I would think we would have at least seen more of Johnny Gomes, Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando out there over the past weeks. Kansas City has started the same lineup eight games in a row at this point, I think you can assume that is the nine you will see on October 8th.
BACKUP OUTFIELD (the lock) – Jarrod Dyson. Really, he is the only guy that I can comfortably say will be on the playoff roster in this spot. Yes, there will be others, but who?
BACKUP OUTFIELD (the question marks) – I am proposing an 11 man pitching staff below, which gives us room for two more position players here. I will be shocked if Jonny Gomes is not on the roster. First off, he has been there before and that counts for something (however minor). Secondly, he will mash lefties and more specifically, LOOGYs. We all see managers overthink, just like we all overthink our lives as well, and Gomes gives the guy in the other dugout something to think about. Like last year, I think the last spot goes to Terrance Gore. Sure, Paulo Orlando is in the mix, but I think the Royals will opt for Gomes to pinch hit and Gore to pinch run, while they pray Alex Rios hits something some of the time.
STARTING PITCHERS – Johnny Cueto, Edinson Volquez, Yordano Ventura and Kris Medlen. The first three are locks, the order of those three is not. I think Medlen has beaten Duffy as the number four man, at least for the ALDS.
BULLPEN (the easy ones) – Greg Holland, Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales. They have been there all year and, even with Holland’s vanishing velocity, they will be there in the post-season. With the two games on, one day off, two games on, one day off, one last game schedule, the Royals really could go through the series with just these five. Unless they go extra innings…or have a starter implode.
BULLPEN (the hard ones) – So, you need more than five relievers even if you don’t want to use them. I would think the realistic pool of options is limited to Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Young, Luke Hochevar and Danny Duffy. I think the Royals go with two more relievers and I am not in love with the idea of Duffy out of the pen at this point, so now it comes down to Guthrie, Young and Hochevar. The last seven hitters to face Hochevar have all gotten on base, so he is not exactly trending in the right direction. That said, when he is right, Luke is by far the best reliever of the four pitchers we are discussing. If the playoffs started tomorrow, I think Yost would want Guthrie and Young active, especially with Guthrie having a tolerable four inning relief appearance last night. If you are asking me, I’d take Hochevar and Young. Pick two and hope you don’t have to turn to either.
That would be my twenty-five for the first series. And yes, alarmists, the Royals WILL need a post-season roster.