Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Examining the Reds Potential Playoff Roster

Earlier today, Blog Red Machine’s Steve Engbloom wrote a piece on Billy Hamilton’s first week in The Bigs. The article mentioned that it will be intriguing as to what spot Billy Hamilton will take on the Reds postseason roster, which got me thinking what could the Reds postseason roster look like?

Let’s take a look.

Last year for the NLDS, the Reds carried 11 pitchers and 14 position players. For the five-game series, a fifth starter is really unneeded so the Reds can get away with just four starters.

The first three starters are obvious choices in Mat Latos, Tony Cingrani, and Homer Bailey. As for the fourth starter, it’s a tougher choice. Steve also looked at Mike Leake’s recent regression, although Leake did post a stellar start on Friday against the Dodgers. On the other hand, Bronson Arroyo, the Reds most tenured player, also carries plenty of playoff experience.

If it were up to me, I’d take Arroyo as the fourth starter.  Arroyo’s playoff experience and durability lead me to choose him over Leake. However, with that being said I wouldn’t leave Leake entirely off the roster.

The Reds bullpen has five spots that I see as pretty much locked into the roster in Aroldis Chapman, Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, Alfredo Simon and Manny Parra. That leaves two spots open to comprise the 11 total pitchers. To me, the final two spots come down to Zach Duke, Logan Ondrusek, Sean Marshall, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto. Marshall and Cueto are obviously questionable at this point but recent news suggests that they are a possibility.

It would seem as though the Reds would want to carry another lefty in addition to Parra and Chapman if possible. That would give the team two choices for lefty-lefty matchups. In that case, the Reds have the option of either Sean Marshall or Zach Duke. Sean Marshall has been throwing bullpens and apparently is inching closer to a return this month. If he returns as the Sean Marshall of old that would be a huge boost to the bullpen.  Zach Duke would seem to be an odd choice for a roster spot, just being called up this month and sporting a 7.61 ERA on the year between the Nationals and Reds, so it is possible that the Reds could stick with just Parra and Chapman if Marshall isn’t ready come playoff time.

For now, let’s assume Marshall returns healthy and can contribute for the playoffs. That leaves one final spot for a pitcher. The final spot would come down to Logan Ondrusek, Mike Leake and Johnny Cueto. I list Leake in this group because I do think we could see him come out of the bullpen in the NLDS and serve as a long relief man should the Reds run into another starting pitcher debacle in the postseason (see: Johnny Cueto last year).

If Cueto isn’t ready for the playoffs, then I believe Leake to be a better choice than Ondrusek. The real question comes if Cueto returns and is available for the playoffs. Cueto threw 30 pitches in a simulated game today and according to teammates looked very strong.

“He had everything working. His fastball had a lot of life. He looked really good.” -Billy Hamilton


“He looked great. He had great life on his fastball. His cutter looked good. His slider was good — he almost broke my bat.” -Xavier Paul

Cueto’s return in the form of a bullpen arm could be similar to the Giants putting Lincecum in the pen last season. Cueto, if heathly, could provide a dominant arm that could throw several innings in relief. The question then becomes, can Cueto be trusted to stay healthy or be effective? The other option could be the Reds simply telling Cueto to get ready for next season. It seems odd that the Reds could possibly leave their so-called ace off the roster but it’s very feasible.

Despite reports that Cueto could be ready as early as 10 days, I personally still don’t believe Cueto will be ready for the postseason and therefore the final spot would automatically go to Leake. The pitchers for the NLDS would then be: Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Tony Cingrani, JJ Hoover, Sam LeCure, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, Sean Marshall, Manny Parra and Alfredo Simon.

The catchers aren’t nearly as difficult. As much as many Reds fans would love to see Corky Miller’s facial hair in the playoffs, the Reds will only carry two catchers in Ryan Hanigan and Devin Mesoraco.

That leaves 12 spots to fill both the infield and outfield. Last year, the Reds carried seven infielders and five outfielders. This year, however, I think the Reds could take six infielders and six outfielders.

The obvious infielders are Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart. The last two additions would be Cesar Izturis and Jack Hannahan. This would give the Reds ample backup with the flexibility in positions

That means the final six roster spots would go towards outfielders. Six outfielders may seem like a lot but in reality it would be five outfielders and a pinch runner.

Billy Hamilton has proven he can be a key tool and spark plug for the Reds. He is eligible for the playoffs since he replaced injured Nick Masset on the Reds 40-man roster. Add Shin-Soo Choo, Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick and that leaves two final spots. The last two spots would then go to Chris Heisey and Xavier Paul.

With this potential roster, the Reds would have two righties (Mesoraco and Heisey), two lefties (Paul and Hannahan) and two switch hitters (Hamilton and Izturis) off the bench.

There are some question marks and changes that could be argued and made to the roster so let’s hear your thoughts!


Next Reds Game View full schedule »
Tuesday, Sep 22 Sep7:05at Baltimore OriolesBuy Tickets

Tags: Cincinnati Reds

  • beeker

    Just out of curiosity, why are you so quick to write off Cueto? If you are in favor of shutting him down for the year, I can understand not wanting to take a risk with him. But they don’t seem to be on that course.

    If I were in Jocketty’s spot, I would entertain the idea of a Cueto/Arroyo combo. Let Cueto start the game and go until he reaches a pre-determined pitch count (50-ish maybe?), and then downshift into the crafty soft-tosser. Or start Arroyo and hook him after 5 or 6 innings — before he can lose it — and bring out Cueto to shut the door. It could be a good way to leverage both guys, minimize their exposure, and hopefully build in some protection for the bullpen since the two of them ought to be able to go 8 innings if not the full distance.

  • Zach Haile

    You make a very valid point and you are correct in that it would appear as though the Reds are not on that course. However, after having Cueto return only to be injured again multiple times this season I think that it’s reached the point where it may be beneficial to shut him down and give him the entire offseason to continue strengthening and rehabbing and be a sure 100% by next season.

    Your Cueto/Arroyo combo proposal is an interesting one. The question is can Cueto come out of the bullpen and be effective? We don’t know the answer to that so I would say the Reds would need to go with the pre-determined pitch count for Cueto in a start and then rely on Arroyo out of the pen.

    Trouble with that is can Arroyo still be effective out of the pen? Sure, he has had much more of a track record than Cueto from the pen but it’s been several years. In addition, teams would know Cueto is facing a pre-determined pitch count and then watch more pitches in his start(s). If Cueto can only get through 3 innings as a starter with his pitch count would you not rather have Arroyo start and be comfortable going 6 innings than coming out of the pen where we can’t be entirely sure what we’ll get out of him.

    So it would actually seem that the better move would be to go Arroyo-Cueto so that no matter the pitch count Cueto is on, Arroyo gets down to him then Cueto can throw his pre-determined amount and be followed by other bullpen arms. But then we are back to the question of if Cueto can be effective out of the pen.

    Does that make sense? That’s just how I see it because to me there is a big difference in starting and relieving a game and some guys just don’t have the so-called “bullpen mentality.”

    Of course, if Cueto were able to throw like Cueto out of the pen or even start with a high enough pre-determined pitch count where Arroyo could come in the game in say the 5th or 6th inning for 2-3 innings of work then absolutely I’m for it. I think your idea is a very good one as long as those few things hold true. But if Cueto gets pulled in say the 2nd or 3rd due to patient hitters who know he’s on a pitch count and then we have Arroyo coming out of the pen for the next 4-5 innings, I feel as though the Reds are put at a disadvantage and would be better suited to just start Arroyo and use their bullpen in a normal fashion to get through the NLDS.

  • Steve O’Red

    Just to add a little more intrigue on the Cueto front…

    Dusty on Cueto’s “simulated game”:
    “He looked very good,” manager Dusty Baker said. “He was sharp for the amount of time he’s been out. He had good command, good velocity and his pitches were pretty sharp. His mechanics are so sound that he’s not going to be too far off.”

  • Pingback: Pitching News Produces Questions About Reds Staff - Blog Red Machine

  • Pingback: Cueto Returns: Could he now start potential one-game playoff?