After playing with an expanded roster all month, the Reds, just like every other playoff-bound team, will have to select 25 men to go into battle with in October.
Reports are indicating that the team will carry 11 pitchers and 14 position players. This differs from the regular season, when most teams carry 12 and sometimes even 13 pitchers. The rationale here (I can only assume) is that the playoff schedule offers many more off days than the regular season, so the staff can stay pretty well rested. This allows teams to only use four starters for the same reason.
When looking at the Reds, many of the spots are already locked up. In the field, assuming everyone is healthy, the starters are pretty well set:
Sep 21, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) and second baseman Brandon Phillips (4) talk during a pitching change in the tenth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Great American Ball Park. The Dodgers defeated the Reds 3-1 in ten innings. (Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE)
A few bench guys are virtual locks as well, including Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, and Dioner Navarro. You can basically throw Xavier Paul in there too, since he’s been an incredibly valuable bench bat, and is the only left handed pinch hitter who isn’t a catcher.
As of Monday, John Fay had Valdez as a lock. This probably makes sense, as none of the other bench locks above play middle infield.
That leaves Mez, Cairo, and Didi. I don’t work for the Reds, so my opinion probably won’t matter much, but to me, it’s a fairly easy call, and I go with Mez. Cairo has given a lot to this team, but in the playoffs, he doesn’t have much to offer. Right or wrong, Valdez has been the choice to relieve Phillips or Cozart when needed, and the Reds already have Frazier to play third or first. Additionally, Cairo’s bat has been pretty terrible this year, as he has the third worst wOBA among NL players with at least 120 at bats (funnily enough, Valdez is one of the guys who’s worse, but let’s not get into that now).
I don’t know much about Didi, though from what I’ve seen he’s played fairly well in September. However, with his youth and the fact that his minor league offensive numbers don’t show much, I think he’s a long shot at this point.
Whether the Reds want to carry three catchers remains to be seen, of course. I think idea that they all play catcher almost misses the point, as the two backups would probably be used for their bats more than anything else. Navarro provides a second lefty off the bench, and Mesoraco of course was the Reds’ top prospect coming into the year. While 2012 has been a bit of a struggle, I don’t believe anyone is ready to give up on him. He still has the capacity to be a great hitter. That, and the fact that three catchers provides maximum flexibility in late game/extra inning situations, should be enough to hand Mesoraco a spot.
From the pitching standpoint, I think we can pencil in the starters:
Sep 20, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts (right) talks with Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini during the fourth inning at Wrigley Field. (Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE)
Fay includes Sam LeCure as a lock as well, though Redleg Nation disagrees, as they just did a piece that includes LeCure, Alfredo Simon, and Mike Leake battling for the final two spots. They don’t even mention Logan Ondrusek or Tony Cingrani, who Fay also threw into the discussion.
I think RN narrowed it down correctly. As interesting as Cingrani may be, he’s only pitched 4 major league innings and is 22 years old. Not that these things should automatically eliminate him, but the Reds have more than enough options without adding in a “wild card”, as Fay calls him.
I also truly hope that Ondrusek isn’t seriously considered. After an impressive start to the year, he has been inconsistent and unreliable, and his peripheral stats are terrible. He’s actually contributed -0.6 WAR this year.
That leaves LeCure, Simon, and Leake, and man I don’t envy the Reds for having to make this decision. If I went purely on what I want to happen, I go with LeCure and Leake. I know Simon has been outstanding this year, but I feel the other two have more to offer.
I get the feeling LeCure is a type of personality you want in your bullpen. Knows how to keep guys loose, but doesn’t back down to anyone. I love having him on this team.
I view Leake somewhat similarly. Not only that, he’s an emergency starter if needed, he can pinch run, and he could even go up to hit if needed. Honestly, who would you rather have up to bat in a late game situation, Valdez or Leake?
So there you have it. There are still 11 games left, but here’s my pick for the 2012 Reds playoff roster:
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