With the playoffs right around the corner I figured we could take a look at the projected Astros’ 25 man roster for the teams first round matchup vs the Cleveland Indians.
First thing we have to figure out is if A.J. Hinch goes with 12 bats or 13. For weeks I’ve thought he’d go with 12 bats, but when I put them on paper, seeing that either Kemp or Marisnick could be left off, combined with the fact that the pitching staff is so deep and talented, I now think he’ll carry 13 bats.
The other, and perhaps the most important reason I think they will carry 13 bats is the health of George Springer. He’s not 100%, so having both Marisneck and Kemp as back-ups makes sense.
Here are the fielders I project will make the cut for round 1:
C: Brian McCann
1B: Yuli Gurriel
2B: Jose Altuve
3B: Alex Bregman
SS: Carlos Correa
LF: Marwin Gonzalez
CF: George Springer
RF: Josh Reddick
DH: Evan Gattis
Martin Maldonado(C), Tyler White (1B/DH), Jake Marisnick (OF), Tony Kemp (OF/2B)
For the sake of argument, let's say he decides to only carry 12 bats. Who does Hinch leave off, Kemp or Marisnick?
Both can provide speed off the bench to steal you a bag late in a game, but Marisneck’s value as a late game defensive replacement is undeniable. So if they do go with 12 bats, I think Kemp is the odd man out.
Now to the pitching staff.
(MR = Middle Relief, LS = Lefty Specialist, SU = Setup Man, CL = Closer)
MR: Ryan Pressly, Colin McHugh, Lance McCullers, Joe Smith, Josh James
LS: Tony Sipp
SU: Hector Rondon
CL: Roberto Osuna
Much like the hitters, most of the names on this list are no-brainers.
One great sign for this team was Lance McCullers getting in a productive inning of work (his first work since going on the DL in early August), so expect to see him pitch in at least two more games before the playoffs get here.
I think the final 2 spots on this team come down to choosing between Will Harris, Josh James, Brad Peacock, Joe Smith, and Framber Valdez.
Will Harris just doesn’t have it this year, at least not enough to warrant a playoff spot, and for as good as Framber Valdez has looked this year, his 21 walks in 34.2 innings is going to keep him out of the playoffs.
I think Josh James has shown enough to warrant his addition to the roster. He’s proven that pressure isn’t an issue (look at his outing in Boston) and he’s got electric stuff that can get you a strikeout when needed, but can also go for a while if you find yourself in an extra innings marathon (and I think this could be very likely in at least 1 of the 5 games).
So this was really a choice between Brad Peacock and Joe Smith, and to be honest, you could make a case for both.
Peacock is giving up 1.57 HR/9 and averaging 13/4 Ks per 9 innings, while Smith is giving up 1.22 HR/9 and fanning 9.3 per 9 inning. Smith has shown better control with a .963 WHIP to Peacocks 1.115.
Those numbers are pretty darn good for both guys, so you really can’t go wrong here. I think it comes down to performance in the postseason.
Peacock has a 5.11 ERA (giving up 7 earned runs in 12 postseason inning - all last year).
Smith has pitched in a total of 5 innings of relief in the playoffs (spread over 3 years - 2013, 2014 and 2017) and has yet to give up a run (that included 4 appearances against the Yankees last year in the ALDS).
So because of his postseason success I went with Smith, but if the final playoff spot on your pitching roster is between Joe Smith and Brad Peacock, it’s safe to say your pitching staff is pretty darn good.
The Astros are loaded with talent and ready to make another deep playoff run. The Cleveland Indians are no slouch of a team and can match the Astros starter for starter and at bat for at bat. The real difference between these two clubs is the bullpen and that is advantage Astros.
The Astros win this series, but it’ll take all five games.