Will any September call-ups win a spot on the playoff roster?
Predicting the Astros' postseason roster
On September 1st, MLB teams expanded to allow the use of the team's entire 40-man roster. While this rule will change next year, it enables clubs, like the Astros, to bring in some fresher and younger players to rest some of their veterans and stars.
With that, we get an opportunity to see promising prospects log time with their big-league club and dabble with going against some of the best in the game. For the Astros, that's meant the return of Kyle Tucker to the major-league squad for the first time since his struggles last year, as well as some position fill-ins like Myles Straw and Garret Stubbs along with some fresh blood in the bullpen from guys like Jose Urquidy and Cionel Perez.
However, this opportunity is exclusive to September. For teams like Houston, who are preparing for the playoffs, they face a tough challenge, which is trimming that roster back down to 25. It becomes additionally tricky if some of the players brought up to add some depth to allow some rest to star players end up showing star potential themselves.
Even further, Houston also has some key pieces returning from injury soon to retake their places on the roster. These include Carlos Correa, Ryan Pressly, and if all goes well, Brad Peacock. So, with a lot of moving pieces, I want to offer my prediction of the Astros' 25-man postseason roster:
Let's get the easy ones out of the way. For the sake of argument, I'm going to assume Carlos Correa returns in the coming weeks and stays healthy. Also, Yuli Gurriel is expected to return this week, so he's in too. That means this is your playoff starting infield:
1) Yuli Gurriel - 1B
2) Jose Altuve - 2B
3) Alex Bregman - 3B
4) Carlos Correa - SS
Another set of players that should be a lock is the pitching rotation. On Sunday, A.J. Hinch announced that he would be going with a 4-man rotation the rest of the regular season, with two bullpen days along the way when they hit five-straight days with games. I would expect that means they are gearing up for that same set of starters to roll into October:
5) Justin Verlander - SP
6) Gerrit Cole - SP
7) Zack Greinke - SP
8) Wade Miley - SP
Then, you've got some outfielders, hitters, and your primary catcher who will have earned their spots:
9) George Springer - OF
10) Michael Brantley - OF / DH
11 ) Yordan Alvarez - OF / DH
12) Robinson Chirinos - C
That brings us to the bullpen, where you can go ahead and get your pens out for a few arms that are all but guaranteed to be used in the highest of leverage situations in October:
13) Roberto Osuna - RP
14) Ryan Pressly - RP
15) Will Harris - RP
16) Brad Peacock - RP (If Healthy)
That's your set of guys that if you could use them every day to complete a game, you'd expect to win against anyone. That leaves nine more spots.
Past the above list of no-doubters, you have a few more spots that should belong to your multi-position players, some position depth, and next set of relievers:
17) Aledmys Diaz - IF
18) Josh Reddick - OF
19) Jake Marisnick - OF
20) Martin Maldonado - C
21) Collin McHugh - RP (if healthy)
22) Hector Rondon - RP
23) Josh James - RP
Diaz is your fill-in if you have to fill a hole in the infield. Despite a lot of debate I've seen regarding Reddick, I see no reason to exclude him from the roster in October, and I don't see a reason to leave Marisnick's terrific defensive ability out.
McHugh has a big asterisk next to him right now because of his health, but assuming he can pitch, I think they'll bring him along. Then, I currently have Rondon and James in for their recent success. James has looked sharp since returning from injury, and Rondon has allowed just three runs over his last sixteen appearances.
Who's in, who's out
That leaves two more spots available. I think considering they've got the depth they need on the field with the 23 guys listed above, that they use those for two more arms in the bullpen:
24) Chris Devenski - RP
25) Joe Smith - RP
Devenski has had a rocky year, but I think he still has the trust of Houston's coaching staff. As far as Joe Smith, he did not start his year until July after returning from injury and has performed well, so a combination of less wear and tear along with success, in my opinion, earns him a spot.
With that, I don't have a lot of upsets or controversy taking place going into the playoffs. I think that the Astros are on pace to win 100 games again this year primarily due to the success of the 25 guys listed above, so I don't think that it will be the time to try and experiment. Still, though, Houston will have a solid group of guys ready to come onto the roster should injuries arise:
Garret Stubbs - C
Kyle Tucker - OF
Cionel Perez - RP
Joe Biagini - RP
Framber Valez - RP
In any case, the Astros will have a good problem on their hands trying to construct their playoff roster, because instead of trying to guess which players are worth the spots, they will be instead be splitting hairs on which players will have to be left off.