The Nationals will take on the Cubs in the division series, and last month I had some thoughts about a potential postseason roster. Some players have come off the DL, some went on the DL, and everyone has a lot to say about the bullpen. Let’s take a look, again, at how the Nationals may shape their NLDS roster.
The DS only requires three starters. Games one and two go to Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, while game three will be in the hands of Gio Gonzalez. Scherzer
is in the running for (read: should win) the NL Cy Young Award. Stephen Strasburg now holds the record for consecutive scoreless innings by a Nationals starter (34) and pitched well in his final regular season outing. Gio Gonzalez has been very good, especially since the All Star Break.
The Nats have three starters who pitched over two-hundred innings, have an ERA under 3.00, 175+ strikeouts, and at least fifteen wins. I’d put these three up against any other team’s top three starters and like my chances.
Tanner Roark gets demoted to the bullpen in a short series, but he always takes it like a total pro. Admittedly, his tune-up on Sunday could have been better, but he’s valuable in long relief. He can also come if the team needs four outs, etc. He’s been there before and he has been effective.
Edwin Jackson was a surprise pickup to me, and he’s been a really effective starter this season. I know him because he was on the St. Louis Cardinals back in 2011 where he came out of the pen. He’s been through a complete postseason and won it all before, so he’s a great option to help this team do it. Even though his last few outings have been less than stellar, I think he can be effective in relief.
Then we have the 7/8/9 monster of Brandon Kintzler, Ryan Madson, and Sean Doolittle. Thank goodness for these pickups, because the team needed a bullpen shakeup more than anything.
The rest bullpen is so up-and-down, I vote for a four-man bench with an extra bullpen arm. With six roster spots remaining, who else do we take? My suggestion:
- Matt Albers (I dunno, I just root for this guy.)
- Oliver Pérez (The rest of the bullpen is basically “who do I trust to suck the least?” While Sunday didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, Ollie can do a good job filling the lefty specialist role. Hello, Anthony Rizzo!!)
- Sammy Solis (He’s doing alright recently. For love of everything good in the world, limit him to one inning. As far as lefties go, I chose him over Matt Grace because I have a bit more confidence in him.)
- Joe Blanton (I dunno. He’s not as bad as he was? Realistically, if we need any of these guys then something’s gone sideways with a starter and the Nats are not in a great place.)
- A.J. Cole (He had a strong showing in relief of Max Scherzer on Saturday. October is all about momentum, and I think he pitched himself into the pen.)
The last time I made this list, Shawn Kelley was on it. He’s been put on the DL, but not before Nationals Twitter let me know how they felt:
I was with you until you put Kelley on your roster. NFW; we have WAY too much data to let that happen. Romero's 100mph >>> Kelley's HRs.— Brian Del Buono (@gr8day4bsbll) September 11, 2017
Absolutely 100% agree. Kelley has been an unmitigated disaster this season.— JLew - NL E CHAMPS (@Lewis6Jay) September 12, 2017
You're insane if you put Kelley on a post-season roster.— jlewisdc (@jlewisdc) September 11, 2017
I like Shawn Kelley, I think his experience would have been valuable, but it’s moot now.
The Starting Eight
1B: Ryan Zimmerman - precious cinnamon roll who deserves the world and finally stayed off the DL for an entire season.
2B: Daniel Murphy - does this even need an explanation? In 86 postseason plate appearances, he’s hitting .351 with a .662 slugging percentage (That’s not a typo.), and seven home runs.
SS: Trea Turner - he missed two months of the season and still has the third-highest amount of stolen bases in the NL. He plays above-average defense, he’s speedy, and also Anthony Rendon’s favourite player. (#GoodLifeChoices)
3B: Anthony Rendon (MVP! MVP!)
C: Matt Wieters - quiet, effective, capable of hitting homers and throwing out runners.
RF: Bryce Harper - (Finally got some hits!! Spun his wheels going first-to-home on a double. Looks promising, and even the threat of Bryce up at the plate forces the Cubs to tailor their game plan.)
CF - Michael A.
LF: Though I actually think this position should vary based on the starter, Jayson Werth sets the tone for the club. He is a leader on and off the field, and he is consistently top-five in baseball in average pitches per plate appearance. (His final please-give-me-one-more-year-of-him-Mike-Rizzo game gave me too many emotions to process.)
Howie Kendrick was great mid-season pickup for the Nationals. I admit, I was skeptical when he first arrived. It felt a little lackluster for a team that needed a serious slugger. Then Howie came, stole our hearts with his first (walk-off) grand slam, and now he’s part of a division championship ballclub.
Adam Lind has been the second-best pinch hitter in baseball this season of everyone with at least 25 pinch-hit plate appearances. That .356 average is exactly what you want in a guy who has to come up clutch in a pinch hit situation.
Backup catcher, José Lobatón, is on the bench if for no other reason than post-homer helmet removal duties. Also, let’s not forget that clutch three-run homer in game two of last year’s NLDS. Pedro Severino’s average is not much better than Lobi’s, so I really don’t have any justification for putting him in over Lobatón.
Then there is my problematic fav, Wilmer Difo. Problematic because I want him to play but there is nowhere to put him! He has significant infield experience, hits lots of singles, is very speedy and an effective bunter. Difo is a versatile player and his success filling in for Trea this season earned him a spot on the postseason roster. (And a place in my heart.)
The Twenty-Sixth Man
Probably the least-enviable position in postseason play. Who gets to travel with the team knowing that, if all goes well, they will never set foot on the field? In my opinion, it’s Alejandro De Aza. He has done such a good job since being called up, he would be the best backup plan.
Even though the universe seems bent on making it as difficult as possible, I feel as though the Nationals have put together their strongest team ever. Their biggest weakness is Max Scherzer’s right hamstring.
Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Federal Baseball. You can follow her on Twitter @HighStarkSunday.