The Rangers have clinched a playoff spot. They haven't clinched a spot in the ALDS, but will if they either win one of their final three games, or the Astros lose one of their final three games.
I thought about waiting to do a full-blown playoff roster projection post until we know for sure there will be a multi-game series, but that would mean doing it on the weekend, so I'm going to risk the possibility of a jinx and the possibility the Rangers end up with a Wild Card spot and don't make the ALDS by doing this post today.
So let's assume the Rangers are playing in the ALDS. What would the 25 man roster look like?
I'm guessing the Rangers will go with an 11 man pitching staff and a 14 man group of position players, since you don't need a fifth starter in the playoffs. Assuming that's the case, we know for sure (barring injury issues the rest of the way) the following position players will be on the roster:
12 13 of the 13 14 position players locked up. Hamilton and Chirinos getting healthy and back on the field makes things easier...a week ago, I assumed Hamilton would be too hurt to be anything other than a pinch hitter, putting his roster spot in jeopardy, but if he can play the field, he's on the roster.
That leaves one spot open, and my guess is that that goes to Drew Stubbs. He gives the Rangers a late-game pinch running option, as well as someone who can go into the game for defensive purposes (and realistically, all three of the Rangers current starting outfielders aren't great with the glove). He's also a righthanded hitter, which balances out Venable's lefty bench bat.
You could conceivably have Bobby Wilson or Ryan Rua instead of Stubbs or Venable, to give you a third catcher or more defensive versatility with Rua, but I suspect that Stubbs will be the guy.
The pitching staff is a more complicated situation. We know Cole Hamels will pitch twice (assuming the Rangers can set up their rotation), and Colby Lewis will almost certainly be in the rotation. Derek Holland struggled down the stretch, but after his solid outing yesterday, I think he's in the rotation. That leaves the question of whether the fourth starter will be Martin Perez or Yovani Gallardo.
The pluses and minuses here are pretty straightforward -- Gallardo is the battle-tested veteran who won't go deep into the game or dominate anyone, but who is likely to give you five solid innings and keep you in the game. Perez is the mercurial lefty coming off Tommy John surgery, who has pitched one of the best games any Ranger has thrown this season, as well as one of the worst games. Perez also has had issues keeping his emotions in check, and you have to wonder how he'll handle being in the playoff spotlight.
My feeling is that I'd go with Perez, though that may be more emotion talking than logic. However, if you're going with Gallardo (and you've won the division outright without a Game 163), I'd start him in either Game 1 or Game 2, when you've got a fully rested bullpen and have Hamels going in the other game before the day off. Opponent is a factor as well, as the Blue Jays have crushed lefties this year, while the Royals have been better against righthanded pitchers...it could be Perez if the Rangers were to face Kansas City, and Gallardo if they are facing Toronto.
The assumption has been that the starter who doesn't make the playoff rotation will be the long man, and my guess is that that is what happens, leaving six other bullpen spots available. We know that Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson, Keone Kela, and Jake Diekman will make the playoff roster. That leaves two spots open.
At this stage, my guess is that those final two spots come down to Ross Ohlendorf, Anthony Bass, Andrew Faulkner and Sam Freeman. Freeman has fallen out of the Tree of Trust of late, so if Texas goes with two lefties, I'd think Faulkner would get the nod, with Ohlendorf taking the other spot. If the Rangers were to go up against the Blue Jays, though, they may opt for just one lefty in the back end of the bullpen (especially if Perez is the long man), and could opt for both Ohlendorf and Bass.