Texas Rangers playoff roster projections: We are 16 days away from the ALDS, the Rangers' Magic Number is 3, and its time to start spitballing about the Rangers' playoff roster. As things sit right now, who are the 25 guys who are likely to get the nod for the ALDS?
Let's start with the pitching staff. Texas is going to go with four starters, and we know that two of them, barring injury, will be Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. The final two spots are up for grabs between Colby Lewis, A.J. Griffin, Derek Holland and Martin Perez. Colby, I think, has a spot in the rotation if he doesn't fall apart in his final couple of starts, because he's Colby Lewis and he's battle-tested and trusted and all those things, and because really, he's pitched fairly well this year.
That leaves Perez, Holland and Griffin for the final spot. When we ran a poll on this subject a couple of weeks ago, Holland was the runaway favorite to get the fourth starter spot, but I think he's on the outside looking in right now. After a couple of good starts immediately after coming off the d.l., Holland has struggled in his last two outings, and his stuff is still not where it was pre-injury. He has a 4.93 ERA and a 4.72 FIP on the season, and isn't trending upwards. Things could change in his final couple of outings, but I don't see the Rangers trusting him with a playoff start.
A.J. Griffin, meanwhile, has also been subpar for a while. He was a revelation early in the early, but landed on the d.l. after six starts, and has struggled to work deep into games -- he has made it more than 6 IP only three times, although one of those three was in his last outing. Griffin has a 5.61 ERA and an 891 OPS allowed since the All Star Break, and while there's some thought that he could be in the rotation if the Rangers face the Blue Jays, since they are better against lefties, him cracking the rotation seems unlikely right now.
Which leaves Martin Perez. The 25 year old has a 4.14 ERA and a 4.41 FIP on the season, putting up a 2.5 bWAR in 189 IIP -- he's actually leading the team in innings right now. He's struggled to miss bats and his command disappears at times, but he gets ground balls and has had a solid year overall. He has also pitched well of late, putting up a 2.13 ERA in his last four starts, and a 3.68 ERA in his last 10 starts. At this stage, I have to think Perez is the favorite to get the fourth starter spot.
The bullpen is more straightforward, I think...we know that Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Matt Bush and Tony Barnette will make the playoff roster, barring injury. The Rangers will want a second lefty aside from Diekman, and Alex Claudio appears to have a clear edge over Dario Alvarez, while also giving the Rangers a multi-inning option. Rounding out the pen, I think, will be Keone Kela and Tanner Scheppers -- Kela has had an up-and-down year, and Scheppers has missed most of the season, but they both give Jeff Banister an additional power arm to choose from for the middle innings.
Looking at the position players, the big question is Shin-Soo Choo, who is recuperating from a broken arm -- will he back for the playoffs? My guess at this point is that he is on the playoff roster. The reports on his progress in healing have been good, and the Rangers covet his patience and on base skills at the top of the order. Even if they don't have him in the lineup for Game 1, he's a potential pinch hitting option, and I would wager he has a spot.
Assuming Choo is on the roster, there are 12 spots that get filled easily: the starting lineup of Jonathan Lucroy, Mitch Moreland, Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus, Adrian Beltre, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond, and Nomar Mazara, and Jurickson Profar, Carlos Gomez and Robinson Chirinos on the bench. You can put Gomez in the lineup and Mazara on the bench, if you think that's how Banny will go, but either way, those 12 seem safe. The question then is who the 4th bench guy is, with Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields being your two primary choices. DeShields gives the Rangers a speed guy off the bench to pinch run with, while Rua gives them a platoon partner for Moreland. My gut feeling right now is that Banister opts to use Moreland against lefties and righties in the playoffs, and thus DeShields gets that fourth spot.
So 4 starting pitchers, 7 relievers, and 13 position players...which totals 24 players. We have one spot left. To me, the question here is whether you give that to the extra position player -- Rua or DeShields -- or if you go with a true long man, in either Griffin or Holland.
My guess -- Banny goes with a long man, especially if the Rangers are facing Boston or Toronto, teams with strong offenses that could chase a starting pitcher early. And my guess is that Holland is the guy who is the long man, though Griffin could end up being picked if Texas faces Toronto.