Taking the annual stab at predicting the Tigers' playoff roster for the ALDS
[Note: This is just a *projection* and is not to be assumed to be concrete. The Tigers have until noon the day of the first game of the series — in this case Thursday, Oct. 2 — to submit their final playoff roster. They have not made any roster public, as of yet. This projection is based on knowledge of the situation.]
As always, things have a way of working themselves out.
Usually, the biggest question mark in assembling a playoff roster, is which of the five starters will be bumped into the bullpen. Injury answered that question, taking Anibal Sanchez out of the mix for six weeks, and allowing him back just in time for the playoffs, albeit in a modified role out of the bullpen. Theoretically, he’ll provide the Tigers with a “super reliever” who can go a few innings, but he’s only made one appearance since returning from the disabled list, so I wouldn’t expect three innings at a time to be feasible.
The rest of the bullpen is as it has been, for the most part, with Joakim Soria, Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan at the back end. Al Alburquerque will be in the mix, as well, as he’s the guy that can come in at any point in the game, and get you a strikeout or two.
The lefty contingent is where it gets messier. Blaine Hardy may have been a lock when September started, but his ERA in the final month is over 5.00, and his WHIP is approaching 3.00. Not what you want in big spots. That probably means that Kyle Lobstein — the rookie starter who helped fill in so admirably in the last month — may slide to the bullpen, where he could also fill the dual role of a long relief guy, something that normally the fifth starter could do in the postseason. Phil Coke — who hasn’t exactly stranded the runners he’s inherited lately — likely gets the edge over Hardy for the second lefty spot in the pen, based on experience alone.
The infield and outfield is all but set, pending the availability of Rajai Davis, after his freak pelvic injury this past weekend. If he can’t go, Ezequiel Carrera will be the starting center fielder, more than likely.
Off the bench, I’d give the edge to outfielder Tyler Collins, simply because he could play any of the three outfield positions, if needed, as well as provide a little left-handed thump as a pinch hitter, and has decent speed as a pinch runner. Hernan Perez has been in that “last man on the bench” role before in the playoffs, but there’s not a ton that separates him from Eugenio Suarez, who will likely come off the bench behind Andrew Romine at short. If Davis can’t go, I’d expect Perez would be the next man on the roster.
With Carrera’s speed on the bench, though, that final spot — Collins or Perez — might not be needed, allowing the Tigers to carry another reliever. They might go with Hardy for a third lefty, or they could add veteran Jim Johnson, who would likely get the nod over Evan Reed or Kyle Ryan.
Here's the roster projection:
(Last year, I got 24 of 25)