Examining final roster decisions for ALDS
On Thursday prior to the NL Division Series openers, I ran down the final roster decisions of the four teams. With the AL series set to kick off on Friday afternoon, those rosters have now been finalized, so here's a look at some of the late-breaking news regarding who's on and who's off.
Jhonny Peralta is indeed on the roster, though manager Jim Leyland plans to start Andy Dirks in leftfield against Bartolo Colon in Game 1 on Friday night. Peralta, who hit .303/.358/.457 to Dirks' .256/.323/.363, has just 18 2/3 major league innings in left as part of the crash course he undertook upon returning from his 50-game PED suspension. He'll likely come off the bench if Dirks has to face a lefty. Matt Tuiasosopo, who was effective in the first half before the league caught up with him, was left off the roster.
More surprisingly, Jose Alvarez got the nod over Darin Downs as the Tigers' second lefty behind Drew Smyly. Alvarez was knocked around for a 5.82 ERA in six starts and eight relief appearances totaling 38 2/3 innings with the Tigers, and he was raked over the coals by lefties (.265/.321/.531 with three homers in 53 PA) as well as righties. He may be around more for long relief purposes than situational ones, with Leyland instead calling upon "surrogate lefty" Al Alburquerque, who had a 4.59 ERA in 49 innings this year but has shut down lefties (.195/.301/.243 in 198 PA) almost as well as righties (.159/.319/.237 in 257 PA) during his three-year career.
With regards to the three-headed catching hydra on the roster, it appears that lefty Stephen Vogt will start against the Tigers' all-righty rotation, with righties Derek Norris and Kurt Suzuki likely to come on in the event of a lefty reliever. Suzuki is regarded as the best defender of the bunch, particularly when it comes to handling the sinkers of Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook.
As for the condition of Yoenis Cespedes' shoulder, manager Bob Melvin says that if Cespedes has to DH, Brandon Moss will play leftfield, with Daric Barton at first base. Moss made just five starts in left this year and has 66 starts there in his career. He spent more time in right (20 starts) this year in the absence of Josh Reddick. Cespedes has just three innings in the field since Sept. 14, but he was reportedly pain-free in Thursday's workout.
Tampa Bay Rays
Manager Joe Maddon is the only one of the four AL managers who has yet to flesh out his four-man rotation. He has Matt Moore, David Price and Alex Cobb lined up for the first three games, but rather than tip his hand, the team is carrying both Chris Archer and Jeremy Hellickson. Archer (3.22 ERA in 23 starts) roundly outpitched Hellickson (5.17 ERA in 31 starts and one relief appearance) despite similar peripherals (FIPs of 4.09 and 4.24, respectively), but the former had a much lower batting average on balls in play (.254 to .308) and is regarded as having better stuff. Archer did struggle with his command late in the year, yielding 10 homers in 61 innings over the final two months. That said, Hellickson was tarred and feathered for a 7.02 ERA with seven homers allowed in 41 innings during the same period.
Update: After this was filed, Maddon announced that Hellickson will get the call in Game 4, based upon what the manager called "our little esoteric stuff."
Elsewhere, Kevin Kiermaier is on the roster, and Luke Scott is off. Kiermaier, a 23-year-old lefty who made his major league debut in the tiebreaker game and played in the Wild-Card Game as well, both without a plate appearance, is around as a defensive replacement for the gimpy Desmond Jennings. He stole 21 bases in 33 attempts at Double-A and Triple-A this year while hitting .295/.362/.431, but it would be a surprise to see him get much time at the plate.
As for Scott, the 35-year-old lefty hit .241/.326/.415 with nine homers, but he missed time with leg and back injuries and batted just .143/.225/.222 in 71 plate appearances after the All-Star break. The late-season reacquisition of Delmon Young (a righty, not a lefty) to be the DH has already paid dividends, as he hit .258/.329/.452 with three homers in 70 PA and homered in the Wild-Card Game against the Indians. Indeed, Young has a reputation for coming up big in the postseason, hitting 266/.328/.560 with nine homers in 109 PA over the past five seasons, and collecting game-winning RBIs in each of his teams' last five postseason wins. Given Young's platoon split, Maddon could call upon lefty Matt Joyce to DH against Red Sox righties John Lackey and Jake Peavy, but he may stick with the hot hand, since Joyce slumped to .089/.232/.143 in 69 PA in September.
Boston Red Sox
The Sox have chosen Felix Doubront over Matt Thornton as the third lefty in the bullpen behind Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales. Doubront pitched to a 4.32 ERA in 27 starts and two relief appearances totaling 162 1/3 innings this year, and he's never really found comfort in the majors as a reliever; in 22 appearances totaling 26 2/3 innings over the last three years, he has a whopping 7.76 ERA via a .398 BABIP and 5.1 walks per nine. He's probably around more for long relief purposes than situational ones, though for what it's worth he held lefties to a .247/.309/.339 line with one homer in 192 PA this year. Thornton put up a 3.52 ERA in 20 appearances totaling 15 1/3 innings after being acquired from the White Sox on July 12, and a 3.74 mark in 43 1/3 innings overall.
Also off the roster is outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who would likely have been limited to pinch-running and defensive replacement duties after hitting just .189/.280/.337 in 107 PA. The Sox are carrying the more experienced Quintin Berry for those purposes instead, and it's tough to argue against that; though he stole all of three bases in 13 games for the Sox, Berry is 24-for-24 in steals during the regular season, including last year's stint with the Tigers, and he went 2-for-2 in the 2012 postseason as well. Also on the roster is Xander Bogaerts, who hit .250/.320/.364 in 50 plate appearances after being called up in late August. He'll back up shortstop Stephen Drew and third baseman WIll Middlebrooks, though he has just 19 professional appearances at the hot corner, all of them since the start of July.