Now that the Nationals have guaranteed themselves a playoff berth this year, it is time to start speculating about what the 25 man playoff roster will look like and should look like.
There eleven position players that will make the cut. Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse, Kurt Suzuki, and Jesus Flores are there. Steve Lombardozzi will be on the 25 man because he can fill in at second for Espinosa and at third for Zimmerman and is a switch hitter who can pinch hit for Davey Johnson no matter which reliever comes in. Roger Bernadina should also make the grade with his outstanding outfield defense, ability to play all three outfield positions and ability provide a left handed pinch hitter when needed.
Four starters will definitely be put on the roster. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson will be the starters Johnson will rely on during the postseason. Jackson and Detwiler have experience relieving also, if needed.
Chad Tracy will be on the roster. He is not only the Nats most reliable pinch hitter, but can also play third and first in the event Davey needs to do a double switch late in the game or if Adam LaRoche’s back spasms make another occurrence or Ryan Zimmerman gets banged up.
Out of the bullpen, Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen, Craig Stammen, Ryan Mattheus and Sean Burnett should all be on the team for the playoffs, barring an injury or Burnett’s elbow making it impossible for him to pitch in the post-season.
That covers twenty-one of the positions available. Making the decisions about the other four spots is where the difficulties begin.
Before discussing the options for the other four spots, lets speculate about who will not make the roster. Eury Perez will not be on the roster. Bernadina and Lombardozzi are effective pinch runners, which is about the only role Perez has been allowed to play since being added to the big league roster in September. Corey Brown will also not make the roster. If the choice is between Tyler Moore and Corey Brown, Moore will get the nod. Moore has more experience, having been with the team since June. He can also play the outfield and first base, so he is more versatile than Brown, and has more experience with the pinch hitting role. Sandy Leon will not make the roster either. He’s barely played since being added to the active roster, and the team cannot afford the luxury of carrying three catchers with the limited roster size. If Suzuki or Flores go down, the other one will have to catch every game. If both of them go down, Bryce will have to put on the gear.
The roster needs another left handed reliever. The choices are Christian Garcia and Mike Gonzalez. A long man/spot starter should be considered, with options between John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang, Tom Gorzelanny and Zach Duke. The only one of that group that is right handed is Wang. The other three are lefties. Other bench players to be considered are Tyler Moore and Mark DeRosa.
Here is where Davey Johnson and I will diverge in deciding on who should fill the remaining four slots.
My choices would be Tyler Moore, Christian Garcia, Michael Gonzalez and Zach Duke. As stated above, Tyler Moore can pinch hit, play the outfield and play first base. He has given the team some huge pinch hit home runs this year, which makes him, like Tracy, a long ball threat off the bench that opposing pitchers must respect. I would put both Christian Garcia and Michael Gonzalez on the roster because I would not want to overstress Burnett and it gives me more flexibility in late inning match up situations to have three lefty relievers to put in. I am not the world’s biggest Michael Gonzalez fan, but he does provide the ability to go situational in late innings.
My controversial decision is Zach Duke. However, if you analyze your choices it makes perfect sense. Tom Gorzelanny was supposed to be a long reliever for the team, but Johnson rarely uses him more than one or two innings. He hasn’t pitched four innings in a game since I can remember. He hasn’t had to start or go more than three innings all year. His arm is not trained at this point to take on a starter or long relief role. John Lannan can’t be a reliever. That is all there is to that. He is a sinker ball pitcher that requires regular work. Lannan is not a pitcher that you can give ten days off and then throw him into a game and expect him to be effective in either a starting or relief role. That is just courting disaster. A spot fifth starter may get one start in the playoffs. Lannan cannot sit for days on end and then be asked to come in and pitch effectively. Chien-Ming Wang has the same problem. He is a sinker ball pitcher. Wang has had some experience relieving this year and has been inconsistent. Sometimes he is effective, sometimes he isn’t.
Zach Duke since being added to the roster in September has been effective for the Nats as both a long reliever and short reliever. He pitched four innings on September 7th after Strasburg only lasted three innings, only giving up one run. He has appeared as a spot reliever twice since then. His ERA since joining the Nats is 1.35 in long relief and short relief. He was a starter in AAA Syracuse, so he can start if need be. He has years of big league experience. Out of all the choices for spot starter/long reliever, I think he give the Nats the best opportunity to have a successful player at the position.
Davey Johnson will probably keep Tyler Moore on the postseason roster, but it is not a guarantee. He will keep two more pitchers, and only one of the choice of Christian Garcia and Michael Gonzalez will make the cut. Davey will select one more starter/long reliever, and it won’t be Zach Duke. It will be Lannan, Wang or Gorzelanny, and it is doubtful that Gorzelanny will make the cut. If Johnson decides not to add Tyler Moore, he will go with another pitcher.
The one player that I would not add to the post season roster but who Johnson will probably add is Mark DeRosa. He is technically listed as an outfielder, but he’s terrible out there. He’s not a good infielder and is too slow to pinch run. His batting average of .179 is woeful. He has spent most of the year on the DL, usually making a trip there when it became apparent that the Nats might have to move him off the roster to make space for a returning player. He is like the goat that goes everywhere with a skittish racehorse to keep the thoroughbred calm before races. Everyone talks about his veteran presence in the dugout and about the talking he does with the other players. No one talks about his ability to play. I think that if the team wants DeRosa hanging around the dugout during the playoffs, give him a temporary coaching job. I think that Johnson will add him to the roster because the team just wants him around. It is a waste of a roster spot, in my opinion, but I think DeRosa will make the 25 man roster and get a couple of pinch hit appearances during the postseason.