By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Red Sox have all but sewn up the American League East crown and the best record in baseball, making the final few weeks of the regular season essentially meaningless when it comes to the standings.
But for a team with 100 wins, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about which players will make the 25-man postseason roster.
Manager Alex Cora is holding open auditions in the bullpen to see if he can find any reliable candidates to pitch high-leverage situations in October, meaning there are at least 10 pitchers in consideration for the final three or four spots on the staff. It also remains to be seen how many catchers the Sox will carry and which members of a crowded infield will make the team.
With three weeks to go, here’s the best guess at this point as to who will make the ALDS roster:
Starters: Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez.
Bullpen: Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Brasier, Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly, Brandon Workman, Steven Wright, Nathan Eovaldi.
The only job more unenviable than trying to project this October pitching staff will be Cora trying to actually put it together.
With the bullpen struggling, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cora look to emulate the Astros approach last year by relying on starting pitchers in high leverage situations. Wright and Eovaldi both make the roster as a result.
Workman’s performance of late and experience in some high leverage situations in the 2013 playoffs makes him deserving of a roster spot. Kelly gets the nod over the likes of Tyler Thornburg and Hector Velazquez because he is one of the better options against left-handed hitters, having held them to a .194 batting average this season.
Cora could consider adding Bobby Poyner to the roster if he pitches well in September to give the team a second left-handed option, but it’s hard to project giving Poyner a spot just yet given he has only made 14 appearances in the big leagues this year.
Matt Barnes’ health remains a concern, as he is out indefinitely with a hip problem. If he is healthy, he will make the team, but there is no guarantee he will be healthy at this point.
Infielders (7): Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler, Xander Bogaerts, Eduardo Nunez, Steve Pearce, Brock Holt, Brandon Phillips.
Make no mistake about it: there is a postseason job to be won here. The final spot likely comes down to Phillips or Rafael Devers. The Red Sox clearly do not trust Devers defensively and he has not done enough at the plate this year to justify playing him given his poor defense. There’s a reason the Sox kept the 37-year-old Phillips in the organization all summer, even after the acquisition of Kinsler at the trading deadline. He can play solid defense at second and third, giving Cora flexibility off the bench. That earns him the nod over the 21-year-old Devers.
Outfielders (4): Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Andrew Benintendi, J.D. Martinez.
There’s not much to say about this group. All four are locks.
Catchers (3): Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez, Blake Swihart.
The Sox could choose to carry only two catchers to keep an extra pitcher, but the versatility of having three catchers on the roster far outweighs holding on to 12 pitchers for a five-game series. Sandy Leon is 0-for-2018, but is the best defensive catcher on the team and is clearly trusted by the pitching staff. That will likely earn him the nod as the everyday catcher in October, but also means he will be pinch hit for consistently later in games. Carrying both Vazquez and Swihart allows Cora to pinch hit twice for his catchers if necessary. Swihart is also one of Cora’s best pinch-hitting and pinch-running options. His versatility off the bench will play well in October.