When Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association came to an agreement the other day, one of the things that came out of the meetings was that the rosters would likely be larger than expected if and when baseball begins again. There were supposed to be 26-man rosters this season, up from one player in the past. But as Bob Nightengale of USA Today first reported, teams are likely to begin the season with 29-man rosters. After the first month or so rosters will go back to the originally planned 26-man rosters. The idea is that there is probably going to be a push to get through “spring training” quickly to get games started – and that’s going to leave pitchers in particular, unable to be as ready to go as they normally would be.
Now, with a few additional roster spots early in the season (whenever that comes, if it comes, who are the players most likely to benefit from that? Before figuring that out, we need to figure out who has spots seemingly locked up. That list feels pretty easy to me:
|SP||Luis Castillo||C||Tucker Barnhart|
|SP||Sonny Gray||C||Curt Casali|
|SP||Trevor Bauer||1B||Joey Votto|
|SP||Anthony DeSclafani||2B||Mike Moustakas|
|SP||Wade Miley||3B||Eugenio Suarez|
|SP||Tyler Mahle||SS||Freddy Galvis|
|RP||Raisel Iglesias||IF||Kyle Farmer|
|RP||Amir Garrett||OF||Nick Senzel|
|RP||Michael Lorenzen||OF||Nick Castellanos|
|RP||Pedro Strop||OF||Jesse Winker|
|RP||Robert Stephenson||OF||Shogo Akiyama|
|RP||Cody Reed||OF||Phillip Ervin|
That’s 25 players that I feel, short of injury, are locks to make the team. On that list only one guy is now a “lock” that wouldn’t have been in another scenario – Tyler Mahle. I’ve got him listed as a 6th starting pitcher. Not sure if that’s how the Reds will choose to go early on – but either way, I think he’s a guy they absolutely have on their roster to help give more innings early on.
So, we’ve got what feels like two spots each for pitchers and position players. Maybe it’s one more pitcher and three position players – but that doesn’t feel as likely.
The pitchers that could benefit the most from the early roster expansion is among those guys on the edges. Guys like Matt Bowman and Joel Kuhnel, who are on the 40-man roster, but have options and may have been facing a situation where because they had options, could have headed to the minors to start the year simply so the organization could hold onto players who didn’t. A guy like Nate Jones, who is in spring training on a minor league deal, but was starting to show that he was healthy again, could be a big beneficiary with additional roster spots now available.
On the position player side, this feels like a situation where Josh VanMeter, Aristides Aquino, Mark Payton, and Derek Dietrich could see a spot open up for them. There was probably only one spot open to that group with a 26-man roster. And it was likely going to go to someone who could play a bit of everywhere. That probably meant that Aristides Aquino was heading to Triple-A in a normal situation. And while Mark Payton can play center field while the rest of the guys can’t, he’s only an outfielder. His status as a Rule 5 player may have come into play before, but now it really does. If nothing else, it gives Cincinnati even more time to evaluate him.
And then there’s the “can play both infield and outfield” crew of VanMeter and Dietrich. For VanMeter, he’s on the 40-man roster and he’ll make less money if he’s on the team than Dietrich. But, both guys can play 1st and 2nd base, as well as the corner outfield spots. VanMeter’s also capable of playing third base, and in the minors he’s actually seen some limited action at shortstop – though in the big leagues that would only be in an absolute emergency situation. Still, the versatility that each brings is big. But I would only expect one of them to get a spot, as they would fill an extremely similar role.