The Red Sox face a roster crunch for the postseason. Many bullpen arms have stepped up down the stretch and pitching well in critical spots. Of course, not a bad problem to have. It does however beg the question, which ones will make the postseason team?
Craig Kimbrel is obviously on the team as the closer. That’s the number-one bullpen spot. Addison Reed will no doubt set him up. Despite a couple hiccups with the Red Sox, Reed has pitched well since coming over. With reports that David Price will pitch out of the pen in the playoffs, that’s three automatic spots occupied. Price is intriguing out there. It’s been a long time since he shut the Red Sox down in the ALCS in his rookie season coming out of the pen. However, he doesn’t have to worry about lasting and can just rear back and throw. He could be an effective left-handed option for them in crucial spots. Price would also be available for multiple innings at times in big spots if innings are needed. As for the other options…
Matt Barnes has been with the team all year, leading with 66 appearances. He can be hit or miss though, and his 3.88 ERA is high compared to the teams other relievers. Is there a chance one of their most used relief pitchers over the last two seasons off the postseason roster? He does strike out a lot of players — 75 batters in 65 innings. He’s not very trustworthy though.
Heath Hembree has pitched for the Sox a lot this season, appearing in 60 contests as of this writing. Hembree has a decent 3.58 ERA, but his 1.46 WHIP is the worst of anyone with more than 20 appearances. He puts a lot of men on base, which would be awfully nerve-wracking in the playoffs. Hembree, like Barnes, strikes out more than a batter per inning.
Joe Kelly has to be on the roster. With his 2.68 ERA and .207 opponent average, I trust Kelly much more than I trust either Barnes or Hembree. His 100 mph heat can be overpowering and elicits a lot of weak contact.
Brandon Workman has been outstanding for the Sox since coming back from injury. He has worked 37.1 innings to a 2.41 ERA. He can work multiple innings if needed, and do so effectively, a key weapon to have in the postseason.
Carson Smith shows us all what we have been waiting for. Somehow fleecing the Mariners in acquiring Smith (and Elias) for Wade Miley, Smith hadn’t pitched in almost two seasons for the Sox until this month. In 2015 he struck out nearly 12 batters per nine innings and had a 2.31 ERA. This kid has an electric arm. Since returning, Smith has struck out five batters over 4.1 shutout innings. I’d want him on the roster.
Austin Maddox has come out of nowhere to throw his hat in the mix. A guy hardly anyone knew anything about not long ago, Maddox is a 26-year-old career minor leaguer. His career ERA in the minors is 4.27. He’s pitched better the further into his professional career he has gone, posting a sub 4.00 ERA each of the past three seasons. This year his ERA was below 3.00 combined between Portland and Pawtucket. Since joining the big club, Maddox has thrown 12.1 shutout innings! Very shocking. He has allowed only 10 base runners and struck out 10 batters.
For left handers, I have to think at least one other than Price will make it. We have two options. Robby Scott pitched great in a few appearances late last season. This year he has been a little up and down, but when you only face a couple batters a game at most, your ERA fluctuate wildly. Batters hit only .186 off of him and he has a 1.03 WHIP. Beyond that, lefties bat an anemic .131 versus Robby. His should only face a lefty in a big spot. Why wouldn’t you want someone that dominant versus them?
The other option is Fernando Abad. John Farrell can’t seem to get past the fact he stunk last year. Abad is 2-0 with a 2.98 ERA this season however, showing why Dombrowski acquired him to begin with. Abad has a much better ERA than Scott, but his peripherals aren’t as good, allowing more hits and putting more men on base. Also, he isn’t as effective at getting lefties out, which is what the Sox will need from their left hander in the pen.
If I were to pick, I would say Kimbrel, Reed, Price, Kelly, Workman, Smith and Scott. Could even choose to keep eight, with four starters instead of five it opens another roster spot. The 4th rotation spot seems to be up for grabs, but whoever loses out in that battle won’t make the playoff roster as a reliever.