CINCINNATI -- The Brewers are in the postseason. Now comes the next test: Continuing to win without the whole 40-man roster.
Starting with the Wild Card Games, teams must submit a 25-man roster at the start of each round. That means the Brewers have some choices to make. As much as any team in baseball, they have used the full 40-man roster in September to get to this point.
“It’s impressive,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “We’ve had different guys step up, really since that series in Chicago [at the end of August and start of September]. And that’s continued every game. It’s what we’re going to have to do to keep this going.”
MLB.com has been projecting potential postseason rosters for all of MLB’s contenders throughout the month of September. Because the NL Wild Card Game is a totally different animal, our project has instead looked ahead to a best-of-five NL Division Series.
Should the Brewers get that far, here’s one way they could align:
Piña was sidelined by a concussion at the start of September, but he caught a couple of games during the Brewers’ final homestand with no problems. It looks like the Brewers’ catching duo would be intact for the postseason.
Like Piña, Hiura did a lot on the homestand to answer questions about his health. He was sidelined in late August by a strained left hamstring, and he didn’t return to the lineup until last week against the Padres, but he got through the week without a setback. Hiura has been careful running, and the Brewers have replaced him with a pinch-runner when the situation called for it. But the hope is that he will continue gaining confidence in his legs as he continues to play.
Taylor has played only sparingly since joining the team, but the nature of an NL Division Series -- best of five with off-days between Games 2 and 3 and between Games 4 and 5 -- allows teams to carry extra position players. We’re going with the Brewers’ NLDS alignment last year against the Rockies: 14 hitters, 11 pitchers. And carrying Taylor protects against Braun’s balky back and Cain’s troublesome left knee and left ankle, which acted up on Thursday against San Diego.
Spangenberg has provided a spark since getting called up, and like Perez, he can play all over.
This is hard for a reason manager Craig Counsell doesn’t mind one bit: The Brewers have too many pitchers peaking at the right time, particularly Suter. So we’re trying something new and re-ordering them by how sure -- or unsure -- we are that they’ll make it. It’s impossible to leave the left-hander out at this point, even if the club continues its policy of not pitching him consecutive days because he is coming off Tommy John surgery. Peralta gets added, too, based on his recent quality results and the number of times Counsell has mentioned him of late in explaining the team’s recent surge.
It’s after Peralta that it gets challenging. Left off our list is Chase Anderson and Zach Davies, who used the disappointment of being left off last year’s postseason rosters to fuel comeback seasons. Anderson in particular has been impressive in September, and is throwing with greater velocity in shorter stints. But the nature of a five-game series with two off days is that teams need only three starting pitchers, and we’re going with Jackson’s power stuff and Albers’ good numbers against right-handed hitters.