ST. PETERSBURG -- As we get closer to the postseason, it’s never too early to speculate how the Rays would structure a roster in a five-game American League Division Series. In Tampa Bay’s case, in order for the Rays to make the ALDS, they’ll have to secure one of the two AL Wild Card spots and then win the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday, Oct. 2.
Assuming that the Rays achieve both of those goals, let’s take a look at what a roster could look like against the top seed in the AL postseason:
This is probably the easiest of the groups to predict. d’Arnaud has been the steal of the season for the Rays and would likely catch Game 1 in order to get his bat in the lineup.
There was real thought here in adding Nate Lowe. But assuming the series is against the Yankees, the Rays will face three left-handed starters plus Aroldis Chapman and Zack Britton out of the bullpen. Because of that, Choi and Aguilar would handle the first-base duties against New York. Against Houston, Lowe could be an option against the Astros’ top three, which consists of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke.
Both Wendle and Sogard hit from the left side of the plate, but the Rays feel comfortable with either of them in the lineup. Sogard has done well as the team’s leadoff man and it wouldn't be surprising if he’s there more often than not through the end of the season. Wendle also gives the Rays a backup shortstop behind Willy Adames. If Brandon Lowe (left quad) looks sharp down the stretch, he could also be an option here.
Third base (1): Matt Duffy
With Yandy Díaz and Lowe out with injuries, having Duffy back has helped the Rays a ton down the stretch. Duffy has struggled to find his groove at the plate, hitting just .232, but his World Series experience can’t be overstated. And if the Rays' ALDS matchup is against the Yankees, there’s going to be a ton of opportunities against left-handed pitching. But if Lowe becomes an option and Sogard returns soon, the Rays could opt to have Wendle and Sogard handle the third-base duties and keep Duffy off the roster.
Shortstop (1): Willy Adames
Adames has been a mainstay at shortstop this season for the Rays, so there’s no doubt who will get the nod there if the Rays advance beyond the Wild Card Game.
Pham, Kiermaier and García have been rock solid this season, and that will likely be the starting outfield for Tampa Bay in the postseasason. Meadows could get a start at right field throughout the series, but he’ll see more time as the team’s designated hitter in order to keep the team’s strongest defensive unit on the field. Out of the group, Heredia is the wild card. He provides the Rays with a stellar defensive replacement late in games and would give the club another right-handed bat against the Yankees, if New York wins the top seed and faces the Rays in the ALDS. If it’s Houston, maybe the Rays go a different direction.
Snell returned to the Rays rotation with two scoreless innings against the Dodgers. Tampa Bay will hope he is stretched out enough to join Morton, Yarbrough and Glasnow, who has looked sharp since returning to the mouond, in what could be one of the better postseason rotations.
If the Rays roll with the four starters listed above, it’ll make for a couple of interesting decisions in the bullpen. Pagán, Anderson, Roe, Poche, Drake and Castillo have all been key relievers for Tampa Bay and would likely be on the roster. As for Chirinos, who made a successful return to the mound on Saturday, and Richards, they could have some value as multi-inning arms out of the bullpen. Kittredge would also serve as a middle or potentially long reliever out of the bullpen. Trevor Richards and Pete Fairbanks are other possible options.