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
RP Lucas Sims

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.

14 Responses

  1. MBS

    I’d bet there would be a limit on pitchers of 15 if we go with a 29 man roster. I agree with all of your locks except Ervin. A 5th OF could easily be Ervin, Payton, or Jankowski.

    Davidson, Dietrich, and VanMeter would be competing for the final 2 bench spots. Davidson would have a greater chance to make the club if the 5th spot in the outfield goes to one of the Lefties.

    • Doug Gray

      Ervin is out of options. I don’t think he’s being put on waivers.

      • MBS

        I don’t have anything against Ervin, he just meh. I don’t understand why people are so dead set on him. “He crushed lefties” The year prior he was roughly even Lefty or Righty.

        With a very compact schedule you need to consider Votto’s off time. He is going to need a primary back up, and I think Davidson is a good fit for that. While that doesn’t preclude Ervin, it does take lessen the need for a righty bat off the bench.

        Jankowski or Payton would be ideal defensive replacements for Castellanos and Winker.

        Casali, Farmer, Davidson
        Akiyama, (Jankowski, Payton), Dietrich

        To me that seems like a bench that can fill the needs of the team very well.

      • Tom Reeves

        He ain’t meh against LHP. He’s above 1.000 OPS against LHP. In fact, a platoon of Winker / Ervin would yield a .900+ OPS outfielder. That’s not shaggy. Ervin stays.

        I love the idea of adding Mark Peyton, who is intriguing but there didn’t seem to be enough room.

        Frankly, with a 29 man roster, teams could play more double headers. I think a 29 man roster bodes especially well does the Reds as they’re simply deeper.

      • Bill

        I sure hope not. For me Ervin is a lock.

      • MBS

        @tom, I’m not rooting against him, I just want the best possible team up here.

        BTW i did have this quote in my comment “he crushed lefties”. His 2019 stats against lefties was good, but it’s such a small sample size.

        On the major league level in 18 he was roughly even L vs R. In the minors league level for 19, 18, and 17, he was also roughly even L v R, with a slight edge to the R.

        All I’m saying is lets hold the love fest for the 5th OF. Instead look at what helps the team the most, because if we lose Ervin, Payton, or Jankowski, it won’t have a major impact on the roster. We’re talking role players (minor roles at that), so who fits best was my only question.

  2. SteveLV

    Agree with all you wrote, Doug, but a little surprised Romano and Blandino weren’t in consideration to be in consideration. I’m not super optimistic on Romano’s future, but I could be wrong and he can eat innings. I may be too high on Blandino, but I’m a fan.

    • Doug Gray

      Romano’s situation might not be fair, but I think it plays out with the simple fact that unlike a guy like Nate Jones who almost assuredly has an opt-out if he’s not put on the team, Romano stays in the organization if he’s sent to the minors. It’s basically the options game we see played, but without options in a weird way.

      Blandino – I just struggle to see where he’s an upgrade over the other guys talked about here, unless you very specifically need a shortstop and a shortstop only.

  3. SteveO

    Totally agree on the first 25. I’d add 2 more pitchers and 2 position players. I like Bowman and Kuhnel, if Kuhnel is completely healthy. DeLeon another option, but I think the Reds will keep him in Louisville as a starter for insurance. A NRI reliever could also be a possibility taking roster spot of Schebler. I think they try to keep Payton in this situation and I like VanMeter or possibly Davidson taking Schebler roster spot if they feel VanMeter should be getting FT PT in Louisville instead of bench role in Cincinnati. Schebler has outside chance because of his situation, but it would come at Payton’s expense, as I think the Reds would like to have an IF option as well as an OF option.

  4. Stock

    Add Nate Jones, Bowman, VanMeter and Payton to your 25

    First down: Payton or VanMeter
    2nd down: Bowman
    3rd Down: Mahle

    • JayTheRed

      I too feel like Nate Jones makes this team. He has really good upside if he can stay healthy might end up closing some games too.

  5. redfan4life

    Unless they put a limit on it. I bet it will be 13 hitters and 16 pitchers

    • Redsvol

      I’m with this line of thinking. I think they will need 8 starting pitchers to get though the first 4-6 weeks of the season. Add in the roughly 7-8 man bullpen and 16 pitchers seems pretty easy to arrive at. I don’t think MLB would limit either one but if you consider multiple double headers early on then you will need minimum of 3 catchers on the active roster. Farmer is going to be very valuable this year.

      • Greg

        Doug’s 25, VanMeter and Jones for sure.

        Kuhnel was dealing with a sore shoulder so his status is up in the air. Thornburg was still around.

        Mark Payton is holding a 40 man spot. I don’t see him making it. Antone or Santillian might make the roster initially. We have no concept of how much ramp up these guys will need.