Last night, the St. Louis Cardinals won the NLDS, and also the sun rose and set. That has become the standard during the division series era. The Cardinals have now won the NLDS eleven times in my lifetime, which probably explains my obnoxiousness on the matter. But I’m greedy and I want more! So let’s construct an NLCS playoff roster for this upcoming series against the checks notes Washington Nationals? Are…are you sure? Because it was 3-0 Dodgers and I figured…did Kenley Jansen really blow it or? Joe Ke…oh yeah, Joe Kelly, he’s on the Dodgers, that’s…right.
More at a future date on why the Dodgers should hire Mike Matheny. But until then, the roster for the Nationals.
Incumbents: Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters
NLCS: Yadier Molina, Matt Wieters
As sure as I am that the Cardinals score a playoff-record ten runs in the first inning last night, I am sure Yadier Molina will need the starting catcher job pried from his cold, dead hands. Meanwhile, that Wieters got a nonzero number of pinch-hitting appearances suggests the Cardinals are serious about playing him over Andrew Knizner and are willing to use him for something other than break-in-case-of-emergency catcher spot duty.
Incumbents: Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Yairo Muñoz, Kolten Wong
NLCS: Matt Carpenter, Paul DeJong, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Kolten Wong
While Yairo didn’t do anything to merit not being included on the NLCS roster, he couldn’t even get into a 12-run NLDS game. This is in reference to Game 5 of the NLDS, which the Cardinals won 13-1. What this tells me is that Muñoz is the ultimate fail-safe. He exists in case someone gets hurt. This is a worthwhile inclusion if the Cardinals didn’t already have a backup infielder, but with Kolten Wong healthy enough to start all five NLDS games, this isn’t much of a concern. The Cardinals can withstand a Yairo-less roster until the next game after an injury, at which point one of the many, many available outfielders can be replaced. Said player would miss the World Series, but at this point, a sixth outfielder wouldn’t be a massive loss.
Incumbents: Randy Arozarena, Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler, Jose Martinez, Marcell Ozuna
NLCS: Randy Arozarena, Harrison Bader, Dexter Fowler, Jose Martinez, Tyler O’Neill, Marcell Ozuna
Are Arozarena and O’Neill redundant? A bit, but so was scoring ten dang runs in the first inning yesterday. But in the event of a late-inning pinch-hitter, would you rather have one of these two or Yairo Muñoz? I know which route I’m going (the Arozarena/O’Neill route; that is the route I am going). My one concern is that it was Randy Arozarena whose Instagram video captured Mike Shildt saying some, um, four-letter words about the Atlanta Braves following the team’s victory (13-1 in a winner-take-all game on Wednesday). To be clear, my concern isn’t that Randy Arozarena shouldn’t make the roster beacuse of his quasi-espionage. It’s that he may be perceived as a snitch. I don’t care that he swung his bat in the NLDS like he was trying to ward off zombies (but not in a manner that they would go very far)–we need his videography. I will accept him being non-rostered in the NLCS if he gets to at least hang around. But in this world, I want Arozarena and O’Neill to play until/unless one needs to be removed for Yairo Muñoz.
Incumbents: Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright
NLCS: Jack Flaherty, Dakota Hudson, Miles Mikolas, Adam Wainwright
It’s hard to argue against a solution that worked. The almost-by-definition most borderline to make the roster is Dakota Hudson, the fourth starter up in the NLDS, who struggled the most of the four in the NLDS, but each of these pitchers performed reasonably well, and the next-best option would be somebody who either didn’t make the NLDS roster or didn’t pitch in the NLDS while on the roster. In this round, however, there becomes one new caveat–which of the four should only get one start? I believe it will, and should, be Dakota Hudson. But if Hudson wants to do some relief pitching here and there, I wouldn’t be opposed to it. Flahery remains the clear go-to, though his pitch count in Game 5 means he probably won’t be available until Game 3, which is fine (though I would have removed him earlier from Game 5, as the team’s 12-run lead was safe and I would be conservative with the team’s most valuable asset).
LEFT-HANDED RELIEF PITCHERS
Incumbents: Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Miller, Tyler Webb
NLCS: Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Miller, Tyler Webb
These are the clear top three lefty reliever options–the question is how many lefty relievers you want. And while this volume was arguably overkill in the NLDS, in the NLCS, the Cardinals will face a higher volume of tough left-handed bats–instead of a hobbled Freddie Freeman, they get a surging Juan Soto. If you were going to bring these three guys in the NLDS, there isn’t much reason to not put them on the roster for the NLCS.
RIGHT-HANDED RELIEF PITCHERS
Incumbents: John Brebbia, Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, Carlos Martinez, Daniel Ponce de Leon
NLCS: John Brebbia, Giovanny Gallegos, Ryan Helsley, Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha
So, let’s for a moment ignore that Michael Wacha put up pretty good stats in the second half of 2019 (and that he’s evidently good to go for the postseason). Let’s ignore that, unlike his butchered 2014 usage, Michael Wacha isn’t necessarily destined to be reduced to “novelty curiosity put on the roster and not used until the highest leverage appearance of the entire season”. Let’s instead focus on the fact that Michael Wacha won an NLCS MVP and that it would be super funny to have him there as a thing upon which to fixate. It would be funnier against the Dodgers, but it’s still funny. Additionally, while I know people have soured on Carlos Martinez, I demand anybody insisting he shouldn’t have a spot declare who they’d prefer instead. Martinez blew Game 3, yes, but he was only given a one-run lead. Had he been given, say, a 12-run lead, like the Cardinals had last night, he’d have locked it down.