Now that we’ve gone through about a week’s worth of games, it’s as good a time as any to try and project what the initial roster for Opening Day is going to look like. Some injuries, some hot starts to the games have changed things a little bit with perhaps one surprise addition to this list.
J.T. Realmuto, Andrew Knapp
There shouldn’t be much of a surprise here. Realmuto is going to be ready for the first series, but even if he’s not, he won’t be gone long enough to make this worth changing. Anything that has him missing time is just a hot take waiting to be noticed.
There might have been some idea that maybe, somehow, some way, Jeff Mathis might sneak on the roster ahead of Knapp as a defense first option that the pitchers would love to throw to, but that doesn’t take into account that the team genuinely loves Knapp. The pitchers love throwing to him, his teammates love his personality, so there isn’t a reason to get rid of him for the single digit wRC+ Mathis.
Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Alec Bohm, Brad Miller, C.J. Chatham
Again, no changes here. The infield is set and the backups haven’t been beaten out thus far by anyone in camp, so this should be the group that heads north. Chatham might have been a victim if the team decided to go with a big bullpen, but with Girardi’s desire to stick with 13 men in the bullpen means he has a good chance of sticking.
Andrew McCutchen, Scott Kingery, Bryce Harper, Roman Quinn, Odubel Herrera
Ah, here is where the fun begins.
Obviously, Adam Haseley would’ve been the leading candidate to start and get the lion’s share of a platoon. His injury and the subsequent missing of time means he won’t be ready to return until right during the week of the first games. With minor league options available and alternate site being planned for minor leaguers, it’s probably safe to assume that unlike Realmuto, Haseley’s injury will mean he’ll begin in the minor leagues.
That leaves room for someone to take a spot and that brings us to Herrera.
Thus far, he has been playing well this spring. He’s hitting for power and playing a good defense. He’s competing directly with Mickey Moniak for a spot and the team’s probable desire to give Moniak consistent at bats gives Herrera a leg up. The reports and redemption stories about Herrera give the situation a feel of preparing the fanbase for his return. With Haseley’s injury, someone is going to have to grab that fifth outfielder’s spot and it just seems like the stars are aligning for Herrera to come back.
Of course, there is the issue of his needing a 40-man spot and what happens when Haseley comes back, but for now, we won’t worry about that for now.
Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin, Chase Anderson, Matt Moore
Alright, the fourth and fifth spot in the rotation is a battle. Anderson and Moore are fighting with Vince Velasquez and the loser probably goes to the bullpen. Anderson’s hammer curveball the other day was truly something to behold, but of course we can’t project him into the spot because of one pitch. Instead, it’s just the feeling that the guaranteed money they are receiving by an incoming leadership group will win the day when it comes to picking who might pitch every fourth and fifth day will influence the decision to a point.
Hector Neris, Jose Alvarado, Conner Brogdon, Archie Bradley, Jojo Romero, Tony Watson, Brandon Kintzler, Vince Velasquez
The biggest battles of the spring are for the bullpen spots and many of them have been up to the task. There have been a lot of swings and misses from those battling for a job, which is amazing because last year’s lot weren’t able to generate those swings and misses.
What’s interesting will be that some of the guys who are doing well - Sam Coonrod, Hector Rondon, David Hale - aren’t here on this list. Hale feels like the first one up to be DFA’d in order to get a spot open for Herrera, while Coonrod can be optioned to minor league camp and Rondon might be a candidate for the taxi squad. This is still the position to watch in the coming weeks for the most changes that might happen.
The taxi squad is an interesting spot. The rules state that with the five players on it, one of them must be a catcher. That seems to leave Mathis as traveling with the team often since they’ll want Rafael Marchan to play regularly. Two of them seem to be locked for relievers, meaning Rondon and maybe another NRI that the team can carry since the taxi squad guys don’t have to count toward the 40-man roster. That would also mean someone like Matt Joyce or Travis Jankowski or Ronald Torreyes would be in the running for the other two spots. Ideally the taxi squad would be veterans who are used to bench roles and don’t necessarily need regular playing time in order to be effective. All of this will probably change in a few weeks anyway.