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Selecting the Athletics AL Wild Card Roster

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The Oakland Athletics will select 25 players on Monday to be eligible for Tuesday's American League Wild Card Game in Kansas City. Many players are shoo-ins, and the most interesting decisions will be at the edges. How many relievers? How many bats? Do you use a roster spot on a speedster like Billy Burns?

Rick Yeatts

With the Athletics facing James Shields and the Kansas City Royals in the American League Wild Card Game on Tuesday at 5:00 PM in Kauffman Stadium, the A's need to choose 25 players to try to continue their path towards the World Series.

The rules for postseason rosters this year are that anyone who was on the 40-man roster or a disabled list at the end of August is eligible for the postseason 25-man roster. This is a change from the rule that limited postseason eligibility to those on the 25-man roster. It is still the case that players who are eligible but remain on a disabled list as of today can be replaced by anyone in the Athletics organization as of the end of August, so long as those players are added to the 40-man roster. There do not appear to be any players outside of the 40-man who are candidates to make the postseason roster, however, and Bryan Anderson is the only player that was added to the 40-man after the end of August. Therefore, let's start with the active roster at the end of the year:

Catchers Hand Outfielders Hand Relievers Hand
Bryan Anderson LHB Billy Burns SHB Fernando Abad LHP
Derek Norris RHB Coco Crisp SHB Jesse Chavez RHP
Geovany Soto RHB Sam Fuld LHB Ryan Cook RHP
Craig Gentry RHB Sean Doolittle LHP
First Baseman Hand Jonny Gomes RHB Luke Gregerson RHP
Adam Dunn LHB Josh Reddick LHB Eric O'Flaherty LHP
Nate Freiman RHB Dan Otero RHP
Brandon Moss LHB Starting Pitchers Hand Drew Pomeranz LHP
Stephen Vogt LHB Sonny Gray RHP Fernando Rodriguez RHP
Jason Hammel RHP Evan Scribner RHP
Infielders Hand Scott Kazmir LHP
Alberto Callaspo SHB Jon Lester LHP
Josh Donaldson RHB Jeff Samardzija RHP
Jed Lowrie SHB
Andy Parrino SHB
Nick Punto SHB
Eric Sogard LHB

For each round of the postseason, a team can choose reset its roster, so the A's will want to set up their roster specifically for this one game playoff.

Starter and backup starter (2)

The A's will probably just choose two starting pitchers, and use the extra roster room for additional bats. With Jon Lester starting, the primary choices for "backup starter" are Jason Hammel, an opposite-handed pitcher on regular rest, or Scott Kazmir on three days rest. I'm inclined to go with Jason Hammel, because he would only be entering the game if something went seriously wrong with Jon Lester after the first pitch, and switching the hand of the pitcher has its benefits.

Hammel also provides a late-inning right-handed relief option out of the bullpen that is not Jesse Chavez. And if we have a better Jesse Chavez, we don't need Jesse Chavez, and someone else can take Chavez's spot on the Wild Card roster.

Obvious selections (Lester, Hammel + 12 position players + 6 relievers)

In bold italics then are what I would call the obvious selections. I have 20 I consider non-controversial.

Catchers Hand Outfielders Hand Relievers Hand
Bryan Anderson LHB Billy Burns SHB Fernando Abad LHP
Derek Norris RHB Coco Crisp SHB Jesse Chavez RHP
Geovany Soto RHB Sam Fuld LHB Ryan Cook RHP
Craig Gentry RHB Sean Doolittle LHP
First Baseman Hand Jonny Gomes RHB Luke Gregerson RHP
Adam Dunn LHB Josh Reddick LHB Eric O'Flaherty LHP
Nate Freiman RHB Dan Otero RHP
Brandon Moss LHB Starting Pitchers Hand Drew Pomeranz LHP
Stephen Vogt LHB Sonny Gray RHP Fernando Rodriguez RHP
Jason Hammel RHP Evan Scribner RHP
Infielders Hand Scott Kazmir LHP
Alberto Callaspo SHB Jon Lester LHP
Josh Donaldson RHB Jeff Samardzija RHP
Jed Lowrie SHB
Andy Parrino SHB
Nick Punto SHB
Eric Sogard LHB

The bubble (5)

So I have chosen 20 "obvious" selections that I think would make not just the Wild Card roster but also the ALDS roster. That leaves five spots for the Wild Card Game, and at least two spots for the ALDS after adding three starters.

Right-handed batting 1st baseman (1)

Adam Dunn (who should not be playing defense ever), Brandon Moss, and Stephen Vogt are all left-handed batters. Considering Brandon Moss might also be playing in the outfield, it would be helpful to have another first baseman. Your choices are Nate Freiman or Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo brings positional flexibility if not actual flexibility, but let's see if we need extra infielders.

One could eschew Freiman, relying on non-first baseman as pinch-hitters and bringing in a first baseman as a defensive substitute after the pinch-hitting appearance. Freiman does have pop in his bat against left-handed pitching, however, with five home runs and four doubles in 71 plate appearances against southpaws.

Backup infielder (1)

My "obvious" choices have just four non-first baseman, and no true backup for third base. Josh Donaldson is a gamer limping around and still making spectacular plays, but there needs to be someone that's not Nick Punto pretending to grit his way through third base if Josh Donaldson does something that makes him literally unable to stand up. I'm afraid that someone has to be Alberto Callaspo because Andy Parrino is the only other infielder I have not chosen.

Alberto Callaspo also provides depth at middle infield. The A's have Nick Punto and Eric Sogard for this one. Sogard I expect would start against right-handed pitcher James Shields, leaving Punto as an available bench option to play shortstop in case a pinch runner comes in for Lowrie and the game goes to extra innings.

Right-handed batting outfielder (1)

We have four outfielders, three bat left-handed (Fuld, Reddick, and Moss) and one switch-hitter (Crisp). Another right-handed bat would be beneficial. With Craig Gentry, while feeling better, still unlikely to play in the Wild Card game, Jonny Gomes will need to be that right-handed bat.

The 8th reliever (1)

Drew Pomeranz has proven himself effective out of the bullpen this year, where Jesse Chavez just hasn't been able to pull it off in limited appearances. Scott Kazmir might be given consideration out of the bullpen as well. I'm afraid Jesse Chavez is going to be our bubble boy for the bullpen.

A pinch runner or a 9th reliever? (1)

Billy Burns or Jesse Chavez or Scott Kazmir? My choices so far include at least two pitchers that can go multiple innings: Jon Lester and Drew Pomeranz. Eight well-rested relievers is probably quite enough for this one-game playoff. I have to go with Billy Burns here to make something happen in the late innings if necessary.

My AL Wild Card Game roster

Catchers (2) Hand Outfielders (5) Hand Relievers (7) Hand
Bryan Anderson LHB Billy Burns SHB Fernando Abad LHP
Derek Norris RHB Coco Crisp SHB Jesse Chavez RHP
Geovany Soto RHB Sam Fuld LHB Ryan Cook RHP
Craig Gentry RHB Sean Doolittle LHP
First Basemen (4) Hand Jonny Gomes RHB Luke Gregerson RHP
Adam Dunn LHB Josh Reddick LHB Eric O'Flaherty LHP
Nate Freiman RHB Dan Otero RHP
Brandon Moss LHB Starting Pitchers (2) Hand Drew Pomeranz LHP
Stephen Vogt LHB Sonny Gray RHP Fernando Rodriguez RHP
Jason Hammel RHP Evan Scribner RHP
Infielders (5) Hand Scott Kazmir LHP
Alberto Callaspo SHB Jon Lester LHP
Josh Donaldson RHB Jeff Samardzija RHP
Jed Lowrie SHB
Andy Parrino SHB
Nick Punto SHB
Eric Sogard LHB

We can quibble about a few things here. Drew Pomeranz or Scott Kazmir or Jason Hammel or Billy Burns, pick three. What will be really interesting is what happens should the A's advance, and need to add Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir, and Jeff Samardzija for the Division Series roster. Let's hope we have that problem.