The AL saves leader - Francisco Rodriguez looks to be a force yet again in October
By Jacob Kagi - Angelswin.com Columnist
With a postseason appearance now assured, Angels fans are running through our 40-man-roster to decide which group of 25 players we should use to attempt to propel us to a second World Series championship.
Having used a relatively large group of players this year and with an incredible amount of talent throughout the system there are tough choices that must be made by the Angels management heading into October.
The Angels will almost certainly only carry two catchers into the postseason, and barring injury, those two will be Jeff Mathis and Mike Napoli. Carrying Bobby Wilson as a third catcher could be an option due to his excellent season at Salt Lake, but most likely the Halos will choose not to. Wilson is certainly an intriguing talent, and had he been given time earlier in the season (which they weren’t able to do because of his injury) he would have had a real shot, but it would be a mistake to carry a catcher into the postseason who had not really worked with the big league club’s pitching staff before.
Mark Teixeira, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Chone Figgins will obviously be on the roster if not for an injury. Robb Quinlan should and will make the roster, providing an option in the corner infield and outfield spots. The club will also need a backup middle infielder, and as a result Sean Rodriguez should also make it to October, especially after his strong performances as of late. It’s probable that the Angels will carry seven infielders into the postseason, meaning Brandon Wood, Matthew Brown and Kendry Morales all have a good shot, but more on that later.
Obviously Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Garret Anderson and Juan Rivera will be around come October. Reggie Willits provides adequate offense and defense in all three outfield spots and is also an excellent pinch-running and hitting option, making him a likely choice for the roster. Gary Matthews Jr. would be an unpopular choice with the fans, but there are reasons why he would be good to take, which we will cover later.
Barring injury, John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jon Garland will constitute the Angels starting rotation come October (although they may skip Garland’s start in the ALDS). This will leave Jered Weaver to act as a long reliever, a position that the Angels have struggled to fill this year.
Francisco Rodriguez, Scot Shields, Jose Arredondo and Darren Oliver all warrant a bullpen spot, and will all be around come the Division Series. That covers nine of the probable ten pitching spots, so the battle for the last spot should be between Justin Speier, Jason Bulger and Darren O’Day. Speier has the experience but has struggled incredibly all season, meaning it would be a big mistake to take him into the playoffs. Of the other two, Bulger should be given the edge. In 4.2 innings since being called up from Salt Lake, where he had an excellent season, he has allowed only two base runners without conceding a run. Since an early honeymoon period O’Day has struggled. This should mean that Bulger wins the battle and plays a part in the postseason.
That leaves two roster spots to fill. It is possible that the Angels will decide to carry an eleventh pitcher, most likely either O’Day or Speier, but at this stage it appears unlikely.
The most likely candidates to fill the two remaining roster spots are Wood, Brown, Morales and Matthews. They will certainly take another infielder in, and Wood, Brown and Morales have the best numbers of the candidates. Wood has recently found his feet at the big league level and this will probably see him make the postseason roster. Matthews would be a very unpopular choice with the fans, but carrying an extra outfielder would be very useful as it would allow Mike Scioscia to replace Guerrero, Anderson or Rivera late in a tight game. Gary has been starting to turn things around as of late, hitting .314 in his last 10 games. Due to this resurgence and the flexibility it gives the Angels with two outfield defensive replacements on the bench (and the best CF option we have if Hunter goes down), he should get over the line, even though he will see limited action in the playoffs.
Having narrowed it down, the best roster that the Angels can take into the playoffs is:
Catchers: Napoli, Mathis
Infielders: Teixeira, Quinlan, Kendrick, S Rodriguez, Aybar, Wood, Figgins
Outfielders: Guerrero, Hunter, Anderson, Rivera, Willits, Matthews.
Pitchers: Lackey, Saunders, Santana, Garland, F Rodriguez, Shields, Arredondo, Oliver, Weaver, Bulger.