I thought the easiest way to do this would be to break it up into three sections, so I’ll begin with the starting lineup and the bench. As I mentioned earlier, the absence or presence of Gurriel Jr. and Espinal will obviously impact the options at John Schneider’s disposal, and the playoff roster in general.
We’ll see how they progress over the next few days, but I’m going to predict that Gurriel Jr. will make it back in time, and Espinal might need until Round 2 before he can re-join the team. I could absolutely see a scenario where the former spends time as the DH rather than being in left field, but for now here’s how I see things:
1- George Springer (CF)
2- Bo Bichette (SS)
3- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1B)
4- Alejandro Kirk
5- Teoscar Hernandez (RF)
6- Matt Chapman (3B)
7- Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (LF)
8- Danny Jansen (C)
9- Whit Merrifield (2B)
Bench: Cavan Biggio, Raimel Tapia, Jackie Bradley Jr., Bradley Zimmer, Otto Lopez
Yeah, I realize it’s not ideal to have an all right-handed lineup, but it may not be that big of an issue. I mostly say that because as of right now it looks like the Blue Jays will play the Rays in the first round. That could change of course, but if that’s the case then it’s not a bad match-up for an all righty group of hitters.
The Rays are getting healthier as the regular season comes to an end, and that included the return of Tyler Glasnow on Wednesday night. That said, I’m not sure that I’d bank on Glasnow making that big of a start, even with his high-end potential. More likely, in a three-game series I think the Jays would see two southpaw starts in Shane McClanahan and Jeffrey Springs, and likely a veteran righty in Corey Kluber. You could make the case for Kluber or Drew Rasmussen as well, as the Rays are deep in the rotation as usual, but that’s my guess who the Rays would start against the Jays, who don’t hit lefties that well despite all of the right-handed hitters on their roster.
You could see Schneider mixing in someone like Biggio or Tapia, especially against Kluber or one of the other right-handed starters, and they’ll still have the likes of Bradley Jr. and Zimmer as late-inning defensive replacements and/or pinch runners. Once Espinal is healthy I’m sure he’ll join the fun somewhere, and without the need for as much rotation depth, he can likely take up one of the pitching spots, especially in a short series. To that end, don’t be surprised if Otto Lopez sticks around as an emergency infielder, at least until Espinal can get back on the field.