It remains to be seen exactly how the Red Sox postseason roster will shake down. Don't be surprised if the Sox go with an offense-heavy bench this October. The starting rotation and eight and ninth inning guys are safe, but David Aardsma and Mike Timlin may be shopping for pitching wedges next week.
I expect Terry Francona to settle on 10 pitchers and several role players in the field.
Unless there is a huge upheaval, we can expect a starting nine that looks something like this: Ellsbury, Pedroia, Ortiz, Youkilis, Drew, Bay, Lowell, Lowrie, and Varitek. Health is a concern for many bean-eaters at present, so stay tuned. That leaves six spots open for the following players:
1. Coco Crisp (OF) .283/.344/.407 20 SBs
Crisp would otherwise be a starter if not for the late return of Drew (which is still very much up in the air). This guy has been a quiet warrior for the Red Sox all season, posting respectable stats coupled with stellar defense. Most impressive are the stolen bases, which come in less than 400 at bats. Expect Crisp to get a few starts before the playoffs are over and to continue to cause havoc on the base paths.
Sean Casey (1B/DH) .322/.381/.392 3 Errors
The gregarious, slow-footed, and iron-gloved Casey has been a study in singles hitting this season. His slugging percentage is absolutely laughable, but the guy simply knows how to get to first base, one way or another. Besides Youk, Ortiz, and Pedroia, he is the one guy I want at the plate with men on base. Look for the pinch-hitting extraordinaire in late-game situations.
Alex Cora (SS/2B) .270/.371/.349 1034 Career Games
This guy is about as experienced as backup middle infielders get. Nothing flashy here: He makes his living, like Casey, by flaring the ball over the shortstop's head. Unlike Casey, he has the fielding chops to back it up. Steady hands, a propensity to put the ball in play (13 K's), and a good OBP increase his value as a second-stringer.
Kevin Cash (C) .225/.309/.338 .308 CS%
Offensively, Cash hit at the same pace Varitek did in a much smaller sample size. He is a backup catcher through-and-through: slow feet, slow bat, small paycheck. Defensively, he held his own. Yes, the passed balls were there, but such is life for a knuckleball catcher. His caught-stealing rate was very good considering he was catching butterflies all summer, and he eclipsed the captain's own mark in that category.
Mark Kotsay (OF) .276/.329/.403 .281 Career BA
I had heard Trot Nixon comparisons made about this guy when he was in the National League. While that may be a bit rich, Kotsay certainly is a gamer. He shows good outfield instincts and great hustle. Offensively, he is a gap hitter and a reliable line-drive producer. He could be a bit more selective, but he doesn't strike out much. Drew's health increases the likelihood of Kotsay's playing time.
David Ross/Jeff Bailey/Chris Carter/Jonathan Van Every/7th Bullpen Arm
Francona may outguess me and keep Timlin on the roster for his experience, but I think Timlin's and Aardsma's collective meltdowns this season prevent them from seeing October baseball. None of the others on the list do I expect to make much impact if they were chosen as the 25th man.
Bailey and Carter are refined hitters, but neither brings much value defensively. Van Every has some speed, but is mediocre in most areas. Ross brings experience and pop behind the plate, but he had eight total at bats for the Red Sox this season. If I had to guess, it would be Bailey, for no other reason than the amount of time he spent with the team this season. He has some thunder in his bat and is not afraid of big situations.