Who's in and who's out as the White Sox try and topple the Astros?
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The White Sox won't have to release their postseason actives until next week, just before they begin the best-of-five ALDS against the Houston Astros, likely at Minute Maid Park. With that in mind, let's peek into our Midway Minute crystal ball to see what the probable 26-person roster — from the likely starting lineup and pitching rotation, to the bench and bullpen — will look like once the Sox begin their World Series quest at the venue where they won it all 16 years ago.
Giolito makes the most sense to start Game 1 because he's also the most appealing option to start Game 5 if the series gets that far — or Game 4, on short rest, if the Sox face elimination. Lynn, given his recent knee trouble, and Rodón, given his ornery shoulder and lower fastball velocity, might have been better choices at 100 percent health.
And then there's Cease, who has struck out 19 and walked two over 10 1/3 innings covering his past two starts. Cease still hasn't logged 300 career innings in the majors, is the baby in the rotation at age 25. Cease has struck out double digits eight times this season, including once against the Astros.
Hendriks will get the ninth and Kimbrel will get the eighth — at least unless/until Kimbrel struggles in the setup role, as he has since coming over from the Cubs. Tony La Russa's leash won't be longer than a few batters.
Kopech will stand by to piggyback Rodón's start, which probably will be Game 3. Kopech also could pitch also in Games 1 or 2 with a day of rest/travel coming afterward. Tepera figures to return, provided his cut finger has healed enough. López has actually been one of the Sox's best pitchers in the second half. José Ruiz might be left out, as could Ryan Burr, but they would be OK if they made the cut, even as we all held our breath. Bummer and Crochet have been pitching some of their best ball in the second half.
It might not make a lot of sense to carry Keuchel if the Sox don't plan to start him, and hopefully they don't need to, but it does make sense that La Russa would bring him anyway as a long guy, a just-in-case guy, and an experienced veteran guy.
Tim Anderson — SS
Luis Robert — CF
José Abreu — 1B
Yasmani Grandal — C
Eloy Jiménez — LF
Yoan Moncada — 3B
Gavin Sheets — DH
Leury García — 2B
Adam Engel — RF
It kind of gives you goosebumps, what this group is capable of when healthy. Get them all hot at once and they're unstoppable. But the Sox would settle for, like, 6/9ths of them being hot at once. Wouldn't that be nice?
Who are the biggest X-factors? They're a different team with Anderson cooking, like everyone says, but Robert has been ridiculously hot over the past two months. The third transformative bat in the lineup is Grandal, whose ability to hit home runs and draw walks is really the engine that makes things go in the middle of the lineup.
Zack Collins — C
Andrew Vaughn — OF/1B/3B
Billy Hamilton — OF
César Hernández — 2B
Romy González — 3B/SS
Perhaps they want to save Sheets as a pinch-hitter, but given his sizzling September and Vaughn's recent back trouble, it makes sense to use Sheets against right-handed starting pitchers. It's a good bet that left-hander Framber Valdez will start Game 2, so there's Vaughn's starting opportunity.
González makes more sense than, say, Jake Burger because he can play shortstop in an emergency. Burger, who has been at Triple-A playing everyday, might make more sense than Hernández because he can play second if needed and isn't in a horrendous second-half slump. He also could DH against lefties if Vaughn's back continues to bother him.
Then again, Hernández is so overdue at the plate, one could see him sitting on the bench for eighth innings and cracking one open in the ninth, a la Geoff Blum in the 14th inning that one time in Houston.
An argument can be made for using Seby Zavala as the backup catcher instead of Collins. Go ahead and make it amongst yourselves!
Didn't Make the Cut
Goodwin has a bad back after being a big help in his first month as a plug-in for Robert, Jiménez and Engel. Mercédes got off to the legendary start but crossed La Russa against Willians Astudillo and didn't hit well enough at Triple-A to be invited back. Mendick can play a bunch of positions, but just didn't hit enough. Burger's still in their long-term plans, even as a trade chip, but would be perfect if (God forbid) Moncada got hurt.
Mike Wright Jr.
Marshall would have made a nice comeback story (again) and — who knows? — the playoffs are a long and winding road. Hopefully.