The American Association roster limit is 22 players. They say it’s so not a lot of players are sitting the bench every game, but I don’t know how any professional baseball team can exist with that number of players. It allows spots for a backup catcher, a utility player and 11 pitchers, one fewer than what most major league teams carry. So I don’t envy the Wingnuts brass in having to make five cuts from the 27 players in camp.
Here’s how I see the roster shaping up:
Will definitely make the team: Pitchers Doug Hurn, Nick Singleton, Adam Cowart, Justin Dowdy, Luke Demko, Gabe Medina, Cephas Howard; Infielders Steve Pearson, Patrick Brooks, Josh Horn, Michael Thompson, Mario Delgado; Outfielders Kennard Bibbs, Chris Colton, Ryan Patterson; Catcher Jeff Christy
Will probably make the team: Pitchers Will Morgan, Luke Massetti, Brock Piper, Matt Petty; Catcher Kent Wright
May or may not make the team: Pitchers Dustin Pease, Brandon Mathes, Cole Akins; Infielder Jonathan Dziomba; Outfielder Eric Williams; Catcher Jeff Giacomini.
Out of the three pitchers in the last group, my choice for the 11th pitcher would be Brandon Mathes. He threw well when I saw him pitch on Saturday.
The biggest roster mystery, at least in my opinion, is what the Wingnuts will do with Eric Williams. He was slotted as a starting outfielder until the Wingnuts acquired Patterson late in the offseason. Williams is a weapon — even as a bench player he would be a valuable pinch-runner. And in his spot starts he can provide good defense in left and plate discipline — guy takes a lot of pitches. And he’s really, really fast. He also hits left-handed, so that’s a plus.
The problem is that with an 11-man pitching staff, which the Wingnuts have used throughout their existence, Wichita can only carry two backup position players. One is definitely a backup catcher and the other backup is usually a utility guy who can play almost anywhere. Williams isn’t that guy, because he couldn’t, as a lefty, play any infield position except first base.
From what I’ve seen, Williams would help the Wingnuts more than the backup infield option, Jonathan Dziomba. That leaves the team with just a few options to enable Williams to make the team.
First, they could go with a 10-man pitching staff. Possible, but unlikely considering the strain it would put on the five relievers as well as on the starting pitchers who would often be forced to pitch deep into games.
The Wingnuts could also make Dziomba the starting second baseman, make Brooks the backup catcher who can also play infield or outfield, and Williams makes the team as the fourth outfielder. Highly, highly unlikely. Virtually impossible. But we’re looking at all possibilities here.
The final option is to just make Williams the second backup and have the four infielders be the four infielders. No backups there. I don’t necessarily see that happening, but if the Wingnuts want Williams on the roster, it’s probably the best and most plausible choice.