In the wake of the Brandon Woodruff injury news, the Brewers had to make an unexpected shift in their construction of the roster for this best-of-three series. Still, some of the included and excluded players are sure to spark conversation.
Here's the roster:
To avoid burying the lede: the inclusion of Winker, at the expense of Rowdy Tellez, is downright shocking. We have no reason to believe that Winker can play the outfield in games of this magnitude, and while Tellez wouldn't have been likely to appear in more than a pinch-hit capacity anyway, he's been on the roster for the last month and a half. He had a miserable September, with a sub-.500 OPS, but Winker hasn't even appeared for the big-league team since July 24. His strong on-base percentage with Triple-A Nashville in September does almost nothing to inspire confidence about his ability to hit big-league pitching, since he hasn't done so all season and hasn't gotten to try it in over two months.
Even beyond that choice, though, there are some interesting and telling choices here. Matched up against the best catcher in baseball at blunting the running game, the Brewers elected not to carry Garrett Mitchell, whose primary value might have been as a pinch-runner to swipe a base at a high-leverage moment. Instead, they'll turn to Joey Wiemer for that if the situation demands it, but also have him available to hit left-handed pitchers like Arizona reliever Joe Mantiply.
Less surprising are the inclusions of Owen Miller and Blake Perkins, which give the team greater defensive upside and could let Counsell move three players each through a couple of lineup spots in a game. Miller can facilitate a shuttle between second and third base for Andruw Monasterio, while Perkins could be the defensive sub that lets Counsell pinch-hit Winker for either Wiemer or Taylor in certain moments without worrying about how to configure his outfield for the rest of the game. Neither of these guys are good hitters, but depending on how Counsell uses Josh Donaldson, Mark Canha, Brice Turang, William Contreras, Victor Caratini, and Monasterio, it might be possible to pinch-hit for them even after they enter the game. If not, but if the Brewers have a lead to protect, Miller and Perkins could help do that job.
On the pitching side, there are fewer surprises. As was hoped and expected, Elvis Peguero is healthy enough to fit into the bullpen. In the place of Woodruff, Colin Rea claims a spot on the playoff roster, after all. Adrian Houser, who started Sunday in the regular-season finale, is clearly slated for a potential Game 1 start in the NLDS, should the Brewers need all three games to win this first set, so Houser isn't included here. The only mild surprise is that there are only 11 pitchers on the 26-man roster, but in a best-of-three series with such high stakes, they certainly don't need any more than that.
All told, this is still a roster that should beat the Diamondbacks. However, they don't match up perfectly with them, and the choice to carry Winker doesn't seem to advance their cause at all. It'll be interesting to see how Counsell uses the group he's been given to overcome the strengths of Arizona's roster and the loss of Woodruff.
Think you could write a story like this? Brewer Fanatic wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.