Projecting the Cleveland Cavaliers playoff roster for the American League Wild Card Series

October 2: José Ramírez of the Cleveland Cavaliers loses his helmet while sliding while stealing second base during the seventh inning at Progressive Field. The Guards won the game, 7-5.

The Guardians reached the 90-win plateau with Sunday’s 7-5 victory over the Kansas City Royals, but will set their sights on a bigger goal come Friday when they welcome the No. 1 seed. 6 in the American League for Game 1 of the Wild. Series of Cards.

The best-of-three series will take place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary), with all three games being played at Progressive Field. But what would the roster that the Guardians take on in that series look like?

There are some questions, though some were likely answered Sunday after Cleveland made a series of roster moves, most notably the addition of catcher Bo Naylor and the assignment of veteran reliever Bryan Shaw.

Here’s a look at how the roster could look heading into Friday’s Game 1. As a reminder, teams can adjust their playoff roster between each round.

Catchers (3): Austin Hedges, Luke Maile, Bo Naylor

The Guardians made Bo Naylor the 17th rookie to make his league debut in Saturday’s game. He figures to have a clear path to the starting catcher job at some point down the line as the team’s top prospect at that position.

As for potential inclusion on the playoff roster, it’s mostly about positional flexibility. Austin Hedges and Luke Maile are known more for their defensive abilities, and the team places a premium on them. But late in games that are tied or if the Guardians are on the road, the team wants to be proactive with pinch-hitting or pinch-running. Having three catchers available gives them more freedom to do that.

Naylor also brings an expanded skill set, including better offense, compared to the other two. He put together a 20-20 season (home runs and stolen bases) in the minor leagues this season.

Infielders (6): Josh Naylor, Andres Gimenez, Jose Ramirez, Amed Rosario, Gabriel Arias, Owen Miller

The Guardians starting infield is set. Arias and Miller provide positional depth, as both can play multiple positions, including first base. Tyler Freeman was optioned to Triple-A Columbus, as the third utility infielder was largely redundant.

Allfielders (5): Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez, Myles Straw, Will Brennan, Will Benson

Kwan, Gonzalez and Tuí will be in the lineup somehow. All three have had impressive offensive months.

Brennan could see a role in either right field or the designated hitter spot (with Gonzalez in the other) against right-handed starting pitchers. Benson is mostly there for depth.

Starting pitchers (3): Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, Cal Quantrill

Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie will be ready to take the mound in Game 1 and 2, respectively. Game 3, if necessary, will fall to Cal Quantrill. If the Rangers win their first two games and advance to the American League Division Series, where the New York Yankees likely await, Quantrill could start Game 1.

Aaron Civale is not needed on the Wild Card Series roster, as he is lined up to start Game 1 of the ALDS if the Guardians advance but must play all three games.

Bullpen (9): Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak, Trevor Stephan, Sam Hentges, Enyel De Los Santos, Eli Morgan, Nick Sandlin, Zach Plesac, Kirk McCarty

The first seven spots in the playoff bullpen are decided. The last two spots, if the Guardians carry 12 pitchers instead of 13, come down to three choices between Zach Plesac, Kirk McCarty and Cody Morris.

Plesac returned from the insured list to start Saturday’s game, but will now move to the bullpen for a possible role in relief for the postseason. McCarty would provide a second lefty for the bullpen and has a 2.28 ERA in the second half of the season. Morris has posted a 1.99 ERA in 22⅔ innings. It is entirely possible that Plesac could be left off the playoff roster in favor of both Morris and McCarty.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Guardians at www.beaconjournal.com/sports/cleveland-guardians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.

This article originally appeared on the Akron Beacon Journal: Cleveland Cavaliers playoff roster projection for AL Wild Card Series

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