10 Young Players That Will Have Impact on 2013 MLB Playoffs
10 Young Players That Will Have Impact on 2013 MLB Playoffs
The MLB Playoffs are where players make a name for themselves. It’s the time of year in baseball when solid veterans can become legendary and, sometimes, it’s the place where young players with loads of talent can finally put that talent on a national stage and make a lasting name for themselves for years to come.
One of the things that has always been special about the postseason in the MLB is the fact that it’s anyone’s time and anyone can step up. It doesn’t matter if you’re on your last legs in this league or if you’re just ankle deep in the league; any player can come into the playoffs and change the course of a game, a series or even the entirety of the playoffs.
The young players are the most interesting to watch at this time of year, though, particularly the ones that have had success in the regular season. There’s no doubt that playing over a 162-game season, or for however long they’ve been called up for, can be grueling, but it’s nothing compared to the day-in, day-out pressure that they are going to face in the postseason.
That pressure can break some young players as they get a taste of it, but it’s also the means by which they can establish their place in this league. With all 162 (*163) games played now, there are a lot of talented young players who will have a chance to do just that in the 2013 MLB Playoffs.
Before we look at some of them, though, there were two requirements that I created to qualify as a “youngster.” First, the player must be 25 years old or younger. Second, the player must have played less than four full seasons in the majors, including this season. Also, Alex Cobb turns 26 years old on Oct. 7, so he is not on this list.
Now that the technicalities are out of the way, how about we take a gander at 10 young players that have shown the ability this season to have a big effect of these playoffs? Here we go.
10. Billy Hamilton - Cincinnati Reds PR
It’s a bit odd on the surface to put a player that has only played in 13 games and only has 19 at-bats on this list, but not all players are the Cincinnati Reds 23-year-old speedster Billy Hamilton. Since being called up at the beginning of September, Hamilton’s speed on the base-paths has been a game-changer.
In his thirteen games, he has a stolen base in nine of them and has 13 steals overall while being caught only once. We don’t really have a large enough sample-size to know how he’ll perform with the bat, but if the Reds need to create some runs late in a game, expect to see Hamilton as a pinch-runner, then watch some greatness happen.
9. Starling Marte - Pittsburgh Pirates OF
Andrew McCutchen has been the star of the Pittsburgh Pirates for a few years now, but this season, 24-year-old Starling Marte joined him in the outfield and gave the Buccos a tremendous bump. With the ability to get on base, hit for occasional power, and use his speed to grab steals, Marte has a chance to be special.
Despite missing a few games later in the season due to injuries, Marte had an admirable year. He finished the year hitting .280 with a .784 OPS, adding 12 homers, 10 triples, 26 doubles, 83 runs scored and 41 stolen bases to those averages, as well. No one knows how the Pirates will perform in their first playoff appearance since 1992, but if Marte shows up big, they should be sitting pretty.
8. Sonny Gray - Oakland Athletics SP
With the Oakland Athletics having a deep and talented pitching staff, they have the luxury of toying with their starting rotation heading into the postseason. Because of that, there’s no telling of 23-year-old hurler Sonny Gray will take the hill for the A’s. If he does, though, look out.
Since being called up in July, Gray has made 12 appearances and 10 starts. With 64 innings pitches, he’s posted a solid 2.67 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in his first taste of action in the majors while also striking out over a batter per inning and having a strikeout-to-walk ratio over three. Gray has a Major League arm and, if he gets the opportunity, he could silence some of his opponents.
7. Michael Wacha - St. Louis Cardinals SP
When the St. Louis Cardinals first called up 22-year-old Michael Wacha at the end of May, he was inconsistent, but still showed his immense talent. After being sent to the bullpen after being called up again in August, Wacha settled into the starting rotation again at the end of the month and down the stretch in September, where he was phenomenal.
In five starts over September, Wacha posted an ERA of 1.72, a WHIP of 1.02 and showed why people are so high on him as a prospect. Overall Wacha finished the season with a 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in his first season in the majors. The Cards have an extremely talented pitching staff, but if Wacha gets the ball, he has the raw talent to be a dominant player.
6. Aroldis Chapman - Cincinnati Reds RP
If you blink, you might miss Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman’s fastball. In his third full season in the Bigs, the 25-year-old is still throwing blazing heat and still getting the job done at the end of games for the Reds, which could be a big deal in a close game in the postseason.
In 68 appearances this season, Chapman has 38 saves to just five blown saves, including a ridiculous 112 strikeouts in only 63.2 innings pitched. He’s also boasting a 2.54 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP, both of which are impressive considering a few midseason stumbles he had this year. He looks in form now, though, and could be key for the Reds if they need big outs at the end of an important game.
5. Gerrit Cole - Pittsburgh Pirates SP
The Pirates called up Gerrit Cole for his first trip to the majors back in June and haven’t regretted it a bit as the recently-turned-23-year-old prospect has been as good as advertised. He throws with power, deals with composure, and has a dominating demeanor on the mound.
In 19 starts this season, Cole has a 3.22 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and has 100 strikeouts over 117.1 innings pitches. Cole’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is also near four this season and he’s kept the ball in play for the most part, allowing only seven dingers on the season. One of the highest touted prospects in baseball could show up big in the playoffs for Pittsburgh.
4. Shelby Miller - St. Louis Cardinals SP
22-year-old Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller is a stud and there’s no way around it. He spent his first full season in the majors this year and turned out to be one of the Cards’ most reliable weapons over the course of the year and down the stretch. Now they’ll likely look for the same from him in the postseason.
Miller finished the season with a 15-9 record, while also boasting a strikeout rate of nearly one per inning. He also posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of around three to go along with a solid 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and .234 batting average against. He had his bad outings as all pitchers, young and old alike, do. However, he seems ready for his first taste of the postseason and, if he pitches as well as he’s capable, he’ll answer the call wonderfully.
3. Wil Myers - Tampa Bay Rays OF
At the start of the season, every Tampa Bay Rays fan was anxiously awaiting the call-up of 22-year-old Wil Myers. In June, the Rays finally delivered to their fans by bringing the youngster. The anticipation was met with meager performances to start Myers’ big league career, but rounded out into everything the fans could have asked for.
In 88 games, Myers hit .293 with an .831 OPS. The slugger also managed to knock 13 home runs, 23 doubles, 53 RBIs and 50 runs scored this season. Had he kept that pace over a 162-game season, that would have left Myers with roughly a 20-homer, 100-RBI season, which is pretty promising from a 22-year-old. Now in the postseason after the Rays grabbed a victory in game 163, Myers will have a chance to live up to the hype on a grand stage.
2. Freddie Freeman - Atlanta Braves 1B
Freddie Freeman just completed his third season with the Atlanta Braves and the 24-year-old has looked the part of a potential next Chipper Jones (no sacrilege intended) in Atlanta, just on the other corner of the infield. In a Braves lineup full of inconsistency this season, Freeman has undoubtedly been the glasses-wearing rock.
In 147 games, Freeman has hit .319 with a great .897 OPS to go along with that. He’s also hit 23 home runs, driven in 109 runs, scored 89 runs of his own, and notched 27 doubles and two triples to go along with that. Freeman has been arguably the most important hitter in this Braves lineup this year. If his teammates get on base in front of him, he’s more than likely going to bring them home. He’ll need to continue that in the postseason for the Braves to make a run.
1. Yasiel Puig - Los Angeles Dodgers OF
You may be tired of hearing about him, but you’re going to hear more. You may be tired of all of his antics, but they’re probably not going to stop. You may not be a believer, but you’ll more than likely be forced to come around on the enigmatic Los Angeles Dodgers 22-year-old right fielder, Yasiel Puig.
As you’ve surely heard, Puig lit the world on fire when he came into the league, hitting over .400, hitting big home runs seemingly every day, and looking like a superhero in L.A. He may have cooled down some, but that doesn’t take away all of the shine. Puig is still a threat whenever he’s involved in any play, at the bat or in the field. At this point, it’d be just foolish to not expect Puig to wow us at some point in the postseason.