The playoff stage is set in the American League, and the prospects of Tampa Bay, Oakland, Minnesota, Cleveland, New York, Houston, Chicago, and Toronto are ready to grab the nation’s eyeballs. Randy Arozarena has already tripled out of the 3-spot in Tampa’s lineup, and some is right with the world. 

Here’s my AL playoff breakdown: Expanded Playoffs Invite Prospect Impact

The National League wasn’t settled when I went to press Saturday night, but the musical chairs are all silent now and waiting for the real music to start. Let’s take a lap. 

1 Los Angeles Dodgers v. 8 Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers backed into the playoffs but bring a scary bullpen featuring the game’s best reliever, rookie Devin Williams, who’s the obvious choice for impact prospect thanks to 53 strikeouts in 27 innings and his 0.63 WHIP and 0.33 ERA. He combines with teammate Josh Hader to effectively change the shape of each game. Either guy could pitch two spotless innings if Milwaukee has the lead late. I don’t think they will, but if they do, rookie outfielder Tyrone Taylor might have something to do with that. I’m not certain he’ll play, but nobody’s hit for this team all year except Jed Gyorko, so manager Craig Counsell is likely to try anything.

The Dodgers have exciting young bullpen arms of their own in LHP Victor Gonzalez and RHP Brusdar Graterol, who’s struck out just 13 batters across 23 innings but posted a 0.90 WHIP thanks to his grounder-inducing arsenal. 2B Gavin Lux faced a long and winding road to the show, where he’s been truly putrid in posting a .175/.246/.349. A few big playoff games would wipe a lot of that pain away, but I suspect he’ll be on the bench more often than not. 

3B Edwin Rios hit 8 home runs in 76 at bats this year, slugging .645 with a .946 OPS. He might be exposed in an everyday role but has earned a bigger role next year and will get several pinch-hit opportunities to make a splash this October. He’s homered in three of his last five plate appearances and would be a hot property if he launched himself into a permanent 2021 role with a big postseason. 

The most important prospect to their 2020 success is probably RHP Dustin May, who could add a couple rounds to his draft price if he keeps dealing like his 2.57 ERA and 1.09 WHIP suggest he can. Like Graterol, he’s more focused on grounders than strikeouts, but that can be pretty handy in a postseason when your team’s expected to play every day and you need to get deeper into games than you have so far in your career. 

 

2 Atlanta v. 7 Cincinnati Reds

Cincinnati might be the toughest matchup on the NL side. Pitchers Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray make them a short-series nightmare. Gray’s been struggling, and I suspect this series will come down to rookie RHP Tejay Antone in a couple decisive middle-inning moments against the might of the Atlanta lineup. He posted a 2.80 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and a 20.6 K-BB percentage while holding opponents to a .163 batting average. He’s gonna fly up draft boards next Spring if he’s in the running for a rotation spot. 

Atlanta got a sorely needed pitching boost when they called up RHP Ian Anderson. He struck out six Yankees over six innings of one-hit, one-run ball in his debut and hasn’t come back to earth since, posting a 1.95 ERA and 1.08 WHIP across 32.1 innings while allowing just 0.28 HR/9. Simply put, he’s been an ace and would be just what the doctor ordered as a one-two punch with LHP Max Fried

 

3 Chicago Cubs v. 6 Miami Marlins

Miami will have a tough time remaining unbeaten in postseason series as a franchise, especially since their roster is all prospects. That’s a lie. They have several key vets but none so important to the team as RHP Sixto Sanchez. He has struggled of late, surrendering four walks and four runs in three innings at Atlanta after allowing the Nationals to score five in four innings. If he can’t get his control figured out, these fish are dead in the water. I’ll also be curious to see LHP Trevor Rogers. I’d bet he works out of the bullpen, where his 6’6” frame and plus extension could really play up. 

Cubs fans are amped up about LHP Brailyn Marquez, who might grab the last available playoff roster spot, which would be fun for everyone involved, but the real gem of the staff these past few weeks has been Adbert Alzolay and his sharp new slider. He’s struck out a third of the batters he’s faced and allowed just 0.42 HR/9 on the way to a 2.95 ERA and 3.05 FIP across 21.1 innings. If he’s dominant as a long man behind Lester or Mills, the team’s outlook is much brighter than it was a month ago. The middle innings have been an adventure in the windy city for a long time. 

 

4 San Diego Padres v. 5 St. Louis Cardinals

In a certain sense, St. Louis couldn’t ask for a better opponent given San Diego’s pitching woes, but Mike Clevinger and Dinselson Lamet both threw the other day and might be able to pitch in the series. If not, all eyes will be on LHP MacKenzie Gore, who’s been officially added to the Padres’ 40-man playoff player pool. I doubt he’ll pitch in the series, but wilder things have happened this year, and I don’t think he’d even be in the pool if the key starters were healthy. Would be a heck of a story if he debuted during the playoffs. 

The Cardinals have to be thrilled with the 142 wRC+ OF Dylan Carlson has posted since being recalled on September 18. The 21-year-old who struggled as a rookie is the organization’s best outfielder, and I’ll be fascinated to find out how they’ll deploy him in October. He might have the widest band of outcomes in terms of impacting his draft stock during postseason play. 

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy the playoffs!

I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.

 
  1. Chris says:
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    Arozarena going from basically a non-top 100 prospect a month ago to hitting third and being a key offensive weapon in TBs first playoff game yesterday is fun to see.

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Totally agree. Might be in the running for best thing about 2020.

  2. scoboticus says:
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    Wow. After putting up insane numbers all year, the Braves didn’t score a run for 12 innings!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Good pitching beats good hitting, except in Reds’ case where their hitters have struggled all year

  3. Rick Brown says:
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    Just read both Lamet and Clevinger out for this series.We might see Gore after all.
    RICK

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      If the Padres get to the 3rd game

  4. NUX says:
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    Itch,
    Can’t thank you enough for all the help since last offseason when I began to pester for your assistance with a last place dynasty team I took over that needed some work. Worked that azz off on the wire and finished in 3rd this year!!! Doubled my buy in, after starting 2020 planning to finish towards the bottom and possibly be in the running for Tork. But that changed quickly after I traded for like Corbin Burnes, Dansby, Ian Happ, etc that performed well out the shoot.

    I didn’t move prospects during the 2020 trade deadline, though I easily could have… I just wasn’t comfortable going all in like that during a weird year. So anyways, still have a crazy list of great prospects like Kelenic, Julio, CJ Abrams still.

    I went back to reference your Omnibus post from back in May to help with trimming my roto dynasty roster, which is 14 Teams (30 Majors, 25 Minors- so 770 players rostered in total).

    Just listing names of players that I’m rostering right now and curious about your take as of today. I look forward to all your upcoming offseason content of course!

    Wilmer Flores: he didn’t make for the Omnibus post back then. What are your thoughts on him going forward? He has a few years left on his contract in SF i believe.

    Fleming, Chricton, Dean Kremer: each were also not listed in the Omnibus post but made some noise in season.

    DJ Stewart: he was at 197 for OF, I wonder how much of a bump he gets after a month or two of looking solid?

    Cedric Mullins: Unlisted, but same kind of question as the other Oreo OF i just mentioned above

    Brent Rooker: Forearm surgery, but looked decent for a week or 3. Eager to hear if his value changed at all. I dunno that there is room in that lineup now that they seem ready for Kirilof. He didn’t make the Top 10 Twins prospect list last January, but I know you were trying the sneak him in there, but ran out of room. Rooker is prob dropable right?

    Candelario: Jeimer made some strides in season, was at #63 for 3B, but can’t wait to see how far he rises. He’s still young, will turn 27 in a few months.

    Thanks again for always taking the time to review our comments and provide all your thoughtful insight, be well brother!

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Thanks so much for the kind words, NUX!

      I tend think rebuilds come a year early for people who know how to hustle. Some of it is just the churn and the percentage likelihood of finding a Burnes or a Happ. I mean these guys are all super talented and working their butts off to get better, and we tend to overlook that in our thinking, imo–something a dynasty rebuild wipes clean off the table. You don’t have the luxury of assuming a DJ Stewart will come back to earth, and you’ve got plenty of room to see if he doesn’t. Nice work!!!

      I like Wilmer a lot as a ball player and think San Fran will get him enough run to be viable in deepish leagues. He’d certainly make the bus today.

      Kremer will be fairly high on my next set of rankings. Very impressed with him so far.

      Crichton and Fleming less so, but Fleming is a Ray, so I will always have an eye on him, and Crichton is a reliever on a team with no bullpen, so that could be fun.

      I’m not very confident in Stewart, but I’m not writing him off because he iced over after starting so hot.

      Jeimer looks legit to me. Was always a 55-60 hit and power guy and seems to have found the balance of patience and aggression he’ll need.

      Mullins should be a fun speed flier in 2021, but I’m skeptical. Baltimore has some talent in the pipeline, so Ced will have to keep hitting.

      I think so on Rooker. I’ve never been a big believer, but he’s just flat out blocked at this point, even if he does solve high minors pitching.

  5. Fenway Faithful says:
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    Hey Itch, dynasty question for you…. Would you rather have Bryan Reynolds or Franmil Reyes in a dynasty league? Is it close?

    • The Itch

      The Itch says:
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      Hi, Fenway Faithful,

      It’s very close for me.

      I’ll take Franmil, but if you’ve got a power heavy build that needs batting average, outfield and/or runs, it gets even closer.

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