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.
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.
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.
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.