Every year, there comes a time when teams have to accept that the playoffs are not a reality. That comes earlier for some teams, but each team still has interesting storylines to follow. While they might miss out on the spotlight of the playoffs, there are plenty of players who have had notable seasons as they prepare to be important pieces for their team next year and further into the future.
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There are always intriguing rookies who go unnoticed in the Rookie of the Year voting, and the influx of young players like Zack Gelof and Tyler Soderstrom was one of the few bright spots for Oakland this year.
Gelof has been an especially exciting find for Oakland. He brings a high power profile with a high strikeout rate. He is athletic, ranking in the 93rd percentile for sprint speed, but that hasn’t yet translated to fantastic defensive performance.
Gelof’s offensive output is the primary reason to be excited, though. He leads all rookies with at least 100 plate appearances with a 157 wRC+. He has eight home runs through his first 27 games. He probably will not have a high batting average, but his power supply should be valuable. The main concern is his strikeout rate. Even in Triple-A this season, he ran a 27.9% strikeout rate. In the majors so far, he has a 28.9% strikeout rate. He is still adjusting to the majors, so he should be able to reduce that number in time. However, if that stays in the high-20s, it might limit his offensive ceiling.
The Royals have seen some promising young players pop up in recent years, and Maikel Garcia might be flying under the radar. He has showcased an interesting offensive profile as well as elite defense at third base.
He has a .290 batting average and a .721 OPS in his rookie season. That is just slightly below league average, but the bat-to-ball ability is promising. He rarely whiffs and chases even less. He has a 50% hard-hit percentage, which is good enough for the top 9% in the league. Despite this consistent contact, he has been unable to hit many home runs as he has a very low barrel percentage. At only 23 years old, his development at the plate will be interesting to watch. His average exit velocity is good, but tapping into some more high-end power could make for a fascinating high-average player with 10+ home runs and 20+ stolen bases a year.
His defense is the most entertaining attribute to his game. He is currently tied for first among all third basemen with eleven Outs Above Average. Put him alongside Bobby Witt, Jr. at shortstop, and the left side of the Royals infield starts to look exciting.
The Cardinals hope to bounce back from a disappointing year by jumping right back into contention for 2024. Lars Nootbaar will be a significant factor in that goal. After plenty of preseason hype, Nootbaar has delivered.
The World Baseball Classic added to the excitement around Nootbaar, but it took some time for him to break out with some injury concerns. By the end of May, he had a 117 wRC+. That’s still solid, but not the jump expected after his impressive rookie season.
He missed half of June, but he has been exceptional since then. Since June 19, he has a 147 wRC+ while displaying a great plate approach. He has twelve home runs, but with a high max exit velocity, he might be able to push a little higher than that. Even if his power output is not elite, he builds on that with his plate discipline. He is in the 84th percentile for whiffs and the 95th percentile for walks. He has a stellar eye for the zone, ranking in the 97th percentile for chase rate.
He has developed into a well-rounded player for the Cardinals and adds to a powerful lineup built around Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. According to Fangraphs, he has been the 16th most valuable outfielder this season with 3.1 WAR. He figures to be a key player in the Cardinals’ hope for a quick turnaround next season. If this year was any sign, he will be up to the task.
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