Every October, Major League Baseball crowns new stars, sees rookies cement themselves as nationwide names, and features numerous magical moments over the month-long quest to crown the World Series champion.
MLB Rookies About to Breakout This Postseason
Wild Card Round Recap
This week, the 2023 postseason began with all four best-of-three Wild Card series ending after the first two games. The American League (AL) Central champion Minnesota Twins won their first playoff game and series since 2002, defeating the visiting Toronto Blue Jays thanks to standout pitching and just enough offense.
The defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies will take on the Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series for the second straight year after overwhelming the Miami Marlins in front of a raucous home crowd.
Meanwhile, the lower-seeded Texas Rangers and Arizona Diamondbacks pulled off upsets on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays and Milwaukee Brewers. All four teams that advanced to the second round got contributions from at least one rookie.
Rookies who have already made a postseason impact
The Twins’ Royce Lewis, the number one overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, parlayed his strong regular season into the postseason. He became the third player in league history to hit a home run in his first two postseason at-bats.
Rangers’ rookie outfielder Evan Carter lived up to his top prospect billing in his first postseason series. He spent most of the year in the minors before Texas called him up for the final few weeks of the regular season. Carter performed well, batting .306 with five home runs in 23 Major League games. He started in left field in both Wild Card games, reaching base in seven of eight plate appearances and making a stellar diving catch early in the first game.
The next day, he hit his first postseason home run, a two-run blast to right field that put his team up 4-0 in a contest they would eventually win 7-1. Fellow Rangers’ rookie third baseman Josh Jung also did well in game two, hitting two doubles and a triple to tie the postseason rookie record for extra-base hits.
Phillies’ rookie reliever Orion Kerkering, another late-season call-up, pitched a scoreless eighth inning with his team up seven and on the verge of advancing. The Phillies might continue employing their minor league pitcher of the year out of the bullpen against the Braves.
Even more impressive, 23-year-old Corbin Carroll proved invaluable to the Diamondbacks, helping them come from behind to win both games in the Wild Card series. The NL Rookie of the Year favorite became the youngest player in team history to hit a postseason homer when he swatted a two-run home run to reduce his club’s deficit to one during the first game. The following day, his double set up his team’s four-run sixth inning to take the lead for good.
Rookies set to shine in the division round
The four teams yet to play (Dodgers, Braves, Astros, Orioles) will need some impact from one or more of their first-year players to defeat the Wild Card winners. Rookie center fielder James Outman and starting pitcher Bobby Miller have contributed heavily to the Dodgers’ success this season. Miller could further break out as he is in line for a starring postseason role with the Dodgers’ pitching staff riddled with uncertainty after game one starter Clayton Kershaw.
The reigning champion Houston Astros brought most of last year’s team back, even trading for future Hall-of-Famer Justin Verlander at the trade deadline after not re-signing him in the offseason. If named to the roster, rookie pitchers J.P. France and Hunter Brown may make an impact by starting or coming out of the bullpen. However, the rookie to watch is catcher/designated hitter Yainer Diaz, who has the power to make a difference as he hit 23 home runs in the regular season.
Like the Astros, the Atlanta Braves have an experienced roster that won the most games in the Major Leagues this season. Rookie Bryce Elder, who pitched well in the first half before his performance dipped down the stretch, is an option to start the third game against the Phillies.
On the other hand, the Baltimore Orioles won the most games in the American League this year thanks to young players developed in one of baseball’s best farm systems. AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner Gunnar Henderson and promising pitcher Grayson Rodriguez had solid rookie seasons. Henderson finished the regular season with 28 home runs and 82 RBIs, and Rodriguez seemed to right the ship down the stretch after some initial struggles that led to a temporary demotion to Triple-A. Look for Henderson, catcher Adley Rutschman, and the rest of Baltimore’s sluggers to showcase their abilities on a team that may need its offense to step up if its inexperienced pitching falters against the Rangers’ potent offense.
The number of young, talented players in this year’s postseason reflects the youthfulness around the league. Given the unpredictability of the postseason, these rising stars have as good a chance as veterans or lesser-known players to prove critical to their team’s success.