These rookies can make an October splash

October 3rd, 2021

In October, anyone can become a hero. Last season, we saw two of the most electric postseason debuts of all time, as guided the Rays all the way to the World Series with a record-breaking 10 home runs while brought the Braves to within one game of joining Tampa Bay, posting a 0.96 ERA across four starts, including a heroic outing to give Atlanta a chance in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Both Arozarena and Anderson are now back in the postseason and looking to repeat their performances. But waiting in the wings are a few more rookies with the talent to make baseball history just like they did.

Here are the rookies -- besides Arozarena and Anderson -- who will turn the most heads in October:

, SS, Rays
Surprise, surprise. A Rays rookie leads off the list for this season. Unlike Arozarena, almost the entire baseball world knows about the former No. 1 overall prospect. But if there’s one rookie capable of catching lightning in a bottle like Arozarena, it’s Franco. After a slow start in June and most of July, Franco became an on-base machine and tied the record for the longest on-base streak by a player under 21 years old set by Hall of Famer Frank Robinson. He hasn’t really tapped into his home run power yet, as he’s only hit seven in his rookie campaign, but he’s finding the gaps with ease, as he’s already tied for 13th in the Majors in triples in just 69 games. He can easily turn a game upside down with one swing of the bat.

, LHP, Rays
After trading Blake Snell and letting Charlie Morton walk last offseason, the Rays handed the reins to McClanahan, and he’s done nothing but impress since joining the rotation. In his rookie campaign, he became their workhorse and leads the team in games started and strikeouts, is second in innings pitched and has the lowest ERA among Tampa Bay starters at 3.43. This won’t be McClanahan’s first rodeo, though, as he became the first pitcher to make his Major League debut in the playoffs during the ALDS last season. He tossed 4 1/3 innings in the postseason, including a scoreless appearance in Game 3 of the World Series. It wasn’t much, but that little postseason experience can go a long way for McClanahan.

Joining him on the Rays' postseason pitching staff could be two other impressive youngsters in Luis Patiño, who was part of the Snell trade, and top prospect Shane Baz, who earned two wins and struck out 18 in his first three Major League starts. So McClanahan is hardly the only rookie Rays pitcher who can shake up October.

, LHP, White Sox
Like McClanahan, Crochet has some postseason experience from last season, albeit just two-thirds of an inning of work, but Crochet showed this season why he made the White Sox bullpen just two months after being drafted in 2020. The 22-year-old southpaw has posted a 2.82 ERA in more than 50 innings of work and quickly became a late-inning option for the AL Central champs. Crochet enters the postseason as one of the game’s hottest relievers, as he did not allow a run in 11 of his last 12 appearances to end the season. And knowing All-Stars Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendricks loom behind, teams better strike early before they face a potentially unhittable late-inning combo.

, RHP, Astros
With the third-best starter ERA in the American League, the Astros are primed for another go at the World Series title. Garcia has been a big part of that rotation all season, making 28 starts to the tune of a 3.30 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. When it comes to limiting contact, there aren’t many better at doing so than Garcia. He's held hitters to a .230 batting average, including a measly .150 average against his breaking pitches. He got a taste of postseason baseball last season, throwing two hitless innings in the ALCS as the opener. This postseason, he should be one of the toughest rookies to face on the mound.

, 1B/3B, Red Sox
The Red Sox plucked Kyle Schwarber from the Nationals at the Trade Deadline to try to fix their woes at first base, but Dalbec soon showed that they had an answer all along. After a middling showing in the first half of the season, Dalbec exploded after the Deadline, slashing .339/.431/.774 with seven homers in the month of August. He hasn’t really slowed down in September either, keeping an OPS north of .900 as the Red Sox fight their way to seal an AL Wild Card spot. With Dalbec joining Schwarber, J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and company, the Red Sox have a potent lineup from top to bottom that will keep pitchers on their toes in October.

, RHP, Red Sox
Aside from Chris Sale, the Red Sox rotation has been one of the weaker staffs among those in the playoffs. Only two pitchers with 10 or more starts carry an ERA under 4.00: Nathan Eovaldi and Tanner Houck. Houck entered the season as one of the team’s top prospects and has shown why. While he never threw more than 5 1/3 innings or 90 pitches in a start this season, he flashed a terrific mix of pitches, led by his wipeout slider. Among more than 160 pitchers who have thrown at least 300 sliders this season, Houck is top 10 in expected slugging against. He would join another impressive rookie (Garrett Whitlock) out of the bullpen in October, with Whitlock carrying a sub-2.00 ERA and having struck out more than a batter per inning in 45 games this season.

, OF, Mariners
Kelenic came into the season as the Mariners top prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but he struggled in his first callup in May despite the hype. He returned to the club in July with little improvements, but patience has paid off with their prized phenom. After hitting .151/.236/.272 in 64 games prior, Kelenic proved he belonged in the final month with a line of .242/.321/.537 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs. Thanks in part to his emergence, the Mariners are in the AL Wild Card race, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

, RHP, Blue Jays
Like the Rays with McClanahan, the Blue Jays relied heavily on Manoah before Robbie Ray’s breakout and the acquisition of José Berríos, but now that those two are in the mix, he’s settled into a groove on the mound. Over his last four starts of the regular season, Manoah had a 1.69 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings. That stretch was highlighted by the best start of his young career on Sept. 13 against the Rays, when he tossed eight scoreless innings, allowed one hit and struck out 10. He’s already proven he can pitch under the bright lights and could figure into Toronto's postseason plans if the club makes it that far.

, RHP, Giants
The Giants made Doval a September callup after he struggled to start the year, but in his second stint in San Francisco, he’s been nearly untouchable. The 24-year-old flamethrower appeared in 15 games in September and allowed zero runs and just seven hits while striking out 20. His fastball clocks in at 98.6 mph, which ranks as the third-fastest average fastball velocity among all pitchers in the postseason. With Tyler Rogers, Jake McGee and company in the bullpen as well, opponents will need to adjust on the fly to whatever speed, break or release point the Giants throw their way.

, LHP, Dodgers
Vesia has been one of the better relievers in baseball all season, but he’s flown under the radar, as his name might not be as recognizable as the likes of Crochet and Houck. He pounds hitters with almost exclusively fastballs, and it seems to work for him as he’s holding hitters to a .163 average against his four-seamer. His slider isn’t too shabby either with batters hitting his main breaking offering at a miniscule .043 clip. Kenley Jansen might be the marquee name in the Dodgers' bullpen, but it might be Vesia who makes the biggest impact as they try to go back to back.

, LHP, Brewers
If Ashby’s name sounds familiar, it might be because he’s the nephew of 14-year MLB veteran Andy Ashby. The elder Ashby was an All-Star in 1998 and helped lead the Padres to the World Series that season. While Aaron isn’t an All-Star yet, he’s still carved himself a role with the NL Central champs, posting a 1.78 ERA and holding hitters to a .168 average since the start of August. The Brewers have relied heavily on their pitching staff this season, and with Devin Williams likely out for the postseason, the Crew might rely on Ashby to pick up some of his innings. Maybe he’ll capture some of the magic his uncle had in that 1998 NLCS, where the Padres took down the heavily favored Braves.

, OF, Cardinals
The Cardinals enter the postseason as the hottest team in baseball, setting a franchise record with a 17-game winning streak and losing just three games since Sept. 8 as they enter the NL Wild Card Game. One of the big catalysts in that span has been Carlson. Since the start of their streak, Carlson has hit .311 with a .656 slugging percentage, driving in 15. Before then, he was hitting .258 with a .410 slugging. He’s getting hot at the right time, and he’s already shown he can perform in October, as he had a 1.016 OPS during the NL Wild Card Series last year.