The regular season is winding down, but it's never late for a player to make a big impression on his club. Whether it's as a contributor who could be key to a team's postseason hopes or a piece that a non-contending team can build around in 2022, players around the game are the focus of important evaluations right now.
Each of MLB's 30 beat reporters has identified one player with a rising stock. Here is who they chose:
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF
Gurriel may be the Blue Jays’ streakiest hitter, but when he’s hot, you see why it’s worth waiting out the cold streaks. The 27-year-old has come to life over the past month, and while his defense can still be an adventure at times in left field, his offensive ceiling is still impressive. We’re starting to see more of the hitter who posted an .874 OPS between 2019 and '20, which lengthens the Blue Jays lineup beyond their star-studded top. Gurriel’s job wasn’t in question, but stretches like this help to keep him in the long-term picture with the Blue Jays projecting as a postseason contender over the next several years.
-- Keegan Matheson
Orioles: Jorge Mateo, INF
A former top prospect, Mateo is garnering attention from the Orioles and opposing clubs amid an excellent first month in Baltimore; he entered play Wednesday hitting .292 with 10 extra-base hits, five steals and a .791 OPS in 27 games since being acquired off waivers from the Padres. Mateo’s tools are extremely loud: he is objectively the fastest player in baseball, has sneaky power and can play multiple positions. The Orioles are giving him an extended look in the middle infield down the stretch, and they’ve been rewarded thus far.
-- Joe Trezza
Rays: Drew Rasmussen, RHP
The Rays liked Rasmussen out of Oregon State University, picking him 31st overall in the 2017 Draft but ultimately not signing him due to an elbow injury. After landing him as part of the Willy Adames trade in May, they started him slowly in Triple-A Durham’s bullpen, called him up, sent him down (to make room for Wander Franco, notably) then brought him back as a reliever.
In need of bulk-inning options in mid-August, Tampa Bay transitioned Rasmussen into the rotation as a four- to five-inning starter, and the results have been excellent. In his first four starts, Rasmussen gave up three runs with the same number of strikeouts as baserunners allowed (13) in 17 innings. His high-octane stuff -- a high-90s fastball plus two swing-and-miss breaking balls -- has drawn comparisons to one starter the Rays are missing: Tyler Glasnow. He seems likely to be part of their postseason rotation, and whatever role he plays moving forward figures to be an important one.
-- Adam Berry
Red Sox: Bobby Dalbec, 1B
By midseason, Dalbec seemed to be morphing into a platoon player due to his inconsistent struggles overall and his massive struggles against righties. The right-handed-hitting masher changed the narrative in August and is continuing to do so in September by doing damage against righties and lefties. In fact, he has been a monster against righties. From Aug. 1-Sept. 8, Dalbec had a 1.466 OPS against righties.
This could give chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom something to think about as he plots the 2022 roster. If Dalbec can be a mainstay next season, the Red Sox probably won’t have room on the roster for both Kyle Schwarber and J.D. Martinez. Making this even more interesting is that Boston’s second-best hitting prospect is Triston Casas, who plays first base -- the same position as Dalbec. With Casas expected to start next season at Triple-A, Dalbec could go into ‘22 as the starting first baseman for the Sox.
-- Ian Browne
Yankees: Clay Holmes, RHP
Holmes has entered the reliever "circle of trust" for the Yankees, earning the opportunity to pitch in more meaningful innings. Acquired from the Pirates in July, the right-hander owned a 4.93 ERA in 44 appearances this year with Pittsburgh but has more than halved that in New York, pitching to a 1.84 ERA through 13 appearances entering Wednesday. Over 14 2/3 innings, Holmes has struck out 18 against just one walk, while also showing the ability to induce a ground ball when needed. As Holmes said recently: "A good sinker can beat a lot of people."
-- Bryan Hoch
Cleveland: Amed Rosario, SS
When Cleveland acquired Rosario, Andrés Giménez and two Minor Leaguers in exchange for Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco in January, the expectation was primarily that Giménez would be the everyday shortstop. But soon after Opening Day, Rosario replaced Giménez at shortstop and everything began to click. Since then, he’s been the main source of consistency in Cleveland's lineup, hitting .288 through 127 games entering Wednesday.
His bat has proven to be essential for Cleveland’s lineup and has caused the team to think a little harder about its choices up the middle for the immediate future. Along with Rosario and Giménez, Cleveland has Gabriel Arias, Tyler Freeman, Owen Miller, Ernie Clement, Yu Chang and eventually Brayan Rocchio to shift through at second and short. If the team decides to pass the baton to its younger talent, Rosario has built up his trade value throughout the 2021 season. If not, he’s made it clear his bat will be crucial to the 2022 lineup.
-- Mandy Bell
Royals: Carlos Hernández, RHP
The hard-throwing right-hander entered 2021 with command questions surrounding him, leading some to wonder if he would be better suited as a back-end bullpen piece. His five-pitch arsenal and excellent second half of the season have put those questions to rest and seen the 24-year-old cement himself as a future rotation piece that the Royals will lean heavily on next year. Hernández, who starts Thursday against Baltimore, has posted a 2.94 ERA since the All-Star break, thanks in part to a 2.08 ERA in August, when he made four starts and one dominant long-relief outing. The focus of the future has always been on the Royals’ pitching-heavy 2018 Draft class, but Hernández, who signed with the Royals out of Venezuela in 2016, is right in the mix -- if not leading the charge -- of that group.
-- Anne Rogers
Tigers: Derek Hill, CF
Hill's defense is always going to be his strength, but the question going into this year was whether he would hit enough for a regular role in Detroit. He has answered with consistent, quality at-bats, even after injuries interrupted his season. His offseason work with hitting instructor Doug Latta has quieted his swing and taken out unnecessary movement, allowing him to track pitches better. The Tigers have decisions to make with their outfield mix this offseason, but Hill's all-around contributions have made him a keeper.
-- Jason Beck
Twins: Bailey Ober, RHP
At the start of this season, Ober was a 25-year-old on the fringes of the 40-man roster who posted startling Minor League numbers, but he carried more intrigue than sure promise due to his stifling stats -- despite a fastball that rarely topped 90 mph. Now, he looks to be a sure part of Minnesota’s rotation future.
Without throwing an inning on the big league side during Spring Training, Ober was needed to step into a consistent rotation role in June due to Matt Shoemaker’s extended struggles, and thanks to mechanical adjustments and improved arm health following career-long injury issues, Ober’s fastball now regularly touches 94 mph. Continued adjustments on the fly have now given him a harder slider that has led to a 2.05 ERA in five starts since integrating that into his arsenal (and a 4.00 ERA overall for the season). He owns the best strikeout-to-walk ratio by any rookie starter in Twins history (81 strikeouts and 17 walks) and should only be more impactful with fewer limitations to his usage next season.
-- Do-Hyoung Park
White Sox: Reynaldo López, RHP
The clear-cut answer here would be Carlos Rodón, who has bounced back from a couple of injury-plagued seasons in which he combined to throw 42 1/3 innings to strike out 168 over 119 2/3 innings in 2021. But Rodón has put up these numbers in his walk year, putting himself in a good free-agent position, possibly taking him away from the White Sox.
López, meanwhile, seemed to be out of the White Sox short-term and long-term picture after two rough seasons as a starter in which he posted a 5.52 ERA over 41 combined starts and was pitching somewhat ineffectively for Triple-A Charlotte up until mid-July. Eye surgery early in the season has made a huge difference for López's ability to simply pick up the target and the signs. He has worked effectively as a starter and in relief, throwing five perfect innings with seven strikeouts behind Dallas Keuchel in a home victory on Aug. 27 over the Cubs. With the White Sox holding two more years of contractual control, López could be a major factor in the overall pitching staff even as a sixth starter/long reliever.
-- Scott Merkin
Angels: Jo Adell, OF
Adell was the club’s highest-ranked prospect since Mike Trout but struggled in his first taste of the Majors in 2020 and opened this year at Triple-A Salt Lake to get more seasoning. After hitting 23 homers in 73 games in the Minors this year, he was called back up to the Majors in early August and has been a mainstay ever since. He’s looked much more comfortable in the Majors both offensively and defensively. He got off to a slow start offensively but is starting to heat up and homered twice against the Rangers on Sunday. He’s one of the fastest players in the Majors, according to Statcast’s sprint speed metric, and just needs to continue to improve defensively and at the plate. He has the tools to be a star, and now it’s about putting them all together. He’s starting to flash that potential.
-- Rhett Bollinger
Astros: Jake Meyers, CF
Called up on July 31 after the Astros traded starting center fielder Myles Straw to the Indians, Meyers has likely put himself in position to begin 2022 as the Astros’ starting center fielder. Through his first 29 career games, Meyers was hitting .315 with four homers and 21 RBIs while playing solid defense. He didn’t show much power until slugging 16 homers in 68 games this year at Triple-A, and he’s been impressive in his first month in the Major Leagues.
-- Brian McTaggart
Athletics: Khris Davis, DH
When the A’s reunited with Davis on a Minor League deal last month, nobody seriously expected him to find his way back to the Majors this season given his career trajectory over the last two years. But after going on a tear through Triple-A, he made for a great comeback story by forcing his way back as a September callup with undeniable production. With a pair of doubles through his first 10 at-bats since getting called up, Davis is showing that there’s still some pop left in his bat. Whether it’s with the A’s or another team, Davis is playing his way into a Major League role for next season.
-- Martín Gallegos
Mariners: Matt Brash, RHP
While there are plenty of players on the big league roster who fit this billing, especially for a club emerging from a multiyear rebuild, we’re going with the arm that has skyrocketed its way up to Double-A and could very well be in consideration for a rotation spot at some point in 2022. That would be Mariners No. 10 prospect Matt Brash, who entered Wednesday with a 1.64 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 44 innings since being promoted in mid-July. Last week, Brash threw six perfect innings with a career-high 11 strikeouts, a mark he’s reached thrice this season, as part of a combined no-hitter. Seattle’s No. 2-ranked farm system is loaded with pitching, and there might not be an arm who’s taken a big step forward than Brash.
-- Daniel Kramer
Rangers: Taylor Hearn, LHP
If Opening Day 2022 was tomorrow, I have no doubt that Taylor Hearn would be part of the Rangers' starting rotation. The lefty worked mainly out of the bullpen before the Trade Deadline, but with ace Kyle Gibson shipped off to the Phillies, he slotted in and has performed well since.
Following his win over the Angels on Sept. 5, Hearn entered Wednesday with a 3.31 ERA over his last seven appearances, five of which were starts. He’s totaled 28 strikeouts to just nine walks while tossing 35 1/3 innings during that stretch. Coming into this season, the Rangers weren’t sure if Hearn, with a fastball that tops out at 99 mph, was a better fit for the back end of the bullpen despite being a starter through most of his Minor League career. Texas' rotation may get a minor overhaul going into 2022, but Hearn has more than shown he has the stuff to be a starter at the big league level during this post-Deadline stretch.
-- Kennedi Landry
Braves: Austin Riley, 3B
Riley has established himself as a top NL MVP candidate just before he becomes eligible for arbitration. The Braves will be more than willing to provide a healthy raise to this young third baseman, who is one of the primary reasons the team has persevered in Ronald Acuña Jr.’s absence. Riley has a chance to join the 2016 version of Freddie Freeman as the only Braves since 2010 to hit .300 with 30-plus homers.
-- Mark Bowman
Marlins: Bryan De La Cruz, OF
De La Cruz wasn't among Houston's top 30 prospects when Miami acquired him in the Yimi García trade, but he had produced at the Triple-A level in 2021. The 24-year-old has continued to hit since his MLB arrival, entering Wednesday with a .330/.382/.464 slash line in 34 games. He also has shown the ability to play all three outfield positions. With the Marlins' starting Opening Day outfielders gone, De La Cruz has been making a strong case for a guaranteed spot on the '22 roster.
-- Christina DeNicola
Mets: Jonathan Villar, INF
Although Villar still befuddles the Mets from time to time with his ambitious baserunning, it’s become impossible to ignore his bat. Over a 13-game stretch from Aug. 21-Sept. 5, the veteran infielder hit .440/.490/.740 with three home runs, four doubles, a triple and a stolen base. It should be enough for Villar to garner plenty of interest as a 30-year-old on the open market this winter. It’s possible the Mets could even be interested in a reunion.
-- Anthony DiComo
Nationals: Lane Thomas, OF
Thomas went from playing in the Minor Leagues to starting in center field during a whirlwind month since being acquired by the Nationals from the Cardinals at the Trade Deadline in exchange for Jon Lester. The Nats have been so impressed by the 26-year-old, they moved him to the leadoff spot in the lineup. Victor Robles, meanwhile, was optioned to Triple-A Rochester on Aug. 31, with no timetable for a return.
-- Jessica Camerato
Phillies: Rafael Marchan, C
Phillies manager Joe Girardi became an instant fan of Marchan after watching him play in his first Grapefruit League game in 2020. Marchan is a defensive whiz. He has a strong arm, blocks the ball well -- Girardi called him the “block master” -- and places an emphasis on learning his pitchers and calling a good game. It is why other teams expressed interest in him at the July 30 Trade Deadline.
Marchan has been playing fairly regularly recently with J.T. Realmuto playing more first base and Andrew Knapp on the COVID-19 injured list. The extended look likely makes the Phillies feel more comfortable about their catching situation as they consider their 2022 roster. Knapp is eligible for salary arbitration for the second time. It would not be a surprise to see Marchan in that backup role next year.
-- Todd Zolecki
Brewers: Aaron Ashby, LHP
Going into this season, the thinking was that left-handed pitching prospects Ashby and Ethan Small had the potential to be the 2021 version of 2018’s Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta, current mainstays of Milwaukee’s rotation who pitched the biggest innings of the early years of their careers out of the bullpen, including some critical work in the ‘18 postseason. Small’s chances in ‘21 were dashed by a finger injury that sidelined him for the second half of July and most of August, but Ashby is right on schedule.
He’s already made a handful of appearances as a Brewers starter and as a reliever, and the fact he remained in the Majors for the final weeks of August while more experienced arms went up and down shows that the Brewers like what they’re seeing with his stuff and makeup. Ultimately, the club sees Ashby as a starter. But don’t rule him out for some meaningful innings this October.
-- Adam McCalvy
Cardinals: Edmundo Sosa, SS
How the Cardinals decide to proceed with Paul DeJong this offseason has a lot of layers to it. One is the plethora of shortstop talent expected to hit the open market this winter. And the other is the emergence of Sosa. The 25-year-old has gotten his first taste of consistent playing time this season, first when DeJong broke a rib in mid-May and now as the club rides its hot hand in Sosa, trying to squeak into the postseason picture. Sosa has provided a spark plug of an attitude, always drawing rave reviews from teammates in how he plays the game: staunch defense and hitting for contact with a wide smile. That he’s playing to a high level gives the Cardinals a solid option should DeJong be on the move for a change of scenery this offseason. At the very least, he’s turning heads as a more-than-solid bench and utility option for 2022.
-- Zachary Silver
Cubs: Frank Schwindel, 1B
After the Cubs traded a franchise icon in Anthony Rizzo -- a three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove winner and World Series champion with the North Siders -- the first base job went to Frank Schwindel. As a 29-year-old waiver claim from the A’s (on July 18), Schwindel arrived as a non-prospect with little name recognition. By the time September arrived, Wrigley Field featured “Frank the tank!” chants and Cubs fans on social media were running with the “Schwindy City” rallying cry for the franchise’s newest cult hero.
Schwindel took home the NL Rookie of the Month Award for August (.344 average, six homers, 18 RBIs and a 1.030 OPS in 26 games) and picked up NL Player of the Week honors to start September. From Sept. 3-7, Schwindel delivered the go-ahead hit/RBI in four consecutive games. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, he joined Orlando Cepeda (1967) as the only players in the Expansion Era to have the go-ahead RBI in the sixth inning or later in four straight games. Schwindel has been on an offensive tear since suiting up for Chicago, providing a unique blend of contact and power to the batter’s box. It’s been a feelgood story down the stretch that could wind up positioning Schwindel as the Cubs’ first baseman for 2022.
-- Jordan Bastian
Pirates: David Bednar, RHP
Bednar had a great Spring Training to position himself in a setup role for the Pirates in his first full season, then he only solidified himself as a premier reliever down the stretch. Entering Wednesday, he had a 2.18 ERA in 57 2/3 innings, which was the 12th-lowest mark among MLB relievers with at least 50 innings pitched this season. Is Bednar a closer of the future? Well, manager Derek Shelton shies away from putting labels on his bullpen arms. But there’s no doubt the Pittsburgh native will be pitching in the biggest spots for September and likely into next season.
-- Jake Crouse
Reds: Kyle Farmer, SS
During Spring Training, Farmer had to lobby manager David Bell to get a look at shortstop -- the position he played in college. Since being acquired before the 2019 season, Farmer was a utility player able to play every infield spot, left field and even serve as the third catcher. But after Eugenio Suárez struggled at shortstop, Farmer got a chance and never let go of it in his first opportunity as an everyday player.
Even while playing through a painful sports hernia, he has made most of the routine plays and his fair share of superb ones too. Offensively, he had reached his career highs in both home runs and RBIs by Aug. 1. Although it’s expected that No. 3 prospect Jose Barrero could be Cincinnati’s shortstop in 2022, it cannot be assumed. Farmer could continue to hold it down until Barrero shows that his bat is as big league ready as his glove.
-- Mark Sheldon
D-backs: Josh Rojas, INF/OF
When the D-backs dealt right-hander Zack Greinke to the Astros at the Trade Deadline in 2019 for four Minor Leaguers, most of the focus was on right-handers Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas and maybe a little bit on first baseman Seth Beer. However, so far the best performer has been Rojas, whom the Astros selected in the 26th round of the 2017 Draft. Rojas has been a bright spot in an otherwise dismal 2021 for the D-backs. He has shown the ability to hit as well as play both corner-outfield spots, second base, shortstop and third. His improvement at shortstop could give the D-backs the option of dealing Nick Ahmed, who has two years left on his contract extension, this offseason. Either way, Rojas has shown he is a part of the D-backs' future.
-- Steve Gilbert
Dodgers: Alex Vesia, LHP
Of all the roster moves the Dodgers made this offseason, acquiring Vesia from the Marlins was probably one of their most unheralded acquisitions. But in his first season with the Dodgers, the left-handed reliever is showing exactly why Los Angeles got him. Vesia has carried an elite four-seam fastball and has quickly become one of Dave Roberts’ most trusted relievers. Since returning from Triple-A Oklahoma City following a rocky start to the season, Vesia has been nearly untouchable, posting a 1.19 ERA in 23 appearances through Tuesday. Vesia will continue to be a big part of the Dodgers’ bullpen as they look to repeat, but all signs indicate that he’ll play an even bigger role in 2022.
-- Juan Toribio
Giants: Logan Webb, RHP
One of the most important developments of the season has been the ascendance of the 24-year-old Webb, who is finally starting to blossom into the frontline starter the Giants always thought he could be. Over his last 15 starts, Webb is 8-0 with a 1.65 ERA, the best mark in the Majors over that span. He is looking more and more like a foundational piece for the Giants, who now have a burgeoning ace to build their rotation around this winter.
-- Maria Guardado
Padres: Joe Musgrove, RHP
Musgrove has been the Padres’ steadiest starter this season, and he’s been excellent from the outset. So why is his stock rising now? Well, for precisely that reason. The right-hander had shown flashes in the past with Houston and Pittsburgh, but he had never done it with this measure of consistency. Musgrove owns a 2.87 ERA in 27 outings this season. Acquired as a middle- to back-end starter, Musgrove is suddenly a candidate to start the National League Wild Card Game, should the Padres make it that far.
-- AJ Cassavell
Rockies: Brendan Rodgers, 2B
The beginning of Rodgers' career, short Major League stints in 2019 and 2020, were full of offensive struggles followed by injury. And 2021 began with an injury (to his right hamstring to cost him much of April and May) followed by a slow start. But Rodgers hit his first Major League home run on June 5, then took off until he established himself as the regular No. 2 hitter in the order. While Rodgers still has defensive development to achieve, he is already imitating the offensive production of onetime Rox No. 2 hitter DJ LeMahieu.
-- Thomas Harding