Let's call them fashionably late. When all is said and done, who'll even remember they started the season in the Minor Leagues? One of them might even win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.For instance, Cody Bellinger.The Dodgers had already played 20 games when manager Dave Roberts put Bellinger
Let's call them fashionably late. When all is said and done, who'll even remember they started the season in the Minor Leagues? One of them might even win the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
For instance, Cody Bellinger.
The Dodgers had already played 20 games when manager Dave Roberts put Bellinger in his starting lineup the first time on April 25. Looking back on it, everything changed for the Dodgers that day.
We love big trades. We try and predict them. When they happen, we analyze their impact on playoff races. Sometimes, though, the acquisitions that have the most impact on a team come from within.
That's true again this season as a long list of players who began the season in the Minors are having a significant impact on postseason races.
These players are a reminder of what general managers tell us every offseason. That is, roster construction happens in three phases: offseason, Spring Training and then -- and perhaps most important -- during the season.
Here are 10 reminders of that:
1. Bellinger, 1B, Dodgers
.972 OPS, 3.5 WAR, 34 home runs, 97 games
The Dodgers are 74-23 since Bellinger's debut, and they haven't lost a series since early June. His 34 home runs are the second most in the Majors since his debut, and he probably has locked up the NL Rookie of the Year Award voting and is a serious contender for the NL MVP Award.
2. Chris Taylor, OF, Dodgers
.927 OPS, 4.2 WAR, 27 doubles, 17 home runs, 99 games
Taylor began the season as an infielder with Triple-A Oklahoma City and is finishing it as an outfielder who could finish in the top 10 in NL MVP Award voting. He began this season with a .234 career batting average and one home run in 318 Major League plate appearances. At the Dodgers' suggestion, Taylor added a leg kick to his swing during the offseason and has generated the kind of power he probably didn't think possible.
3. Paul DeJong, SS, Cardinals
.904 OPS, 2.1 WAR, 18 home runs, 65 games
It seems like the Cards have looking for more consistent play at shortstop forever. That search seems to have ended with a 2015 fourth-round Draft pick. DeJong flew through the Minors, playing just 246 games before his debut on May 28. He has been critical in St. Louis' dramatic turnaround.
4. Tommy Pham, OF, Cardinals
.894 OPS, 3.8 WAR, 14 home runs, 62 runs, 89 games
Pham is an overnight star at 29. He had some special moments in 2015 and '16, but the Cardinals had other outfielders in front of him. This season, Pham got eight hits in his first 12 games and has become one of his team's most consistent producers.
5. Whit Merrifield, 2B, Royals
.814 OPS, 2.9 WAR, 14 home runs, 20 stolen bases, 101 games
Even when the Royals sent Merrifield to the Minors to start the season, they figured he would make an impact in 2017. That he has done, not just in contributing, but in contributing in a dynamic way with both power and speed. Their search for a second baseman appears to have ended here.
6. Mike Clevinger, RHP, Indians
6-4, 3.65 ERA, 1.3 WAR, 1.279 WHIP, 17 games
Clevinger is like a lot of other hard-throwing young guys. When he's good, he's almost dominant. Clevinger is also still searching for consistent command. In four of his past six starts, he has allowed one or zero runs. In two others, he struggled. The Indians are confident it'll eventually click.
7. Brian Goodwin, OF, Nationals
.811 OPS, 1.0 WAR, 15 home runs, 7 stolen bases, 74 games
Injuries opened a door for more playing time, and Goodwin has given the Nats everything they could have hoped for. He has impacted games in the outfield, on the bases and at the plate. With all three of Washington's starting outfielders having spent time on the disabled list, Goodwin has helped the club run away with the NL East.
8. Parker Bridwell, RHP, Angels
7-1, 2.88 ERA, 0.8 WAR, 1.167 WHIP, 12 games
Acquired in a April trade with the Orioles, Bridwell has helped save a season for the Angels that could have been sunk by injures to Garrett Richards, Matthew Shoemaker and others. In 11 starts, he has allowed two runs or less eight times.
9. Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Cubs
.819 OPS, 0.8 WAR, 30 extra-base hits, 7 stolen bases, 75 games
Despite not playing full-time, Happ has added energy and production to a team that has fought through injuries and a World Series hangover to make a run at a second straight NL Central championship.
10. Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
1.074 OPS, 1.0 WAR, 3 doubles, 6 homers, 16 games
Devers has only been in the Major Leagues a month, which isn't usually enough to qualify for a list like this one. However, we make an exception to players hitting .339 and have invoked the little known "102.9-mph rule." That is, anyone who hits a 102.9-mph fastball out of the park -- as Devers did against Albertin Chapman on Sunday -- is automatically on the list. Left-handed hitters simply do not do that to Chapman. Devers followed that performance up with two more dingers on Monday. He won't take the AL Rookie of the Year Award from Aaron Judge, but his name will be on plenty of ballots.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.