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Postseason Legends 2011: Hitters

I wrote a blog last week discussing who, among the pitchers headed to the Postseason, would likely become a legend this October . It got a pretty fantastic response, with several of you bringing up names that I hadn't thought about, or disagreeing with my selections.

With that blog in mind, here are the hitters I will be keeping an eye on this Postseason.

Veterans

Derek Jeter

Raise your hand if you thought Jeter was done earlier this season. Come on, do it. I know there are a bunch of you out there, and I'll even admit that I thought the train had started to head down the inevitable steep slope to retirement. But, as he often does, the Captain has proved us wrong again. After a very rough start to 2011, Jeter has bounced back in a big way, and his current slash line of .297/5/54 is respectable. He is one of the most clutch hitters in Postseason history, and even though he has bounced back nicely in 2011, you have to think that Jeter knows his window to win another title is closing. Will he play like it this October?

Adrian Gonzalez

He has been everything Sox fans could have hoped for and more. He is leading the league in batting at .339, and has mixed in 67 extra base hits and 103 RBI. He came into the season with a mountain of expectations on his shoulders, and he has lived up to each and every one ofthem. If not for the fantastic season being enjoyed by Curtis Granderson and the dominant power display from Jose Bautista, I would say A-Gon was the favorite for the MVP. The question is, will he be able to keep up his torrid pace when those bright, Postseason lights come on? He has one been to the Postseason once, going 5/14 in four games with the Padres in 2004. I'm interested to see how he responds to October baseball at Fenway.

Chase Utley

Like it or not, Chase Utley is the cog that makes the Phillies' line-up make sense. When he is healthy, it allows manager Charlie Manuel to do a lot more with the line-up, including move Placido Polanco to his more natural number two spot. Utley has struggled since returning to the line-up after missing much of the first half of 2011 with knee trouble. He has also been a very inconsistent Postseason hitter, batting just .243 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI in 41 games, with half of them coming in his tremendous 2009 World Series performance alone. The Phillies need Utley to improve on those numbers if they hope to ride their remarkable pitching to another World Series Championship.

Prince Fielder

Prince is another guy like A-Gon who has done a tremendous job in the regular season, but has limited experience with October baseball. He is one of the premier power hitters in baseball, and he leads the NL in RBI with 107. In his one Postseason series in 2008, he batted just .071 and recorded a single hit, though granted it was a home run. Will he be able to improve on those numbers for a Brewers team that believes they have what it takes to challenge the Phillies in the NL?

Youngsters

Justin Upton

He has long been my pick for NL MVP simply because, unlike most other candidates, his team would be unbelievably different if he weren't a part of it. He is just 24 years old and is posting some staggering numbers, including a .296 batting average, a league leading 37 doubles, 27 home runs, 82 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. He was just 19 the last time the D-Backs made the Postseason, and performed well, batting .357 in six games. Arizona will need him to continue his rapid ascent to being a premier player when the playoffs begin, if they have any hope of continuing their unexpected run.

Austin Jackson

Which Austin Jackson is going to show up when the Postseason starts? Will it be the guy who finished second in ROTY voting in 2010 after posting a .293 average with 48 extra-base hits and 27 stolen bases, or will it be the guy who has suffered through a sophomore slump in 2011, posting a .258 average and struggling to remain consistent? The Tigers rely on him as a table setter for thumpers like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, and without him on base, two- and three-run homers turn into solo shots very quickly.

Jason Heyward

This is the same story that I just mentioned above. Heyward was one of baseball's brightest young stars a year ago, when he finished second in NL ROTY voting and even found a spot at the bottom of the top-20 in NL MVP voting. Many expected him to cement his status as baseball's next superstar in 2011, at just 21 years of age. Heyward, unfortunately, has regressed. His batting average is down nearly 60 points, his RBI total has been cut in half, and even his stolen bases are down. He has suffered a few minor injuries, but it appears that pitchers have figured out how best to deal with the young outfielder. His first taste of Postseason baseball in 2010 did not go well, as he batted just .125 in four games. Perhaps that was a taste of things to come. Atlanta will be hoping that the tables have completely turned in 2011 and that, unlike 2010 when Heyward enjoyed a successful regular season and a poor Postseason, he will bounce back to have a productive Postseason after a subpar regular season. Time will tell.

Which hitters will you be looking forward to watching in the 2011 Postseason? Tweet me @rwags614 and let me know.

I wrote a blog last week discussing who, among the pitchers headed to the Postseason, would likely become a legend this October . It got a pretty fantastic response, with several of you bringing up names that I hadn't thought about, or disagreeing with my selections.

With that blog in mind, here are the hitters I will be keeping an eye on this Postseason.

Veterans

Derek Jeter

Raise your hand if you thought Jeter was done earlier this season. Come on, do it. I know there are a bunch of you out there, and I'll even admit that I thought the train had started to head down the inevitable steep slope to retirement. But, as he often does, the Captain has proved us wrong again. After a very rough start to 2011, Jeter has bounced back in a big way, and his current slash line of .297/5/54 is respectable. He is one of the most clutch hitters in Postseason history, and even though he has bounced back nicely in 2011, you have to think that Jeter knows his window to win another title is closing. Will he play like it this October?

Adrian Gonzalez

He has been everything Sox fans could have hoped for and more. He is leading the league in batting at .339, and has mixed in 67 extra base hits and 103 RBI. He came into the season with a mountain of expectations on his shoulders, and he has lived up to each and every one ofthem. If not for the fantastic season being enjoyed by Curtis Granderson and the dominant power display from Jose Bautista, I would say A-Gon was the favorite for the MVP. The question is, will he be able to keep up his torrid pace when those bright, Postseason lights come on? He has one been to the Postseason once, going 5/14 in four games with the Padres in 2004. I'm interested to see how he responds to October baseball at Fenway.

Chase Utley

Like it or not, Chase Utley is the cog that makes the Phillies' line-up make sense. When he is healthy, it allows manager Charlie Manuel to do a lot more with the line-up, including move Placido Polanco to his more natural number two spot. Utley has struggled since returning to the line-up after missing much of the first half of 2011 with knee trouble. He has also been a very inconsistent Postseason hitter, batting just .243 with 10 home runs and 24 RBI in 41 games, with half of them coming in his tremendous 2009 World Series performance alone. The Phillies need Utley to improve on those numbers if they hope to ride their remarkable pitching to another World Series Championship.

Prince Fielder

Prince is another guy like A-Gon who has done a tremendous job in the regular season, but has limited experience with October baseball. He is one of the premier power hitters in baseball, and he leads the NL in RBI with 107. In his one Postseason series in 2008, he batted just .071 and recorded a single hit, though granted it was a home run. Will he be able to improve on those numbers for a Brewers team that believes they have what it takes to challenge the Phillies in the NL?

Youngsters

Justin Upton

He has long been my pick for NL MVP simply because, unlike most other candidates, his team would be unbelievably different if he weren't a part of it. He is just 24 years old and is posting some staggering numbers, including a .296 batting average, a league leading 37 doubles, 27 home runs, 82 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. He was just 19 the last time the D-Backs made the Postseason, and performed well, batting .357 in six games. Arizona will need him to continue his rapid ascent to being a premier player when the playoffs begin, if they have any hope of continuing their unexpected run.

Austin Jackson

Which Austin Jackson is going to show up when the Postseason starts? Will it be the guy who finished second in ROTY voting in 2010 after posting a .293 average with 48 extra-base hits and 27 stolen bases, or will it be the guy who has suffered through a sophomore slump in 2011, posting a .258 average and struggling to remain consistent? The Tigers rely on him as a table setter for thumpers like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, and without him on base, two- and three-run homers turn into solo shots very quickly.

Jason Heyward

This is the same story that I just mentioned above. Heyward was one of baseball's brightest young stars a year ago, when he finished second in NL ROTY voting and even found a spot at the bottom of the top-20 in NL MVP voting. Many expected him to cement his status as baseball's next superstar in 2011, at just 21 years of age. Heyward, unfortunately, has regressed. His batting average is down nearly 60 points, his RBI total has been cut in half, and even his stolen bases are down. He has suffered a few minor injuries, but it appears that pitchers have figured out how best to deal with the young outfielder. His first taste of Postseason baseball in 2010 did not go well, as he batted just .125 in four games. Perhaps that was a taste of things to come. Atlanta will be hoping that the tables have completely turned in 2011 and that, unlike 2010 when Heyward enjoyed a successful regular season and a poor Postseason, he will bounce back to have a productive Postseason after a subpar regular season. Time will tell.

Which hitters will you be looking forward to watching in the 2011 Postseason? Tweet me @rwags614 and let me know.