These in-season callups sparked World Series titles

November 2nd, 2023

Trade Deadline deals are a tried and true way for contenders to improve their title hopes during the season, but sometimes dipping into the Minor League ranks can work just as well.

Every year, we see multiple youngsters get the call to the big leagues after Opening Day and instantly become valuable contributors. Occasionally, they even help their teams go all the way.

Rangers rookie  is the latest player to do just that, excelling throughout the postseason as Texas won its first World Series title. Called up in September at age 21, Carter played like a seasoned veteran to help the Rangers roll through the playoffs and take down the D-backs in a five-game Fall Classic.

Dating back to the start of the Wild Card era in 1995, these are the in-season callups that made the biggest impact on World Series championship-winning teams.

Evan Carter, OF, 2023 Rangers
Carter’s stellar postseason was really just a continuation of his strong debut season. He turned 21 years old just 10 days before his MLB debut on Sept. 8 but proceeded to show no learning curve, slashing .306/.413/.645 in 23 regular-season games. In the postseason, he picked up where he left off, going 2-for-2 with two walks in Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series and never really slowing down. The rookie laced nine doubles -- the most by a player in a single postseason -- and had a big home run to help finish off the Rays in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series. He drove in two big runs in Game 7 of the ALCS, had another RBI in the Rangers’ walk-off win in World Series Game 1 and hit a key seventh-inning double in Texas’ clinching Game 5 victory.

, C/LF, 2016 Cubs
The Cubs already had a sizable lead in the National League Central when Contreras debuted on June 17, but he solidified the team’s catching situation and gave the club another productive bat, which meant Chicago could center its Trade Deadline focus on Aroldis Chapman rather than expending resources to bring in a hitter. Contreras homered on the first pitch he saw as a Major Leaguer and finished with a .282 average, 12 homers and an .845 OPS over 76 games before posting a .400 average (8-for-20) with four RBIs in Chicago’s first two postseason series. Contreras cooled off in the World Series, but he delivered an RBI double in Game 7 as the Cubs went on to win their first title since 1908.

, 2B, 2014 Giants
Before Panik made his MLB debut on June 21, the Giants were getting next to nothing on offense from their second basemen. Although the 2010 first-round Draft pick didn’t supply much power, he provided some much-needed stability at the keystone for San Francisco, recording a .305 average over 269 at-bats in the regular season. Panik also had his share of clutch moments in the postseason, including a go-ahead two-run homer in the NL Championship Series clincher against the Cardinals and a fantastic diving stop to start a pivotal rally-killing double play in Game 7 of the World Series against the Royals.

, 3B/SS, 2013 Red Sox
Called up in August, Bogaerts started only 12 games (six at shortstop and six at third base) in the regular season and posted a .684 OPS. Then, he was on the bench for each of Boston’s first eight postseason games. But with the ALCS against the Tigers tied at two games apiece, manager John Farrell opted to swap out struggling third baseman Will Middlebrooks for Bogaerts, who became the youngest Red Sox player to start a postseason game. The 21-year-old started every game the rest of the way and went 7-for-25 (.280) with an .807 OPS, two RBIs and five runs scored as Boston won it all.

, RHP, 2011 Cardinals
After debuting with the Cardinals as a starter, Lynn transitioned to a bullpen role and was superb as a reliever, posting a 2.22 ERA with 32 K’s in 24 1/3 innings spanning 16 appearances. The right-hander pulled a left side muscle in August and missed the rest of the regular season, but he was back for the NLCS and pitched in five of the Cardinals’ six games against the Brewers, tossing 5 1/3 scoreless innings. Lynn wasn’t as impressive in the World Series against the Rangers, but he finished on a high note, firing a perfect eighth inning vs. the heart of the order -- Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Adrian Beltre -- in Game 7 to get the ball to closer Jason Motte, who finished off Texas to give St. Louis the crown.

, LHP, 2010 Giants
Bumgarner joined the Giants’ rotation on June 26 and went on to post a 3.00 ERA over 111 innings in 18 starts during the regular season. Then, as he’d do time and time again in subsequent years, Bumgarner took it up a notch in October, going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. That included an eight-inning, three-hit, scoreless masterpiece in Game 4 of the World Series against the Rangers. At 21 years and 91 days old, Bumgarner became the second-youngest pitcher in AL/NL postseason history to produce a start of eight or more scoreless innings, behind Jim Palmer (20 years, 356 days) in the 1966 World Series.

, C, 2010 Giants
Bumgarner wasn’t the only rookie who played a big part in the Giants’ 2010 World Series championship. Two years after being selected fifth overall in the MLB Draft, Posey took over for veteran Bengie Molina as the Giants’ starting catcher on May 29, at which point San Francisco was 25-22. The club went 67-48 the rest of the way to win the NL West by two games over the Padres, and Posey was named NL Rookie of the Year. The young backstop also hit safely in all five World Series games, winning the first of his three rings.

, OF, 2007 Red Sox
Ellsbury became a fixture in Boston’s lineup down the stretch in 2007 and hit .361/.390/.536 with three homers and 17 RBIs over 26 games in September, helping the Red Sox win the AL East by two games over the Yankees. The outfielder didn’t get his first postseason start until Game 6 of the ALCS against Cleveland, but he started each of Boston’s final six playoff games and went 9-for-24 (.375) with four doubles, four RBIs and a .986 OPS in that span, all Red Sox wins.

, RHP, 2005 White Sox
While the White Sox went wire to wire in 2005, leading the AL Central every day of the regular season and winning the World Series, their closing situation was a carousel. The club started the season with Shingo Takatsu before moving on to journeyman Dustin Hermanson, who recorded a career-high 34 saves but hurt his back in September. Hermanson passed the baton to Jenks, a rookie who made his big league debut on July 6 and finished 2005 with a 2.75 ERA over 39 1/3 innings. The big righty nailed down four saves during the postseason, including a 1-0 win in Game 4 of the World Series that clinched the team’s first championship since 1917.

, 3B/OF, 2003 Marlins
Although he was just 20 years old when he made his MLB debut, it was clear early on that this was a superstar in the making. The young slugger belted a walk-off homer in his MLB debut and finished with 36 extra-base hits and 62 RBIs over 87 games during the regular season. Cabrera added four long balls in the postseason, including a three-run blast off the Cubs’ Kerry Wood in Game 7 of the NLCS and an opposite-field dinger off the Yankees’ Roger Clemens in Game 4 of the World Series after being brushed back by an elevated fastball earlier in the at-bat.

, LHP, 2003 Marlins
With his funky motion and unique flair, Willis became a phenomenon after debuting in May, going 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA before the All-Star break. The southpaw faded in the second half and wasn’t part of the Marlins’ rotation during the World Series against the Yankees, but he fired 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in Game 1 at Yankee Stadium to get a 3-2 Florida lead to closer Ugueth Urbina, who slammed the door. Willis also tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Game 5, a 6-4 Marlins win.

, RHP, 2002 Angels
Although he made his debut on Sept. 18 and tossed just 5 2/3 innings during the regular season, Rodríguez became an integral part of the Angels’ bullpen in the playoffs. Earning the nickname “K-Rod,” the 20-year-old appeared in 11 of the team’s 16 postseason games and went 5-1 with three holds, a 1.93 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.

, RHP, 2002 Angels
In need of a No. 5 starter with Scott Schoeneweis struggling, the Angels summoned Lackey from the Minors in late June. The big righty turned in a 3.66 ERA over 108 1/3 innings during the regular season, helping the Halos win the AL Wild Card. In his first postseason start, Lackey hurled seven shutout innings to give the Angels a 3-1 series lead over the Twins in the ALCS. Then, with the World Series knotted at three games apiece, the Angels handed the ball to Lackey in Game 7 and saw him toss five strong innings, becoming the first rookie to notch a Game 7 win since the Pirates’ Babe Adams in the 1909 Fall Classic.

, RHP, 1998 Yankees
Would the Yankees have won the 1998 World Series title without Hernandez? Perhaps. The Bronx Bombers were 39-13 when the Cuban defector debuted on June 3, and they won 114 games overall. But El Duque deserves some credit, not only for recording a 3.13 ERA over 21 starts in the regular season but also for stepping up in the playoffs. When the Yankees went down two games to one to Cleveland in the ALCS, Hernandez made his postseason debut on the road in Game 4 and threw seven scoreless innings in a win that tied up the series. He also won Game 2 of the World Series against the Padres with seven innings of one-run ball.

, RHP, 1997 Marlins
A year before Orlando Hernandez burst onto the scene and helped the Yankees win the World Series, his half-brother Livan did the same for the Marlins. Called up in mid-June, Hernandez made 17 starts for Florida and posted a 3.18 ERA over 96 1/3 innings, finishing second in the NL Rookie of the Year race behind Scott Rolen. Hernandez made the first postseason start of his career in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Braves opposite future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, and with an assist from a generous strike zone, he struck out 15 batters and held Atlanta to three hits in a complete-game 2-1 win. Hernandez won two more games in the World Series and became the fourth player to earn LCS and World Series MVP honors in the same year.