5 players we'll be talking about in October

September 27th, 2022

Every postseason seems to come with its own breakout star. In 2019, Howie Kendrick helped push the Nationals to a World Series win with a final postseason for the ages. A year later, Randy Arozarena introduced himself to the baseball world with his electric personality and 10 postseason home runs. And who can forget Eddie Rosario’s 14-hit, nine-RBI NLCS last year?

With this being the first year of an expanded postseason that features more teams and games, there are even more opportunities for a player to become a postseason star. With that in mind, here are five players who could emerge on the October stage this year.

Note: All stats are through Sunday's games.

Amed Rosario, SS, Guardians
.280/.312/.407, 11 HR, 69 RBIs, league-leading nine triples, 171 hits (T-3rd in AL)

The Guardians surged their way to an AL Central title by going 7-2 against the Twins and White Sox in the past week. During that stretch, Rosario showed why he has the tools to become this year's postseason star by racking up 16 hits in those nine games while becoming the third player in Guardians history to have two four-hit games in the same day in Cleveland’s doubleheader sweep of the Twins on Sept. 17.

Rosario tallies hits in bunches at the top of the Guardians’ lineup and causes trouble once he’s on the basepaths (he leads the league with nine triples and is in the 96th percentile in sprint speed). Both tools will be vital in the postseason, because his ability to get on base forces teams to pitch to MVP candidate José Ramírez. All year, the Guardians' offense has been built around getting on base (.315 team OBP) and strong baserunning (10.6 BsR), and no player embodies that style more than Rosario.

Lars Nootbaar, OF, Cardinals
.229/.345/.458, 14 HR, 40 RBIs

There are three guarantees in life. Death, taxes and Nootbaar throwing batters out at the plate. Despite only playing in 100 games this year, Nootbaar has nine outfield assists (which is tied for the sixth-best mark in baseball), and he is tied for third in the National League in double plays turned as an outfielder (three).

Although his batting average is down from last year, Nootbaar has an OPS+ of 130 this year, due in large part to his penchant for picking up extra-base hits and not striking out while also hitting the ball hard (89th percentile in exit velocity).

Evan Phillips, RP, Dodgers
6-3, 1.22 ERA, 2 SV, 69 K in 59 innings

After only tallying 13 1/3 innings last year between the Rays and Dodgers, Phillips has put together a stellar season out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He’s tied for fourth in hits allowed (29) and tied for second in earned runs given up (eight) and WHIP (0.75) among relievers who have thrown 50 innings.

Phillips’ most impressive streak of the season came in August when he retired 29 straight batters en route to finishing the month with a spotless 0.00 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. While the Dodgers will enter the postseason fully rested with a rotation likely comprised of some mix of Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May, manager Dave Roberts should feel comfortable going to Phillips when he needs a big out.

Logan Gilbert, SP, Mariners
13-6, 3.29 ERA, 170 K in 177 2/3 innings

As the season has wound down, Gilbert’s found a new level. After starting the year with a dominant April, Gilbert had an ERA under four in May, June and July before struggling in August and recording a 6.75 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. That all seems like a distant memory now, however, as Gilbert has recorded four solid starts in September, highlighted by a career-high 11 strikeout outing against the Angels on Sept. 19.

If the Mariners do end up ending their historic playoff drought, then Gilbert’s a near-lock to join Robbie Ray and Luis Castillo in Seattle's postseason rotation. With fewer off-days in this year's postseason, teams will need even more length out of their starting pitchers, which is where Gilbert comes in. He's gone at least five innings in all but one of his starts this year.

Brandon Marsh, OF, Phillies
.244/.292/.377, 10 HR, 50 RBIs in 125 games with PHI and LAA

For the first half of the year, the Phillies were trying anything in center field. At one point or another, players like Roman Quinn (19 games in center), Bradley Zimmer (nine games) and Oscar Mercado (one game) all took their turn trying to be the answer.

Then Brandon Marsh arrived. Acquired at the Trade Deadline from the Angels for Minor League catcher Logan O'Hoppe, Marsh has hit .297 in 32 games with the Phillies while being worth one out above average in the outfield after being worth nine with the Angels.

With Bryce Harper still limited to DH duties due to his elbow injury, Marsh should get plenty of opportunities to use his speed (91st percentile in sprint speed) and glove to etch his name into Phillies postseason lore.