These rookies will impact the postseason

September 27th, 2020

With the field of 16 teams now set to play in October under Major League Baseball’s expanded postseason format, fans will soon get an up-close look at some of the 2020 season’s top rookies on the big stage.

Many of those rookies have played an integral role in helping their teams reach the playoffs this season and have become household names in the process, representing baseball’s next wave of future stars.

Looking at the 16 postseason teams, MLB Pipeline has put together the following list of the 20 rookies who could make the biggest impact this October.

1. Luis Robert, OF, White Sox
Robert’s struggles at the plate in September have lowered his once very impressive season slash line, but he’s shown throughout the year that he can impact games even when he’s not firing on all cylinders. With elite defensive ability and speed in center field to go along with his huge power and flair for getting big hits, the 23-year-old outfielder’s performance will be crucial to Chicago’s success in the postseason.

2. Dustin May, RHP, Dodgers
May’s combination of velocity and movement gives him some of the best pure stuff of any pitcher in baseball, and while he doesn’t miss as many bats as he probably should, it’s hard to argue with the 23-year-old right-hander’s ability to induce consistent weak contact (.220 BAA) and keep opponents off the board (2.57 ERA in 56 IP). Those qualities could allow for May to serve as either a starter or a shutdown reliever for the Dodgers in the postseason.

3. Jesús Luzardo, LHP, Athletics
Luzardo, 22, began the season on the COVID IL and made a pair of relief appearances before moving into Oakland’s rotation to post a 4.12 ERA and 1.27 WHIP with 59 strikeouts and 17 walks in 59 innings (nine starts). While the young southpaw can flash no-hit-caliber stuff and miss bats with ease when he’s at his best, he has also proved to be very durable, completing at least six innings in four of his past six turns.

4. Sixto Sánchez, RHP, Marlins
Sánchez has been a revelation for Miami since his callup in late August, pitching to a 3.46 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 33/11 K/BB over his first 39 innings (seven starts) in the big leagues. Excellent control of a deep arsenal that includes a pair elite weapons in a triple-digit fastball and a changeup enables Sánchez to pitch deep into games -- he’s worked at least six innings in four starts -- and he can pile up ground balls even when he’s not missing many bats. What’s more, Sánchez’s fastball-changeup combination could help him dominate a lineup full of left-handed hitters, against whom he’s posted a .232 average.

5. Tony Gonsolin, RHP, Dodgers
The Dodgers’ best and most consistent starting pitcher outside of Clayton Kershaw, Gonsolin has compiled a stellar 2.31 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and 46/7 K/BB across 46 2/3 innings (nine appearances) this season while limiting the opposition to a paltry .193 BAA. Gonsolin hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs or six hits in any of his eight starts and has pitched increasingly well down the stretch, showing that he can handle a heavier workload by completing at least five innings in all five of his September starts.

6. Jake Cronenworth, INF, Padres
Few rookies (if any) have had a greater impact on their team’s success this season than Cronenworth, who arrived with little fanfare when the Padres acquired him from Tampa Bay as part of the offseason Tommy Pham-Hunter Renfroe trade. After cracking San Diego’s Opening Day roster and subsequently taking over as the team’s regular second baseman, the 26-year-old has made a season-long case for NL Rookie of the Year honors, batting .285 with 22 extra-base hits and 26 runs scored to go along with his excellent defense at the keystone.

7. Sean Murphy, C, Athletics
The 2016 third-round pick got off to a slow start offensively, posting a .654 OPS over his first 27 games, but he has been tearing it up during the final month of the regular season, slashing .277/.424/.638 with five homers, nine RBIs over 16 September games. That blend of power and patience makes Murphy, who was widely viewed as one of the Minors’ top defensive catchers, an especially valuable player to have on a postseason roster.

8. Nick Madrigal, 2B, White Sox
The South Siders’ high-octane offense features some of the most dangerous mashers in baseball. Madrigal, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2018 Draft, isn’t one of them, although his high-contact approach and MLB-best .360 average with two strikes (min. 50 at-bats) from the bottom of the order make him a key table-setter for AL MVP candidates Tim Anderson and José Abreu, as well as sophomore slugger Eloy Jimenez. At the very least, Madrigal’s knack for grinding out at-bats and putting the ball in play could influence how opposing teams use their bullpen in a playoff format.

9. Devin Williams, RHP, Brewers
After moving from a starting role into the bullpen last year, Williams has emerged as baseball’s most dominant reliever in 2020, posting a 0.33 ERA and 0.63 WHIP with 53 strikeouts in 27 innings. The 26-year-old right-hander’s changeup has been the best pitch of the 2020 season, with hitters on both sides of the plate collectively batting just .032 (2-for-62) against the pitch. That one pitch alone gives Williams the potential to make a serious impact in this year’s postseason, and the fact that he’s capable of working multiple innings in a given outing only enhances his value.

10. José Urquidy, RHP, Astros
Urquidy missed the bulk of the season after a positive COVID-19 test but returned in September and finished strong. The 25-year-old right-hander pitched to a 2.73 ERA with 17 strikeouts over 29 2/3 innings and posted four quality starts in the season's final month. Urquidy threw at least six innings in four of his five outings and will enter the postseason riding the momentum of a solid seven-inning performance against the Rangers on Friday.

11. James Karinchak, RHP, Indians
12. Kwang Hyun Kim, LHP, Cardinals
13. Garrett Crochet, LHP, White Sox
14. Dylan Carlson, OF, Cardinals
15. Kyle Wright, RHP, Braves
16. Ian Anderson, RHP, Braves
17. Triston McKenzie, RHP, Indians
18. Dane Dunning, RHP, White Sox
19. Gavin Lux, 2B, Dodgers
20. Cristian Javier, RHP, Astros