We haven’t talked up baseball in quite a while around these parts. A neglected duty, for sure, but a major part of this stems from how long the regular season is. 162 games of play is a massive grind for players, managers and coaches, but unless you block out all else in your sporting fandom, keeping up can be a Herculean task for many.
Which is also why the MLB postseason is one of the most exciting periods of the entire year. The obsessed have begged for this moment, while many other Americans will essentially join in progress like they’re catching the last few scenes of a prime time drama. With that in mind, here are five hitters this Scribe is looking forward to seeing in the playoffs.
(Note: This is as of Thursday 9/27 where even though the playoffs teams are just about set, the NL Central, NL West and NL Wild Card participants are still up in the air.)
Barely five weeks into the regular season, and observers fell over themselves when some Boston media dared to pose the question if Mookie Betts is currently a better player than Angels star Mike Trout. While just about everyone east of New England screamed Trout, no one can now argue that Betts hasn’t had an incredible season that will likely net him the American League MVP.
What intrigues me is that since David Ortiz retired, there were a lot of questions about how the Red Sox would be able to replicate his production at the plate. Though it took an extra year to get some of that pop thanks to last winter’s addition of J.D. Martinez, it is Mookie that makes the engine run. He is just the second player in Red Sox history to make the 30/30 club – though equally amazing is that he’s the second to do so in all of baseball this season. (Shout out to Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez.)
He can do it all on the field, but whichever Wild Card team travels to Fenway Park for the Division Series is going to deal with one of the game’s most patient and persistent hitters. Good luck with that.
Go ahead and get those “DIS IS NOO YAWK!” clichés out of the way now, including all referencing “the pressure of playoff baseball IN DA BRONX!” As TSFJ’s actual NYC native, I acknowledge them because there is no doubt that Yankee Stadium in October is a little different, especially when a really good home squad is cooking. But moving beyond the chest-huffing of local media and the ‘Bleacher Creatures,’ Stanton has handled being here – and all the stereotypical and obnoxious expectations that come with the pinstripes – very well, especially after a tough start to the season. Even without the gaudy numbers of his MVP campaign last year in Miami, Stanton has found his flow in New York on a roster stacked with young hitters from 1 to 9.
In the AL Wild Card game, every camera will be laser focused on the former Miami Marlin slugger as it will be his first taste of the postseason. And since we won’t break into traditional fall weather just yet by the time the game is played, I’m confident enough to bet that some baseballs will be elevated into center and right field because of both Stanton and…
He stands at 5’10 and a shade under 200 pounds, which could make him seem fairly ordinary if he walked most streets in America. Yet, in a sport where massive sized humans like the aforementioned Stanton are the game’s preeminent sluggers, what Davis has been able to do in his three seasons in Oakland is absurd.
His swing may not be totally Griffey-esque, but it’s compact and somehow Davis can get a ton of power without a lot of extra movement from his lower half. And while he sees himself as an all-around hitter, it’s no small feat to be a slugger at pitcher-friendly O.co Coliseum – but he loves Texas and Seattle, where he’s hit 12 of his MLB-leading 47 long balls this season. In the likelihood, the A’s have to travel to New York for the Wild Card Game, Davis’ power (and strikeouts, to be honest) travels well as he’s knocked two out into the cheap seats in three games at Yankee Stadium.
Ronald Acuña, Jr.
The clear NL Rookie of the Year may have arguably been baseball’s most exciting player not named Shohei Ohtani. Atlanta’s surprising run to the NL East crown was the culmination of a talented, but seemingly raw roster that figured things out much quicker than planned. The Braves were already shocking the experts by time Acuña finally got called up, but the young phenom has showed out ever since.
If you’re a Braves fan, you’re already thrilled with not having to play in the Wild Card Game (finally) for the club’s first playoff appearance in five years. But there’s also a good chance you’re wondering if Acuña has a little Andruw Jones in him for his first taste of playoff baseball. You know, the guy who became the youngest player to ever homer in the World Series, mashed 434 career homers and may have been the best defensive outfielder (or maybe overall player) since Willie Mays? Yeah, him.
Because he exists. What more do you want?
Jason is the editor-in-chief here at TSFJ. In addition to a past life as a research analyst in advertising, television and online media, he spent seven seasons as the New York Beacon’s beat writer for the New York Giants. Jason has written for Yardbarker, Dime Magazine, Decider, Awful Announcing and The Week. He is also a member of his high school’s 4th period gym class floor hockey champions.
He shares more of his perspectives at jasonclinkscales.com.
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