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Mark Townsend

Four less-hyped players who could come up big in SF-ATL series

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We know Tim Lincecum(notes) and we know Jason Heyward(notes). We know Tim Hudson(notes) and we know Buster Posey(notes).

But because we also know that the usual suspects often play a supporting role to the unknown, unsung, and up-and-coming heroes of October, here's a look at some of the lesser-known players who could have a big impact in the San Francisco-Atlanta NLDS.

Andres Torres(notes), San Francisco Giants: Torres won the heart of San Francisco and the Wille Mac Award with his outstanding play in 2010. How else can you explain a 5-foot-10, 190-pound outfielder earning the nickname "Andres the Giant?"

He really is one of those stories that comes out of nowhere. A 32-year-old with 409 major league at-bats prior to 2010. Not even a lock to make the roster out of spring training, let alone see regular playing time. Yet Andres Torres became a fixture in the outfield at AT&T Park and a stabilizing force at the top of the Giants order.

In fact, the only thing that could stop Torres from producing this season was his own appendix.

He returned from his appendectomy just last week, but didn't seem to be 100% percent healthy. Hopefully the extra days of rest will get him well so he can show the country what he has shown the NL West all year.

Jonny Venters(notes), Atlanta Braves: Aroldis Chapman(notes) gets all the hype, but Altanta's rookie left-hander doesn't have to take a backseat to anyone. Heck, if I had a Rookie of the Year vote, I might have to find a way to get Venters on the ballot. He impressed me that much in the dozen or so times I've seen him throw.

I know for a fact I'll never forget his Major League debut. He threw three scoreless (and very dominant) innings of relief against Colorado on the night Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) tossed his no-hitter. Everyone came away from that game talking about Ubaldo, but I quietly filed the name Jonny Venters away in the back of my mind.

And I'm glad I did. Venters went on to compile some of the most impressive numbers of any reliever in baseball. I'm not one to beat you over the head with SABR, but I like what I see here. You fantasy players should take an especially close look at Venters. He's the early favorite for saves in Atlanta in 2011.

Madison Bumgarner(notes), Giants: The Giants lead the playoffs in fun names. They may also lead the playoffs in impact rookies.

To gauge how important Bumgarner has been to the Giants, look no further than his past seven starts. Over those seven starts he has not allowed more two runs even once. Contrast that to Barry Zito(notes) (1-6, 6.00) and you can see why Bruce Bochy had no choice but to leave the former Cy Young winner out of his NLDS rotation and off the roster completely.

Bumgarner is the real deal. folks - and he's only 21. That's a pretty scary thought if you're a fan of another team in the National League.

Brooks Conrad(notes), Braves: Conrad has made the highlights a few times in 2010 for his pinch-hitting heroics. Seven of his eight home runs have come from the seventh inning on.

His role is different now though. That's because the Braves have lost starting second basemen Martin Prado(notes) for the entire postseason. Conrad should fill that void admirably. In fact, I wouldn't surprised if he's the reason Atlanta steals a game in San Francisco.

Where the Braves will run into real trouble is trying to find an impact bat to replace Conrad's production off the bench. Eric Hinske(notes) has provided a nice punch, but instead of having a pair of aces to play in the late innings. Bobby Cox will now have to figure out the best time to use his one big swing from the left side.

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