Who's That Guy? These X-factors could be the next big names to star in MLB playoffs

·6 min read

“Who’s That Guy?” is a weekly Yahoo Sports feature that, throughout the 2020 season, highlighted up-and-coming baseball players you should definitely be watching. Today, it’s the postseason X-factor extravaganza, with 10 young, unheralded or still rising talents who could make waves in October.

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Ian Anderson, Atlanta Braves starter: It was right place, right time for Ian Anderson, the 22-year-old Braves pitcher who went from the taxi squad to likely starting in the playoffs in two months. Despite winning the NL East, the Braves will need more than right-place luck to move through October. Their pitching staff has been decimated by injuries and Anderson figures to be their best option after Max Fried, who starts Game 1 against the Reds. Anderson started six games for the Braves and had an impressive 1.95 ERA with 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings, which is the type of pitching help the Braves need to match their powerful offense. Sure beats the taxi squad. - Mike Oz

Will Smith, Los Angeles Dodgers catcher: Really only the 2020 Dodgers could camouflage a 25-year-old, second-year catcher going supernova on the league. His slash line for the regular season was .289/.401/.579. That amounts to a 163 wRC+ (a stat that measures total offensive production against league average), which was the best of any Dodger with 100 plate appearances. - Zach Crizer

Sixto Sanchez, Miami Marlins starter: Sanchez, the 22-year-old crown jewel the Philadelphia Phillies sent to Miami in the J.T. Realmuto deal, looks primed to make his postseason debut before Realmuto. He’s expected to start one of the Marlins’ games against the Cubs. If they have any chance of advancing, they need Sanchez to regain the form that saw him dominate over a four-start stretch shortly after his call-up. - Zach Crizer

Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder: You recognize a lot of names on the Blue Jays roster for their famous lineage. We’re talking Guerrero, Biggio, Bichette. But it was actually Hernandez who had the best year in 2020. Rather than being a hyped new prospect, he’s been with the Jays for a while now but finally had a breakout season at age 27. He hit 16 homers this year with a .909 OPS (a career high) while his batting average jumped from .230 last season to .289 this season. As the Blue Jays aim to upset the Rays in the first round, they’ll need everyone hitting and that list starts with Hernandez. - Mike Oz

Oakland Athletics pitcher Jesus Luzardo against the San Francisco Giants during a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
A's lefty Jesus Luzardo will get the ball in Game 1 of Oakland's Wild Card Series against the White Sox. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Jesus Luzardo, Oakland A’s starter: If the A’s are going to make a run in October, it’s going to be because of their solid yet underrated pitching staff. And the young arm that has the biggest chance to wow us is Luzardo. He’s long been heralded as Oakland’s future ace in the prospect pipeline. At 22 — he’ll turn 23 on Wednesday — he’s already shown he has great stuff, but needs a big moment to come out to the larger baseball world. This season he had a 4.12 ERA, but that may not reflect his true potential or how good he can be. He’s starting Game 1 on Tuesday for the A’s, a testament to how much they value him. - Mike Oz

Dylan Carlson, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder: A highly touted prospect, Carlson came up early on after the Cardinals’ COVID-19 outbreak and … didn’t hit a lick. He got sent back to the alternate site in September, only to return for the season’s final two weeks and rake, giving the St. Louis offense a jolt with 11 RBIs in 12 games. They’ll need him to stay hot to keep up with the San Diego Padres. - Zach Crizer

Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder: Until now, Randy Arozarena’s best known moment in October was accidentally live streaming Mike Shildt’s expletive-laced clubhouse speech last season when the Cardinals beat the Braves in the playoffs. Tupac would have been proud of Shildt. After getting traded to the Rays in the offseason, he has a chance to rewrite his postseason narrative. Arozarena has already shown he can contribute at a high level. The 25-year-old outfielder played in only 23 games this season but across them he had a 1.022 OPS. It’s a small sample size, but so is the postseason. The Rays need some explosiveness in their offense — and why not Arozarena? - Mike Oz

James Karinchak, Cleveland Indians reliever: The closest thing to Major League’s Wild Thing somehow has appeared on the actual Cleveland roster. Karinchak fidgets relentlessly, appears to talk to himself (or the baseball?) and, oh right, throws a wicked mid-80s curveball. He enters the postseason striking out 48.6 percent of the batters he faces, the second-best rate in the majors. - Zach Crizer

Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers reliever: The top strikeout rate? That belongs to the Brewers’ rookie setup man and his impossible changeup. Expect to see him used often, and creatively, in tandem with Josh Hader as manager Craig Counsell tries to outfox the Dodgers. - Zach Crizer

Garrett Crochet, Chicago White Sox reliever: An example of the oddities we saw during the 2020 season. Crochet, 21, was drafted by the White Sox in June out of the University of Tennessee and was suiting up in the big leagues by September. Although the circumstances were different, he was the first player to bypass the minors and go straight to the big leagues since Mike Leake in 2010. One thing that helps: He throws absolute gas. In one game against the Indians recently, he came out of the bullpen and threw 11 pitches over 100 mph in one inning. He could be a big weapon for the Sox with that velocity. He’s only appeared in five games, but hasn’t allowed a run yet and has struck out eight in six innings. - Mike Oz

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