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5 Rookies Poised to Be Huge X-Factors in MLB's League Championship Series

Mike RosenbaumMLB Prospects Lead WriterNovember 4, 2016

5 Rookies Poised to Be Huge X-Factors in MLB's League Championship Series

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    The 2012 postseason has been absolutely thrilling for so many reasons, and that was just the League Division Series! We have seen unexpected comebacks, dominant performances (see Verlander, Justin) and a slew of dramatic, walk-off home runs.

    This October also has been special due to the amount of young, highly promising prospects competing on a national stage. However, with the conclusion of the LDS, we had to say goodbye to the likes of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Jarrod Parker.

    Luckily, there’s a host of impressive rookies who are moving on. Although they may still be far from household names, they figure to be key players for their respective teams throughout the rest of the postseason.

Avisail Garcia, OF, Detroit Tigers

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    Promoted to the major leagues on Aug. 31, Avisail Garcia spent the 2012 season between High-A and Double-A in his age-21 season. The 6’4” outfielder enjoyed a breakout campaign, batting .299/.333/.455 with 14 home runs and 23 stolen bases in 122 games.

    Garcia was initially used in a platoon role against left-handed pitching, but he hit the ball well and received more starts toward the end of the season. The right-handed hitter ultimately batted .319/.373/.319 with seven runs scored and three RBI in 23 games, and he served as the late-inning, go-to defensive replacement in right field.

    In the ALDS against the A’s, Garcia was 1-for-7 with an RBI and showed off his plus throwing arm from right field in the third inning of Game 2.

David Phelps, RHP, New York Yankees

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    Bouncing between the bullpen and starting rotation this season, David Phelps had an overall impressive rookie campaign. The 26-year-old (Oct. 9) posted a 3.34 ERA, 8.7 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 in 99.2 innings.

    The right-hander saw considerably more time as a reliever, appearing in 22 games and registering a 2.76 ERA in 42.1 innings.

    He endured a harsh postseason introduction, as he was rushed into the game after Joba Chamberlain was struck by a large chunk of a broken bat and had to leave the game. Phelps was ultimately saddled with the loss, giving up a go-ahead RBI double to J.J. Hardy in the top of the 13th inning.

    He’s a player who may be called upon—maybe unexpectedly, once again—in a crucial situation in the middle of a game or in extra innings.

Pete Kozma, SS, St. Louis Cardinals

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    A career .236 hitter in six minor league seasons, Pete Kozma’s always been regarded as a defense-oriented shortstop. Basically, he’s never been viewed as anything more than an organizational player, at best.

    But when Rafael Furcal went down for the year with an elbow injury, the 24-year-old exceeded all expectations as his replacement. Recalled from Triple-A on Aug. 31 (where he was batting .232/.292/.355 through 131 games), Kozma posted a .952 OPS for the Cardinals in 26 games.

    He enjoyed a strong postseason debut against the Washington Nationals in the NLDS, batting .250/.455/.500 with four runs scored and five RBI. Most importantly, Kozma came through with the go-ahead (and game-winning) knock in the top of the ninth inning in Game 5.

George Kontos, RHP, San Francisco Giants

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    A guy I actually played against in high school, it took seven years for George Kontos to finally receive a legitimate opportunity in the major leagues. Although he made his big league debut with the Yankees late last year, the 27-year-old appeared in 44 games for the Giants this season and was one of the team’s more consistent relievers.

    The right-hander pitched especially well after the All-Star break, registering a 2.43 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and .182 BAA over 29.2 innings.

    Earning a spot on the team’s postseason roster, Kontos appeared in four NLDS games, allowing only two hits over 3.2 scoreless innings against the Reds.

Trevor Rosenthal, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Trevor Rosenthal, a 22-year-old right-hander, emerged as one of the top pitching prospects in the Cardinals system this past season, the latter portion of which was spent in the major leagues.

    Boasting a fastball that reached triple digits seven times on Friday night, he possesses absolutely electric, pure stuff. Hopefully the Cardinals continue to develop him as a starter following this season, as he was highly impressive (2.97 ERA, 8.6 K/9 and 3/5 BB/9) in that role at Double-A.

    Rosenthal was virtually unhittable over 3.1 innings in the NLDS, allowing one hit and notching six strikeouts.

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