1 Prospect Who Could Help Fill Each Playoff Team's Biggest Weakness Next Year

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterOctober 18, 2012

1 Prospect Who Could Help Fill Each Playoff Team's Biggest Weakness Next Year

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    Crazy things always seem to happen in the postseason.

    For example, the New York Yankees offense, which boasts a lineup comprised of All-Star hitters and posted a .790 OPS during the regular season, can suddenly go ice-cold.

    However, that’s exactly what makes October baseball so captivating; with the season on the line, literally anything can happen. At the same time, the postseason also highlights each team’s respective weaknesses.

    So, here’s a look at one prospect from each League Championship Series team with the potential to make them more successful in 2013.

New York Yankees: OF Tyler Austin

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    With a .200 team batting average with 71 strikeouts in eight postseason contests, it’s easy to say that the Yankees' biggest weakness is their offense. However, with a farm system comprised of position prospects that are still several years away from contributing, there’s seemingly no immediate solution.

    But if there’s one prospect capable of boosting the offense at some point in 2013—most likely over the finals months of the season—it’s outfielder Tyler Austin. In his age-20 season, the corner outfielder posted a .960 OPS with 17 home runs and 23 stolen bases while reaching Double-A.

    The organization challenged him with aggressive promotions throughout the year, and the right-handed hitter responded favorably on each occasion. He’ll likely open the 2013 season at Double-A and, if everything goes as planned, could be in the Yankees outfield by the end of the season.

Detroit Tigers: RHP Bruce Rondon

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    On the verge of their first World Series berth since 2006, the Tigers' late-season surge into the postseason has been one of the better narratives of the 2012 season.

    Unfortunately, closer Jose Valverde’s historically bad postseason has not. The right-hander blew a save against the A’s in the ALDS and has allowed seven earned runs on seven hits (.500 BAA) in only 2.1 innings.

    Luckily, the organization houses a future closer on the farm in right-hander Bruce Rondon, a flame-throwing 21-year-old who routinely hits triple digits.

    This past season, Rondon ultimately reached Triple-A after opening the year at High-A Lakeland. He appeared in 52 games, recorded 29 saves and posted a 1.53 ERA and 11.2 K/9 in 53 innings.

    Don’t be surprised if he makes the club out of spring training next season and inherits closing duties by the end of April.

St. Louis Cardinals: RHP Shelby Miller

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    With soon-to-be free agent Kyle Lohse’s return to St. Louis highly unlikely next year, not to mention the perpetual health concerns of Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook and Jaime Garcia, there will likely be at least one vacancy in the Cardinals starting rotation headed into the 2013 season.

    After a dismal first half of the season at Triple-A, top pitching prospect Shelby Miller made a slight adjustment in his mechanics and overall approach and enjoyed a dominant second half.

    His success ultimately led to a September call-up in which the right-hander was impressive, posting a 1.32 ERA, 10.5 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 in 13.2 innings.

    Miller was especially dominant in his first big league start on the final day of the regular season, when he fanned seven batters and carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds.

    He’s scheduled to spend the offseason training with Chris Carpenter and could open the 2013 season as a backend starter in the Cardinals rotation.

San Francisco Giants: RHP Chris Heston

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    Over the last three seasons, the San Francisco Giants' greatest strength has undoubtedly been their homegrown starting rotation of Matt Cain, Tim Lincencum and Madison Bumgarner.

    However, Giants starters struggled collectively over the final months of the regular season, posting a season-high 4.36 ERA in August followed by a 4.08 ERA in September and October. Even more concerning is the fact that Bumgarner is 0-2 with a 11.25 ERA in two starts, Cain is 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA in three starts and Lincecum, who was omitted from the team’s postseason rotation, is 1-0 with a 1.08 ERA in three appearances headed into Thursday’s Game 4 start.

    While the organization doesn’t exactly have an elite pitching prospect ready to contribute next season, it dooes have one intriguing option in right-hander Chris Heston, who may be ready by mid-2013.

    The 24-year-old right-hander spent the entire season at Double-A Richmond after a breakout 2011 campaign at High-A. Making 25 starts for the Flying Squirrels, Heston posted a 2.24 ERA, .230 BAA, 1.63 GB/FB, 8.2 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 over 148.2 innings.

    With a slightly above-average four-pitch mix, he’s not flashy or overpowering, but understands how to get outs and work deep into games. He doesn’t have the upside of a Cain, Lincecum or Bumgarner, but should be a nice addition to backend of the team’s rotation once he’s ready.