10 MLB Stars Under the Most Pressure in September

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIIAugust 28, 2013

10 MLB Stars Under the Most Pressure in September

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    The MLB regular season is entering its final month, and September will be the last chance to watch the game's brightest stars play.

    As the playoff races come to an end, certain players will be under more pressure than others. Whether it's because they're in contract years or trying help their teams make the playoffs, these guys are under the most scrutiny.

    Let's take a look at who will be under the microscope during September.

10. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies

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    After coming back and winning his first start since being activated from the 60-day DL, Roy Halladay is looking to finish the year strong with the Philadelphia Phillies.

    Halladay lost his 2014 vesting option once he hit the DL, as there's no way he can reach 225 innings pitched. Now it looks like he'll become a free agent at the end of the season, but who's willing to take a chance on the 36-year-old righty?

    Halladay finally hit the decline that comes with old age, and it happened to come at the worst possible time in his contract.

    With the Phillies out of playoff contention, he can't showcase himself during the postseason. He now has a little over a month to prove that he's still a solid starter who deserves a few million dollars a year, giving him six or seven starts.

9. Brian Wilson, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The bearded one, Brian Wilson, is getting another chance in the big leagues, as the Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to a one-year contract that will last through the rest of the 2013 season.

    Wilson had pitched just two innings since 2011 when the Dodgers picked him up, but he's been given the opportunity to prove himself over this last month.

    The man who posted a 1.81 ERA and led MLB with 48 saves in 2010 was out of the league for a while, but he now has a few weeks to show what he's been doing and convince teams take a chance on him next year.

8. Mark Reynolds, New York Yankees

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    When Mark Reynolds was designated for assignment by the Cleveland Indians, it looked like the final year of his current contract would be wasted and he would get a minimum contract if he signed with a team at all.

    However, the New York Yankees took a chance on Reynolds, bringing him to the Bronx to add power and a right-handed bat to the lineup.

    His start in the Big Apple was a great one, as he quickly went 3-for-7 with a home run and four RBI in his first two games. It looked like he could be a contributor for the Yanks and perhaps earn himself a new contract at the end of the season, but he promptly went 0-for-12 with four strikeouts after that.

    Reynolds is getting one last chance to prove he's worth something and cash in big money. However, if he keeps struggling, he'll only confirm teams' fears that he strikes out far too often to be an everyday player.

7. Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Yasiel Puig took MLB by storm earlier this season, as he was quickly rising up the ranks and becoming one of the best players in the league.

    However, with every great play comes an embarrassing one, as we've seen him make so many mistakes on the field. Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports even argued that fans should be worried about Puig in October. He’s as likely to cost the Dodgers a playoff game with a needless mistake as he is to win one on a walk-off home run.

    Puig also happens to be in the middle of the biggest slump of his short MLB career. His power has become almost nonexistent over the last two weeks, as he's only hit one home run, and his batting average dropped over 30 points during that time.

    Puig only has one month to break out of his slump and get hot for his first postseason. As the playoffs draw nearer, the Dodgers will hope that Puig is preparing both mentally and physically, and he'll start to be examined under the microscope as the playoffs come closer.

6. Ubaldo Jimenez, Cleveland Indians

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    Ubaldo Jimenez has disappointed with the Cleveland Indians. He even led the league last year with 17 losses. 

    However, Jimenez is having his best season since he came over from Colorado, and it's coming at the same time that the Indians are trying to steal a wild-card spot in the playoffs.

    Jimenez has helped them within two games of the Oakland Athletics for the second wild-card spot in the American League, but now they will ask him to do even more to clinch a playoff berth.

    What's more, Jimenez is also in a contract year and is scheduled for a payday at the end of the season. He is trying to ensure that he gets a few quality offers, and his performance over these last few weeks could make a huge difference.

5. Kendrys Morales, Seattle Mariners

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    Kendrys Morales is looking to cash in this winter, as his contract with the Seattle Mariners will expire at the end of the year. However, there's no guarantee that teams will be after him.

    Morales is nothing more than a designated hitter these days. His defense is paltry, and National League teams will steer clear of him.

    However, Morales has a chance to show that he still has some pop in his bat and to make the case that American League teams should be looking to acquire him.

    With rumors that Morales has been claimed on waivers, per Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports, it's unclear where he will play in September. What we do know is that he'll be doing his best to earn a hefty contract this December.

4. Ervin Santana, Kansas City Royals

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    The second-best pitcher on the free-agent market this offseason will be Ervin Santana by a mile, which is why teams will be scouting his performance over the last month of the season.

    Santana has pitched well this season, going 8-7 with an ERA of 3.21 and a WHIP of 1.15. While he hasn't received the run support he needs, he has been shutting opponents down, and he could be a huge factor next season.

    Santana has been in the midst of a slump over the last few weeks, giving up 12 earned runs in 22.1 innings in his last four starts. He hasn't looked like an ace, which could hurt his value at the end of the year.

    However, if Santana can turn things around in his last few starts, we could see teams who are in need of starting pitchers offering ridiculous contracts to him.

    Santana will be signing a new contract this offseason, and if he pitches well, he could dramatically increase the value of that deal.

3. Jason Grilli, Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Remember when Jason Grilli was the best closer in baseball earlier this year? So do Pittsburgh Pirates fans—and they're asking him to come back and do it again.

    After being put on the DL in July, Grilli should be back in September. He felt good during a recent bullpen session and appears to be working his way back.

    The Bucs need Grilli to return to early season form once again as the season draws to a close, as he converted 30 of 31 save opportunities this year.

    The Pirates have blown 11 saves on the year, but Grilli is responsible for just one. In a tight NL Central race that has just a half-game between the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals, the Bucs can't be blowing games, and they're hoping that Grilli can come back and ensure they don't.

2. Matt Garza, Texas Rangers

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    Matt Garza got his wish and is finally on a team that is contending for a playoff spot again. Now he needs to prove that he can take advantage of this chance.

    Now with the Texas Rangers, Garza is going to be fighting to get his team into the postseason. The Rangers are just three games up on the Oakland Athletics, who have been neck-and-neck with the Rangers for the division lead all year.

    Garza is being asked to help shut the door on the Athletics, but he will be a free agent after this season. He needs to prove to teams that he can still be an ace if he's going to sign a big contract this offseason, putting more pressure on him than most players.

1. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

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    Let's face it, Alex Rodriguez is getting more attention than any MLB player today. Everywhere he goes, he is either cheered or booed (much more of the latter), as he has become the most polarizing figure in baseball.

    The three-time MVP and World Series champ has become the most hated man on the planet, thanks to his potential involvement with the Biogenesis scandal.

    Rodriguez is playing while appealing a record-breaking 211-game suspension (the longest non-lifetime ban in MLB history), and many players and fans think he shouldn't be allowed to play at all. This is putting a lot of extra attention on him. 

    A-Rod will be more scrutinized than any other player in the game during this last month, and while he's not playing for a postseason spot or for a new contract, he'll still be under the most pressure of any player in the game today.