MLB Players, Teams with the Most to Prove as Postseason Kicks off

Josh Schoch@JoshSchochAnalyst IIISeptember 30, 2013

MLB Players, Teams with the Most to Prove as Postseason Kicks off

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    The MLB postseason is a time for stars to shine and nobodies to fade away, and the 2013 playoffs will be no different.

    There are several players and teams that need to use their opportunity in October to prove themselves.

    Whether a team is expected to make a deep run or a player has to show why his team is counting on him, these are the individuals and teams that need to step up the most on baseball's biggest stage.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The Pittsburgh Pirates proved they are legit when they ended a 21-year playoff drought this season, so why do they find themselves on this list?

    The Bucs need to prove that their ultimate goal was not just to make the playoffs but to make a run in October.

    The big news in Pittsburgh is obviously the end of the drought, but the team needs to beat the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card Game to make it all worth it.

    It would come as a huge disappointment if the Pirates were unable to win a single game in October after ending such a long drought, which is why they still need to prove themselves.

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Clayton Kershaw was arguably the best pitcher in baseball during the regular season, leading the majors in ERA (1.83) and WHIP (0.915) among qualifying candidates. He also led the NL in strikeouts with 232.

    However, Kershaw has struggled in the playoffs during his career. He's an ace for the first 162 games, but when October rolls around, his ERA balloons to 5.87 with a WHIP of 1.585.

    The Dodgers have only won one of Kershaw's three postseason starts in his career, and this is the year he needs to finally prove that he can be just as good in the playoffs as he is during the regular season.

    If Kershaw can't solve his postseason woes, the Dodgers' chances of making a deep postseason run will plummet.

Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Yasiel Puig is an incredibly gifted player, but he makes mental mistakes far too often.

    Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports even went as far to say that the Dodgers should consider benching him in the playoffs. As he says, "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 might be the best five-tool player in the game today, but there's no denying that he makes more mental lapses than just about anyone else on the team.

    It's time for Puig to prove that he has matured during his time in in the pros, and he needs to step up and help the team make some noise.

Atlanta Braves

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    The Atlanta Braves finished as the second-best team in the NL at 96-66, but they haven't proven themselves to be as good as their record yet.

    The Braves had two incredible streaks this season, starting the year 12-1 and going on a 14-game winning streak in the middle of the year. These two streaks ultimately helped the ballclub finish an impressive 30 games over the .500 mark.

    Obviously, it's easy to make any team out to be mediocre when taking away parts of the season, but the fact that the Braves had these two streaks shows that they have a tendency to go hot and cold.

    The Braves also have yet to prove that they can win on the road, going 40-41 away from home this year. The team will have home-field advantage against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series but will have to win on the road if it is going to make it to the World Series.

    Atlanta looks like it could be poised for an early exit in October, and it needs to prove that it is here to stay.

Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

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    Prince Fielder is one of the best regular-season players in the game today, batting .279/.362/.457 in 2012-13 with 25 home runs and 106 RBI.

    Fielder provided serious protection for Miguel Cabrera, and the Detroit Tigers are hoping that he can do the same in October.

    He has yet to prove that he can step up on the big stage, however, as he has a .183 career batting in the playoffs, and he only hit one home run in 13 postseason games last year, as the Tigers made it to the World Series despite his struggles.

    We have yet to see Fielder step up when it matters most, and Detroit's World Series hopes depend on it.

Oakland Athletics

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    The Oakland Athletics are the one team this postseason that lacks a true superstar.

    Teams like the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers are star-studded, and just about every other team has several guys that everyone knows.

    Except for Oakland.

    The Athletics have been playing team-based baseball all year, having just one player batting over .300 and Bartolo Colon as the only ace. The team has to prove that its approach can work in the postseason, and winning at least one series is key to proving that.

Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians

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    When was the last time you heard of Nick Swisher dominating in the postseason? Never? That's because he hasn't.

    The last time Swisher played well in a series was against the Minnesota Twins in the 2010 American League Division Series, which he followed up by batting .092 in the American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers.

    Before that, Swisher made solid contact against the Twins in the 2006 ALDS but then hit .100 against the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS.

    Swisher has yet to prove that he can consistently perform well in October, and the Cleveland Indians will need him to step up if they're going to make some noise in 2013.

The Upton Brothers, Atlanta Braves

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    The Braves made some big moves during the offseason, trading for Justin Upton and signing B.J. Upton to a five-year, $75 million deal.

    The Upton brothers have been less than spectacular, however, as Justin hit just 15 home runs in the last five months after blasting 12 in April, and B.J. was almost sent down to the minors earlier this season.

    The duo was brought in to help the Braves top the Washington Nationals in the NL East, but the team managed that without much help from the two.

    However, they still have to prove their worth this season, and time is running out. Both Upton brothers are looking for a big postseason to make up for a mediocre regular season.

Shelby Miller, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Shelby Miller might be one of the best rookies in Major League Baseball, but he's still a rookie.

    Miller has shown his inexperience this season, pitching poorly against good teams, posting an ERA just under 5.00 against teams with a winning record.

    While he has dominated weak teams, Miller is going to be facing some of the most potent lineups in baseball once the playoffs get under way.

    He isn't going to have an easy road in the postseason, which is why he will need to prove himself against top competition on the big stage.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Most people aren't giving the Cincinnati Reds a fighting chance this postseason, so it's tough to say that they have lofty expectations to live up to.

    However, the Reds have to prove that they're more than a regular-season team by finally winning a postseason series.

    The Pirates have gone 21 years without making the postseason, but the Reds have barely won more series than the Bucs. The last time they won a series was the 1995 NLDS, and that is the only series since 1990.

    The Reds have to win just one game to advance this year, as they will meet those same Pirates in the NL Wild Card Game. However, the Reds still need to move on in order to prove themselves as a legitimate playoff team.