MLB Playoffs 2013: Must-See Young Studs in Rays vs. Indians Wild Card Game
The MLB playoffs are always a great place to showcase some of the best young talent in the league and this year is no different, as the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays will feature some of the best young players in the game today.
Cleveland will host Tampa Bay in the American League Wild Card Game on Wednesday night at Progressive Field (8:07 p.m. ET, TBS) with the winner advancing to the American League Division Series.
Pitcher Danny Salazar and second baseman Jason Kipnis are two of the up-and-comers for Cleveland while pitcher Alex Cobb and right fielder Wil Myers are Tampa Bay's young studs.
Let's take a closer look at each of these players and what makes them so promising to the future of each team.
Danny Salazar, Starting Pitcher
Season Stats: 2-3, 3.12 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
As one of two rising stars who will take the mound in the AL Wild Card Game, Salazar will have a ton of responsibility on his shoulders as he looks to extend Cleveland's season with a win.
Salazar made his MLB debut on July 11 with an impressive outing against the Toronto Blue Jays. In that start, Salazar went six innings, allowing one run on two hits while striking out seven and walking just one.
Since then, Salazar has been stellar throughout the final months of the season and finished September strong with a 1-1 record and an ERA of 2.52. In his last five starts, Salazar has allowed just seven runs and struck out 33 over 25 innings.
The 23-year-old is a strikeout pitcher with solid command. Salazar has notched seven or more strikeouts in six of his 10 starts with his best strikeout performance coming on Aug. 7 against the potent Detroit Tigers' lineup when he fanned 10.
Jason Kipnis, Second Base
Season Stats: 17 HR, 84 RBI, .284 AVG
Kipnis has made a serious impact for the Indians on offense this season. Not only did the 26-year-old finish third on the club in homers with 17, but he also tied for first in batting average at .284 and was the top run-producer for the Indians with 84 RBI.
That kind of production is impressive enough, but it's even better coming from a second baseman, a position where it is normally tough to get good offensive numbers.
The only concern for Kipnis is his fielding. The second baseman recorded 12 errors this season after compiling just six last season. Kipnis has also had minimal success against the Rays this season, posting only four hits and no RBI in 16 at-bats.
As the team's RBI leader, Kipnis will be needed by the Indians to drive in some runs. If he can do that, during the postseason, Kipnis could go from relative unknown to a household name rather quickly.
Tampa Bay Rays
Alex Cobb, Starting Pitcher
Season Stats: 11-3, 2.76 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
Cobb will also be making his MLB playoff debut on Wednesday night, with the Rays hoping they can ride their young stud pitcher to victory.
Despite missing two months due to injury this season, Cobb has been sensational for the Rays, as one of the team's best pitchers. Cobb finished third on the club in wins (one ahead of David Price) and he allowed just 44 earned runs in 143.1 innings.
His ERA of 2.76 would have been the best on the Rays if he had not missed significant time and fallen short of the minimum innings-pitched requirement. Cobb enters Wednesday night having won his last three starts. He finished with a 2.57 ERA in six September starts that showed his strikeout ability, posting outings of 10 and 12 strikeouts.
Cobb was excellent against in his lone start against the Indians this season back on April 6. Cobb earned the victory and didn't allow a single run while surrendering just four hits over 7.1 innings.
Wil Myers, Right Field
Season Stats: 13 HR, 53 RBI, .293 AVG
If you were to point to a major catalyst for the Rays this season, you would start and finish with the batting glove-less Myers. Myers was the top prize acquired by the Rays in the deal that sent starter James Shields to the Kansas City Royals.
The 22-year-old standout made an immediate impact upon debuting in the majors on June 18. He hit .296 with three homers and nine RBI in his first month. In July, Myers was even more impressive, batting .352 with four homers and 18 RBI, as the Rays cruised to a 21-5 record during the month that effectively changed their season.
After a tough August that saw him hit a rough patch, Myers finished the season strong with four homers and 14 RBI while sporting a .308 average for September.
Aside from his two walks and a run scored, Myers didn't do much in the do-or-die game against the Texas Rangers on Monday night, although that could change against the Indians, which is a team that Myers has yet to see in his young career.
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