MLB Playoffs 2013: Dark-Horse Candidates to Become Postseason Stars
The 2013 MLB playoffs began Tuesday, Oct. 1, as the Wild Card Round is officially behind us. With the AL and NL Division Series set to begin Thursday, Oct. 3 with the Los Angeles Dodgers facing the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates facing the St. Louis Cardinals, the time for heroics has begun.
The question is, who will be this year's surprising stars?
It happens every year, as players exceed their individual level of expectations by posting a monstrous playoff campaign. Over the past two seasons, both David Freese and Marco Scutaro have emerged as those players, amongst numerous others.
Josh Donaldson, Oakland Athletics
Position: Third Baseman
Experience: 3rd Season
2013 Season Statistics
158 GP; .301/.384/.499, 89 R, 37 2B, 3 3B, 24 HR, 93 RBI
During the 2013 MLB regular season, the Oakland Athletics were a relatively starless team en route to the AL West division title. Bartolo Colon had 18 wins, but when it comes down to it, there wasn't a household name outside of the 40-year-old veteran—and even Colon's star power is debatable.
Prepare to learn Josh Donaldson's name.
Donaldson, 27, hit .301 with 37 doubles, three triples, 24 home runs and 93 RBI with an on-base percentage of .384. During night games, Donaldson hit .316, which bodes very well for his time in the postseason, where evening outings are omnipresent.
Against a deep Detroit Tigers rotation, the Athletics will need Donaldson to come through during late-game situations.
According to ESPN, Donaldson is hitting .364 with runners on base and .336 with runners in scoring position. In 17 at-bats at Comerica Park, the Tigers' home stadium, Donaldson is hitting .357 with four RBI.
If you're looking for a player who will steal the show in the American League, search no further than Donaldson—a severe All-Star snub.
Russell Martin, Pittsburgh Pirates
Experience: 8th Season
2013 Season Statistics
127 GP; .226/.327/.377, 51 R, 21 2B, 15 HR, 55 RBI
Russell Martin is one of the best defensive players in the majors, specifically at catcher. Per ESPN, Martin ranked third in caught stealing percentage, fourth in passed balls and led all catchers in fielding percentage during the regular season.
During the Pittsburgh Pirates' 6-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds in the NL Wild Card Game, Martin began to flash his bat.
In a game of the utmost importance to a Pirates organization that hadn't won a postseason game since 1992, Martin was 3-for-4 with two home runs and two RBI. He hit homers in key situations, nailing a 405-foot bomb in the second inning and a 407-footer in the bottom of the seventh.
All in all, Martin displayed the signs of becoming a clutch hero during this year's postseason.
Martin doesn't receive enough credit for what he's done behind the plate, helping to develop consistency with a pitching staff that had previously been known for its inconsistency—A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano, anyone? During the NLDS, however, Martin will be this year's unlikely hero at the plate.
He's struggled to post strong statistics in past postseason appearances, but when Pittsburgh needs a clutch hit, Martin can be trusted.
Michael Young, Los Angeles Dodgers
Experience: 14th Season
2013 Season Statistics
147 GP; .279/.335/.395, 26 2B, 5 3B, 8 HR, 46 RBI
When the Los Angeles Dodgers traded for Michael Young, many expected it to be a move that dramatically improved the roster. Instead, the Dodgers have given Young 51 at-bats in 21 games played since joining the organization.
Just don't forget why L.A. traded for Young in the first place: the playoffs.
Normally, a seven-time All-Star and former batting champion wouldn't pass for a dark-horse candidate to become a postseason star. Young has already established a legacy as one of the best players of his generation, going down as one of the most decorated hitters in the history of the Texas Rangers' organization.
For all of his 2,375 hits and 1,030 RBI, Young has only made three postseason appearances—he reached the World Series in two of them.
Young hasn't posted the best postseason numbers, but he had 16 hits, seven doubles and 12 RBI during the 2011 playoffs. With a core of young stars in Los Angeles, Don Mattingly will inevitably turn to the 36-year-old for clutch plays.
His tenure in Los Angeles may not be stellar, but when the time comes for Young to play, no one should bet against him.
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