After a mediocre regular season, Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has a lot of prove.
With the MLB playoffs in full gear, most baseball fans are focused on which teams will advance to the next round. But as a handful of teams still duke it out for the final spots in the AL and NL Championship Series, individual players also have a lot riding on these games.
Impending free agents like Ricky Nolasco could use a productive playoffs to prove his regular-season accolades were for real. And Jhonny Peralta, who will also be a free agent, needs to outweigh his Biogenesis involvement with some positive news.
Read on to see the MLB stars whose legacies are on the line this October.
Yoenis Cespedes is good at making the ball cry.
The Oakland Athletics were celebrated as geniuses after the success of Yoenis Cespedes’ rookie season last year. Cespedes was signed to a four-year, $36 million contract and responded with a .292 batting average, park-adjusted 139 OPS+ and 23 home runs.
But the 2013 season hasn’t been as kind to the Cuban import. Cespedes witnessed his batting average and OPS+ drop by 52 and 34 points, respectively. According to Troy Renck of The Denver Post, there were even whisperings of the A’s dangling the 27-year-old given their outfield depth.
Perhaps Cespedes got the message. In four games against the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS, the outfielder has hit to the tune of a .389 batting average with four RBI and a home run.
Despite the poor regular season, the Athletics might think twice about dealing Cespedes if he mashes in October.
Ricky Nolasco could be primed for a lucrative offseason.
After four seasons of being an average starting pitcher (4.68 ERA), Ricky Nolasco turned up the dial in 2013. Between the Miami Marlins and the Los Angeles Dodgers this season, Nolasco posted a 3.70 ERA (versus a park-adjusted 101 ERA+), 1.20 WHIP and 3.59 K/BB.
As an impending free agent, the 30-year-old pitcher would greatly benefit from some postseason glory. Nolasco has yet to have that chance, however. The Dodgers skipped the pitcher's turn, instead tabbing Clayton Kershaw on short rest against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS.
It's likely Nolasco will get a shot in the NLCS, but there's a lot of pressure on the right-hander to perform.
The Detroit Tigers welcomed Jhonny Peralta back with open arms.
For the most part, Jhonny Peralta enjoyed a stellar 2013 season. The 31-year-old shortstop posted a .303 batting average, park-adjusted 119 OPS+ and 11 home runs. But in August, Peralta got slapped with a 50-game suspension for his involvement with the Biogenesis scandal.
With Jose Iglesias taking his starting shortstop position, Peralta found himself without a job when he returned in September. Given his impending free agency, the veteran infielder seemed bound for a disappointing offseason.
But the Detroit Tigers didn’t give up on Peralta. Despite never playing outside of the infield, the Tigers stuck Peralta in left field. To date, the right-handed hitter has collected five RBI with a home run in the ALDS. Peralta must continue to hit at this torrid pace if he wants to garner a multi-year deal.
Carlos Beltran might be 36 years old, but he's still a hitting machine.
Carlos Beltran has proven to be a finely aged wine in 2013. The 36-year-old posted a .296 batting average, park-adjusted 128 OPS+ and 24 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals this season.
But also in true Beltran form, the outfielder has been incredibly productive thus far in the playoffs. The veteran has posted a .286 batting average with six RBI and two home runs against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With each timely hit Beltran collects this October, his offseason value climbs significantly. If the outfielder were to help lead the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series, potential suitors might have to offer Beltran at least a two-year contract.