Michael Wacha will start Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers.
Whether it was Michael Wacha taking a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 4 against the Pirates, Yasiel Puig collecting three hits and driving in two runs in Game 3 against the Braves or Xander Bogaerts scoring the go-ahead run in Game 4 against the Rays, eye-opening performances by rookies has been the central theme to the 2013 postseason.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their success will carry over into the upcoming League Championship Series.
Excelling as a rookie in the postseason is no easy task and, although it sounds cliché, usually reserved for a special breed of young player. Luckily, at least for fans, a majority of the rookies still active in the playoffs fit that bill.
So, here’s a look at what to expect from baseball’s top rookies in each League Championship Series.
Yasiel Puig, OF
2013 Postseason Stats: .471 (8-for-17), 5 R, 2 RBI, 4 K (4 G)
NLDS Review: Puig played a major role in the Dodgers’ 3-1 series win over the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS, hitting safely in all four games including a three-hit, two-RBI performance in Game 3.
Potential NLCS Impact: There may not be another player more equipped to put up gaudy numbers over a short period of time, such as a playoff series, than Puig. And with Matt Kemp out for the rest of the year (shoulder surgery) and Andre Ethier out indefinitely with an injured left ankle, the Dodgers need their 22-year-old phenom to continue swinging a hot bat in the NLCS.
Hyun-jin Ryu, LHP
2013 Postseason Stats: 3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, BB, K (1 GS)
NLDS Review: Ryu started Game 3 against the Braves with the series tied at one game apiece. Although the left-hander turned in one of his worst starts of the year, allowing four earned runs on six hits over three unimpressive innings, he was ultimately bailed out by the Dodgers’ 13-run offensive outburst in the contest.
Potential NLCS Impact: With Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke slated to start Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS, respectively, Ryu will once again play a huge role in the middle of the Dodgers’ rotation. Considering the success of the team’s aforementioned starters, the Cardinals will undoubtedly look forward to facing the left-hander in either in Game 3 or 4 of the best-of-seven series. So, basically, the Dodgers need Ryu to bounce back in his next start and pitch to his potential.
Shelby Miller, RHP
2013 Postseason Stats: IP, H (HR), ER, K (1 G)
Season Highlight: Shelby Miller was outstanding during the first half of the season, posting a 2.92 ERA and 112/29 K/BB ratio in 104.2 innings over 18 starts. However, the 22-year-old noticeably wore down following the All-Star break and logged only one quality start in August.
NLDS Review: Given his season-long struggles against the Pittsburgh Pirates and inconsistent performance following the All-Star break, Miller was relegated to the bullpen for the NLDS and yielded a solo home run in his only inning of work.
Potential NLCS Impact: With the Pirates eliminated from the postseason, Miller is more likely to return to the starting rotation for the NLCS. While Joe Kelly, Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright have been tapped to start the first three games of the series, there’s a realistic chance that Miller will be named as the Cardinals’ Game 4 starter over the struggling Lance Lynn.
Michael Wacha, RHP
2013 Postseason Stats: 1-0, 7.1 IP, H, ER, 2 BB, 9 K (1 GS)
NLDS Review: Wacha was arguably the Cardinals’ hottest pitcher heading into their NLDS matchup against the Pirates, so it wasn’t a complete surprise that manager Mike Matheny opted to start him in a must-win Game 4 on the road. As I’m sure you already know, the 22-year-old was electric in the outing, carrying a no-hit bid into the eighth inning before surrendering a solo home run to Pedro Alvarez—the only hit he allowed on the day. Throwing 60 of 96 pitches for a strike, the right-hander recorded nine strikeouts compared to only two walks.
Potential NLCS Impact: Besides staff ace Adam Wainwright, Wacha represents St. Louis’ best chance of winning a postseason game. While he’ll struggle periodically like any young hurler, Wacha has proven to be nearly unhittable when firing on all cylinders. And considering he’s scheduled to oppose Clayton Kershaw in Game 2 of the NLCS, the Cardinals will need another lights-out performance from their rookie right-hander.
Trevor Rosenthal, RHP
2013 Postseason Stats: SV, 2 IP, H, BB, 2 K (2 G)
NLDS Review: Rosenthal has embraced his new role as the Cardinals’ closer after inheriting the gig from Edward Mujica during the final month of the regular season. The flame-throwing right-hander tossed a pair of scoreless innings in the NLDS, picking up his first career postseason save (while securing a win for Michael Wacha) in Game 4.
Potential NLCS Impact: There may not be a better reliever—possibly Kenley Jansen—still active in the postseason than Rosenthal. Boasting three electric pitches, highlighted a triple-digit fastball, the 23-year-old right-hander has the ability to make the game’s top hitters look foolish. Rosenthal will continue to get the ball in the ninth inning for the Cardinals in the NLCS, and there’s no reason to believe he’ll be anything short of dominating.
Carlos Martinez, RHP
2013 Postseason Stats: 0-1, 2 IP, H, 2 ER, BB, 2 K (3 G)
NLDS Review: Carrying a streak of five consecutive scoreless appearances heading into the postseason, the 22-year-old right-hander has emerged as the Cardinals’ go-to late-inning reliever, bridging the gap between the team’s starters/long-relievers and closer Trevor Rosenthal. In the NLDS, Martinez appeared in more games (three) than any other St. Louis reliever and, for the most part, pitched well despite giving up two earned runs in Game 3.
Potential NLCS Impact: Featuring an explosive upper-90s fastball, plus changeup and swing-and-miss slider, Martinez has become another legitimate weapon in the Cardinal bullpen. The right-hander held the Dodgers to just one extra-base hit in 24 at-bats during the regular season, so expect him to keep entering the game in the late innings with the game on the line.
Xander Bogaerts, SS-3B
2013 Postseason Stats: 0 AB, 3 R, 2 BB (2 G)
ALDS Review: Bogaerts' inclusion on Boston’s ALDS roster was somewhat surprising since he appeared in only 18 games over the final month of the season. However, that’s merely a testament to the 21-year-old’s upside. Bogaerts failed to log an at-bat in the series despite appearing in two games off the bench, but played a significant role in Games 3 and 4 by scoring three runs and coaxing walks in his only two plate appearances.
Potential ALCS Impact: Bogaerts’ impact against the Tigers will depend on his playing time. While he made things happen coming off the bench in the ALDS, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be used as often in the upcoming series. However, if there’s one future star capable of making an unexpected impact, it’s Bogaerts.
Jose Iglesias, SS
2013 Postseason Stats: 1-for-12 (.083), 2 K (5 G)
ALDS Review: Coming off the worst month of his otherwise impressive 2013 season (.551 OPS in 19 games), Iglesias’ struggles at the plate carried over into the ALDS. Starting the first four games of the series, the 23-year-old shortstop mustered only one hit (an infield single) in 12 at-bats. Looking to jumpstart his team’s offense in Game 5, manager Jim Leyland opted to start Jhonny Peralta at shortstop over the slick-fielding Iglesias, though he later entered the game as a defensive replacement.
Potential ALCS Impact: As has always been the case, Iglesias is more likely to impact a game with his glove than bat. However, when facing some of the game’s best pitchers in a best-of-seven postseason series, getting a more potent bat in the lineup (such as Peralta’s) could pay greater dividends. That being said, I still expect Iglesias to serve as the Tigers' shortstop in most of the upcoming ALCS games, especially with his familiarity with the Fenway Park infield.