Michael Wacha will start Game 2 of the World Series.
Think about this: At this time last year, Xander Bogaerts and Michael Wacha both were roughly one month removed from their first tastes of the Double-A level.
What a difference a year can make.
However, Bogaerts and Wacha are just a few of the promising young players that will be on display in this year’s Fall Classic.
Here’s a look at what to expect from both team’s top rookies in the World Series.
2013 Postseason Stats: 3-for-6, 7 R, 3 2B, 5 BB, K (6 G)
Regarded as Boston’s top prospect for the last two seasons, Bogaerts was promoted to the major leagues in late August to bolster the team’s roster for the stretch run. While the recently turned 21-year-old’s playing time was limited, he still impressed by batting .250/.320/.364 in 18 games and playing both positions on the left side of the infield.
Given Bogaerts’ enormous upside and ability to make a game-changing impact at the plate, the Red Sox decided to include him on their ALDS roster. The youngster 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.
In the ALCS against the Tigers, Bogaerts was faced with the tough task of pinch-hitting with two outs in the bottom of the ninth with the tying run at second base. Though he turned in an admirable at-bat against Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit, he ultimately popped up on the infield to end the game.
Bogaerts was all over the ball in his next at-bat during Game 4, as he roped a pinch-hit double before coming around to score. More significantly, his strong showing at the plate earned him a start at third base for Games 5 and 6.
The decision to start the 21-year-old phenom over the struggling Will Middlebrooks paid immediate dividends, as Bogaerts went 2-for-4 with two doubles, three runs scored and three walks over the final two games of the series.
Make no doubt about it: Xander Bogaerts will be Boston’s third baseman in the World Series.
He’s looked outstanding at the plate this October and there’s no reason to believe it won’t continue against the Cardinals.
2013 Postseason Stats: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 3/2 K/BB (4 G)
Brandon Workman earned a spot on Boston’s playoff roster after demonstrating value as a versatile reliever over the final two months of the season.
Though the 25-year-old posted a 6.94 ERA in 17 games out of the bullpen, he demonstrated a knack for missing bats with 29 strikeouts in 23.1 innings. More importantly, Workman enjoyed most of his success this season at Fenway Park, where he was 3-1 with a 2.41 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 18.2 innings.
This October, Workman is yet to allow an earned run through four games. The right-hander was especially impressive in the ALCS against the Tigers, throwing 4.2 scoreless frames with three strikeouts over three games.
As the postseason has unfolded, Workman has assumed the role of the Red Sox’s sixth- and seventh-inning reliever while working in high-leverage situations. He also seems to be the team’s go-to arm out of the bullpen when trailing by a few runs.
Expect him to be used in a similar role during the World Series.
2013 Postseason Stats: 3-0, 21 IP, 0.43 ERA, .114 BAA, 22/4 K/BB (3 GS)
Michael Wacha entered the postseason coming off the best month of his big league career. In September, the 22-year-old right-hander posted a 1.72 ERA and .198 opponent batting average over five starts, and came within one out of a no-hitter in his final start of the regular season against the Washington Nationals.
Starting Game 4 of the NLDS against the Pirates and needing a win to avoid elimination, Wacha allowed one run on one hit and two walks with nine strikeouts over 7.1 impressive frames before surrendering a solo home run to Pedro Alvarez.
Moved up in the postseason rotation to start Game 2 of the NLCS against the Dodgers, Wacha was dominating yet again with five hits allowed, one walk and eight strikeouts over 6.2 scoreless innings. The 22-year-old outdueled Clayton Kershaw in the Cardinals' 1-0 victory.
Starting Game 6 of the NLCS as the series moved back to St. Louis, the rookie shut out the Dodgers—and Kershaw, again—for the second time in the past week, allowing only two hits and a walk with five strikeouts over seven stellar innings.
Between both starts in the series, Wacha was 2-0 with 13 strikeouts in 13.2 scoreless innings. Needless to say, it wasn’t a shocker when he was named as the NLCS MVP, becoming the second rookie pitcher in baseball history to win the award.
Scheduled to start Game 2 of the World Series at Fenway Park on Thursday, Wacha will face a Boston offense that struggled against the right-handed changeup during the regular season, as noted by my colleague and MLB Lead Writer Zach Rymer.
It’s obviously not a guarantee that the right-hander will carve up the Red Sox as he did the Pirates and Dodgers in previous series. However, I’ve also said that after each of his postseason starts.
2013 Postseason Stats: 3 SV, 7 IP, 3 H, 9/2 K/BB (6 G)
Trevor Rosenthal put himself on the map in the 2012 playoffs with seven dominant outings during the NLDS and NLCS. Logging 8.2 scoreless innings as the Cardinals setup man, the flame-throwing right-hander allowed just a pair of hits and walks while striking out 15 batters.
This season was more of the same, as Rosenthal established himself as arguably the top eighth-inning arm in baseball by fanning 108 batters in only 75.1 innings (12.9 K/9). And when All-Star closer Edward Mujica struggled during the final week of the season, it was almost too easy to insert Rosenthal into the role.
Despite his lack of experience in the ninth inning, the 23-year-old has been nearly flawless this October as the team’s closer.
In addition to recording three saves in as many opportunities, Rosenthal has once again been a bat-missing machine with his fastball. The right-hander has averaged 98.8 MPH with the pitch between both series, according to Brooks Baseball, while inducing whiffs at a 17.2 percent clip (16 of 93 pitches).
Expect Rosenthal’s lights-out postseason to continue against the Red Sox in the World Series.
2013 Postseason Stats: 0-1, 6.2 IP, 2.70 ERA, 6/2 K/BB (7 G)
Aside from an ugly start on September 17 in which he allowed four earned runs on five hits in 1.2 innings against Colorado, Carlos Martinez was impressive out of the bullpen over the final month of the season.
Riding a streak of five consecutive scoreless appearances heading into the postseason, the 22-year-old right-hander emerged as the Cardinals’ go-to eight-inning arm during the NLDS against the Pirates thanks to his combination of an explosive upper-90s fastball, plus changeup and swing-and-miss slider.
After allowing two earned runs in Game 2 of the NLDS, the hard-throwing right-hander has been nearly unhittable. Appearing in four games in the NLCS against the Dodgers, Martinez allowed only two baserunners (one hit, one walk) with four strikeouts in 4.2 scoreless innings.
As is the case with all of their rookie pitchers, Martinez has never faced the Red Sox. And when you boast the kind of stuff that he does, that should serve as an advantage in a seven-game series.
2013 Postseason Stats: IP, H, ER, K (1 G)
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. While he didn’t miss as many bats as he did earlier in the season, Miller rebounded nicely in September with a 2.76 ERA over five starts.
However, Miller essentially has been a nonfactor for the Cardinals since the beginning of the postseason. With fellow rookie Michael Wacha thriving in the starting rotation after a strong finish to the regular season, manager Mike Matheny relegated Miller to the bullpen for both the NLDS and NLCS.
While Miller has gotten loose in the bullpen on several occasions this October and seemed destined to get in several games, the 22-year-old right-hander has made only one appearance thus far.
In Game 2 of the NLDS, the same game in which the Bucs chased Lynn after only 4.1 innings, Miller logged one inning out of the Cardinals bullpen, allowing one run (a solo home run) while notching a strikeout.
Given Miller’s usage this October, it’s probably a bad sign if he’s on the mound at any point during the World Series. It’s not that the organization has suddenly lost trust in the right-hander—there are just other guys they favor more right now.
2013 Postseason Stats: 2.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, K (5 G)
Kevin Siegrist has become one of the more underrated relievers in baseball. Added to the 40-man roster last November following a breakout performance in the Arizona Fall League, the 24-year-old emerged as the Cardinals’ go-to left-hander out of the bullpen following his arrival in early June.
Heading into the postseason, Siegrist carried a streak of 28 scoreless appearances dating back to August 1—that’s right, he didn’t allow a run for two months. During that span, he posted a 30/10 K/BB ratio in 25 innings while allowing just 12 hits. And it’s not like he was only effective against same-sided hitters; Siegrist was equally successful against right-handed hitters (0.48 ERA, .138 BAA) and left-handed hitters (0.43 ERA, .118 BAA) during the regular season.
Although he’s proven to capable of working multiple innings, Siegrist has been used primarily as a situational left-hander this postseason, logging 1.2 innings over four appearances against the Dodgers in the NLCS.
Expect him to keep working high-leverage situations in the eighth and ninth innings for the Cardinals against Boston in the World Series.
2013 Postseason Stats: 2.2 IP, 3 H, K (5 G)
Called up to the major leagues in late April, Maness ultimately led all Cardinal relievers with 66 appearances during the regular season and paced all National League relievers with 16 double plays induced.
While he doesn’t boast a power arm like every other pitcher in the Cardinals bullpen, Maness’ plus command and knack for inducing ground-ball outs—his 68.4 percent ground-ball rate ranked second in the NL—has made him an asset as a middle reliever.
This October, the 25-year-old has continued to bridge the gap between the Cardinals’ starters and late-inning relievers, logging 2.2 scoreless innings over five postseason appearances.
2013 Postseason Stats: 0-for-5, K (5 G)
Called up the major leagues in the middle of August, Wong was given a long look at second base following the promotion but struggled to settle in at the plate and make the most of his opportunities.
Appearing in 32 games (10 starts) for the Cardinals over the final two months of the season, the 22-year-old batted only .153/.194/.169 with 12 strikeouts in 62 plate appearances.
Despite his late-season struggles, Wong earned a spot on the team’s postseason roster thanks to his left-handed bat, speed and solid defense at second base. So far, he’s come off the bench as a pinch hitter in five games and gone 0-for-5 with a strikeout.
Even though he hasn’t collected a hit since September 29, Wong arguably represents the team’s most dynamic bat on the bench. However, it’s inevitable that his role will be limited in the World Series with the designated hitter coming into play.