There is only one series left in what has been an upset-packed, thrilling year of playoff baseball. Still, while everyone has enjoyed the postseason, it’s only a matter of time until the baseball world shifts its attention to the upcoming offseason and the variety of trades and signings on the way.
Before we get there, though, it’s worth taking the time to look at some of the stars that shined the brightest this October. I attempted to predict the young players that would break out on the national scale at the beginning of the month and definitely predicted a handful of them successfully.
This seems like the right time to really dive into postseason numbers and look at exactly which players broke out the most this October. For the sake of this piece, I’m not including any teams that were knocked out in the Wild Card round, as they really didn’t provide enough of a sample to prove anything substantive.
While some of these names were already fairly big, they have taken it to the next level and established themselves as players to watch moving forward. You may notice a trend in which the teams that have gone far in the postseason have loads of young talent that made their deep runs possible.
Royce Lewis (Minnesota Twins)
It was not discussed nearly enough just how good Royce Lewis was when on the field this season. He was one of the top prospects in baseball and fell off the radar of many due to his lengthy struggle with injuries, but his talent has shined this season, and it did so on the biggest stage.
He started the Wild Card round with a massive bang by going deep in his first two career postseason at-bats against the Blue Jays. This powerful display was a continuation of his efforts that resulted in 15 home runs in less than 250 at-bats this regular season.
While the Twins were unable to keep things rolling in the ALDS, Lewis hit two more home runs against the Astros as he showed the world just how good he can be. At just 24 years old, Lewis set himself up to be a major part of the future in Minnesota with his 19 combined home runs this year.
Brandon Pfaadt (Arizona Diamondbacks)
The baseball world will get at least one more chance to watch the vastly improved version of Brandon Pfaadt take on the Rangers in the World Series, but he has already made a name for himself.
Pfaadt came into the season a high-profile prospect who was expected to become a major part of the future rotation in Arizona. However, he posted a 5.72 ERA through his first 19 career games and struggled to establish any of his offspeed pitches. His fastball became predictable, and he was unable to keep up with the highest level of hitters.
This remained the case against the Brewers in the Wild Card game, although Arizona ultimately won thanks to their bullpen and offensive explosion.
Insert Brandon Pfaadt in his next three postseason starts: 14 innings, 8 hits, 2 earned runs, 2 walks, and 18 strikeouts. He has figured it out and has been a huge part of the Diamondbacks making their way to the World Series. Everything has clicked when it mattered the most, and now Pfaadt looks like he’ll be locked into a spot in the middle of Arizona’s rotation for many years to come.
The playoffs bring things that very few expect, and a rookie who struggled all season suddenly dominating the Dodgers and Phillies in the playoffs was certainly one of those. Pfaadt is possibly the biggest breakout on this list with respect to the expectations most had for him.
Evan Carter (Texas Rangers)
After debuting just over a month prior to the playoffs, the expectations were high for Evan Carter, and he managed to exceed them right out of the gate.
In his first 62 career at-bats in the regular season, Carter had a remarkable 1.058 OPS with five home runs. He followed that up by reaching base seven times in the Rangers’ two-game sweep of the Rays to start off the playoffs. Carter already made his mark in October in that series, but he proceeded to record a hit in all but one game of the entire AL playoffs.
Carter’s production has slowed down since the beginning of the postseason, but still, he has a .987 OPS and has been everything as advertised. Ranked as a top-five prospect in all of baseball for us at Just Baseball, Carter can really do a little of everything and has game-changing talent at the plate and in the field.
Everyone has gotten to see what Carter is capable of, and it would be far from surprising to see him put on a show during the World Series.
Gabriel Moreno (Arizona Diamondbacks)
He keeps on getting beat up behind the dish, but Gabriel Moreno has been one of the biggest reasons for the Diamondbacks’ incredible run. He was acquired this past offseason by Arizona in a deal that sent one of their best players, Daulton Varsho, to Toronto, and the deal has worked out brilliantly for Arizona.
Moreno showed flashes of the player he can be after returning from injury with a scorching hot August and solid September. He has further impressed in the playoffs, with timely hitting and excellent work behind the plate as just a 23-year-old catcher.
His performance against the Phillies went somewhat under the radar with the likes of Ketel Marte and Corbin Carroll around, but he was steady as can be while being thrust into the 3-hole for Arizona. Not only has Moreno looked good, but given the upside he always possessed, this is more than just a flash in the pan.
Moreno is looking like one of the best young catchers in baseball and figures to continue his rise among the catching ranks. He will continue to impress and has clearly made a name for himself already.
Josh Sborz (Texas Rangers)
The two playoff teams with arguably the worst bullpens heading into October are now in the World Series. This has a lot to do with the closers for both sides and a few key relievers who have stepped up in huge situations many times.
Josh Sborz is the one worth noting for the Rangers, as he has become the other premium option the Rangers desperately needed aside from Jose Leclerc and Aroldis Chapman. Flashing elite stuff but never being able to find consistency, Sborz was far from effective for much of the season.
However, he has turned into an absolute bullpen beast with 8.2 innings pitched and only one run allowed in the playoffs.
When the Rangers have needed someone in a big spot prior to Leclerc finishing the game out, Sborz has come through for them. He’ll head into next season with a key role in the bullpen after being trusted time and time again by Bruce Bochy this year.
Edouard Julien (Minnesota Twins)
Along with Lewis, Edouard Julien was the other half of the Minnesota young duo that gave the team a shot in October. The rookie was great for much of the season and reached base eight times in the four games of the ALDS against Houston. He finished October with a 1.043 OPS as he paved the way for the Twins to remain heavily competitive against the Astros.
With some of the best plate discipline among all hitters in baseball, Julien walked when he needed to during the Twins’ run while also hitting consistently.
Minnesota put together their best playoff showing in many years in large part due to Julien and Lewis, in addition to their starting pitching core. Look for Julien to continue growing into one of the league’s best young second basemen over the next few years.
Kevin Ginkel (Arizona Diamondbacks)
One of the other relief pitchers that changed the dynamic of their team this postseason, like Sborz, was Kevin Ginkel. He has put together an unbelievable run that has made his name known all over, when the majority of baseball fans had never heard of him until recently.
He was quietly an excellent option out of the bullpen for Arizona this season, but he wasn’t doing it on this kind of a stage to get the recognition he deserves. Now it’s October, and he has yet to allow a run while throwing nine innings of high-leverage work against some of the best offenses in the game.
He locked down a crucial stretch of the World Series-clinching Game 7 in Philadelphia and has done just that throughout the NL playoffs. Ginkel’s slider has been one of the best pitches in baseball recently, and he has been, quite possibly, the best reliever in baseball.
If you didn’t know the name Kevin Ginkel before October, you should now. He is just such a fun pitcher to watch every time he enters the game for Torey Lovullo’s squad.
Josh Jung (Texas Rangers)
He may have struggled in his initial 2022 call-up, but Josh Jung became a huge piece of the Rangers’ AL-best lineup this year, hitting 23 home runs and offering rangy defense at third base. With Marcus Semien, Jonah Heim, and others struggling for Texas in the playoffs, Jung came through with his powerful bat.
He had three extra-base hits in the game that knocked out the Rays and got on base six times in the three-game sweep of Baltimore. He came through early and often as the Rangers ran through the first two rounds of the AL playoff bracket.
Then, Jung went deep twice in Game 3 of the ALCS, and while the Rangers ended up losing the game and the next two at home, his efforts briefly kept the team alive in that contest.
Texas has one of the best offensive cores in baseball moving forward, and Jung is going to be penciled into that future alongside Semien and Corey Seager in the infield.
Corbin Carroll (Arizona Diamondbacks)
Corbin Carroll is very good at baseball. He will be a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate.