With the Astros beating the Dodgers in Game Seven of the World Series on Wednesday, the MLB postseason has concluded. Opening Day 2018 is about five months away and a cold, baseball free winter lingers. However, October had enough moments to keep every fan in awe until spring breaks next March. It got started with a bang in both Wild Card games when the home runs started exploding off the bat. In the division series, we saw two game fives (the road team won both). The championship series brought a little less drama on the National League side. The Dodgers dominated, and got their revenge on the Cubs for 2016. The ALCS was a spectacular series with two young, hungry teams, and it was only fitting it went the distance. Of course, the World Series was the best of the postseason. A full seven games gave fans plenty to cheer about on both sides. Games 2 and 5 could be considered some of the best World Series games in the past 20 years. In the end, the Astros got the best of the Dodgers. Over the past month, many players grew up and broke through on the biggest stages in baseball. Here are five players I who flew under the radar, and made big contributions this postseason.
Chris Taylor (Dodgers)In a postseason full of records, Chris Taylor’s is the most impressive to me. Reaching base 27 times in 71 plate appearances. Nothing helps your team more than a consistent lead-off hitter, and Taylor delivered. Taylor began the playoffs rather quietly with only 3 hits against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, but it was against the Cubs where Taylor really took off. In the five games, Taylor hit .316, with two home runs, and drew five base on balls. This performance won Taylor co-MVP honors for the series with Justin Turner. In the World Series, Taylor opened up Game 1 with a shot into left field putting up the Dodgers 1-0. After that, Taylor would record five more hits and drew four walks for the rest of the series, including a game tying RBI double in game six. Although the Dodgers came up short, they sure found themselves another everyday player that should compliment this already stacked roster yet again in 2018.
Alex Bregman (Astros)
Here we have yet another young, emerging star in the MLB. Alex Bregman grew up this postseason. Bregman had average hitting performances in the first two series, but in the World Series, he got hot and hit .233 with two home runs and 5 RBI. This is a huge step for a young player. Bregman was also the savior in Game 5. If you ask me, anyone was bound to get a hit and win that game for the Astros but he stepped up when it was his turn and delivered. Aside from the hitting, I blown away by his fielding. Bregman had numerous plays in at third base that left me speechless, including a diving stop in Game 7. This was Bregman’s first full season, and he made the most of it, leaving his mark on a great World Series. Look for this young, talented Astros core to be around for awhile and Bregman will be a big part of their success.
Lance McCullers Jr. (Astros)
After the championship season, it looks like the Astros have a three-headed monster in their starting rotation for 2018. Once again, Dallas Keuchel was Houston’s ace, and then the Astros acquired former MVP Justin Verlander from the Tigers. When things got tough in the playoffs however, Lance McCullers is the pitcher that comes to mind when I think of clutch pitching performances this October. First, I look at his Game 4 start against the Yankees in the ALCS where he pitched 6 innings and only gave up 2 hits and a lone earned run. The Astros ended up losing that game because of their bullpen, but McCullers gave them a good chance to win. Next in Game 7, McCullers came in relief to pitch four scoreless innings to wrap up the series and send the Astros to the World Series. In the World Series, McCullers started Game 3 and gave up three runs on four hits through 5.1 innings. It was a good outing for McCullers, but he just ran out of gas in the sixth and the Dodgers got to him for two more runs. Nonetheless, the Astros offense supported their pitcher and outscored the Dodgers. Finally in Game 7, McCullers went out and had a shaky few first couple innings including giving up a lead-off double followed by hitting two batters in the first. However, McCullers showed great poise to get out of that inning. He only lasted 2.1 innings and hit four batters along the way. The bigger number though, ZERO runs given up. In a game seven on the road, that is all any team can ask for out of a pitcher. He even had an RBI in the second inning to extend the Astros lead.
Michael A. Taylor (Nationals)The man who almost single-handedly put the Nationals into the NLCS. Although they ultimately lost to the Cubs in five games, Michael Taylor had himself a series. Taylor batted .333 over the five game series and hit a grand-slam off Wade Davis in Game 4 and sent the series to a fifth game where he would hit a three-run homer in the second inning of that game, which momentarily relieved the nail-biting fans in D.C. Taylor also had a pretty solid regular season. He played 118 games, batted .271, and hit 19 home runs. Safe to say, the Nationals found their next season center fielder. I am excited to see what’s to come of him and the Nationals in the next few years.
Greg Bird (Yankees)Greg Bird came to play in his first postseason. I hadn’t heard about Bird until I watched the wild card game and saw his regular season stats. In only his second season in the big leagues, he played 48 games, had a .190 batting average, hit 9 home runs and batted in 28 runs. Not eye popping numbers by any means. However, when I watch him at the plate, I see a very smooth lefty swing, complimented with great discipline. Because of this, Bird drew 12 walks in 54 plate appearances to go along with 10 hits which equates to about a .243 batting average. Bird has power as well. He hit three homers and had 6 RBI. He also hit a home run in Game 3 off of Andrew Miller to keep the Yankees’ season alive. Bird’s numbers are pretty good for a young player, and he has the tools (and maybe now the confidence) to put together his first full season next year.