The player that holds the utmost importance for each playoff contender



The player that holds the utmost importance for each playoff contender

In the quest for a playoff spot, every contender relies on a player who can make a significant impact. Whether it's a recent addition, a key return from injury, an underperforming bat or arm, or someone finding their groove, these players have the potential to be true game-changers in the final stretch of the season. Let's take a look at some of these crucial players and rank them based on their importance, considering their team's realistic chances of reaching the playoffs and the competitiveness of their respective races.

1-Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B

The Blue Jays are in desperate need of an offensive surge, and all eyes are on Vladimir Guerrero Jr. to lead the way. While he has faced scrutiny for not fully living up to his exceptional talent and his previous MVP runner-up season, Guerrero has shown promise this year, displaying strong plate discipline and consistently hitting the ball with authority.

2- Rangers: Nathan Eovaldi, RHP

The signing of Nathan Eovaldi was crucial for the Rangers, especially considering the limited innings they received from Jacob deGrom. Eovaldi had an impressive All-Star first half, but he has been sidelined since July 18 due to a forearm strain. As the AL West race intensifies, the Rangers eagerly await Eovaldi's return to bolster their pitching staff.

3- Astros: Cristian Javier, RHP

Despite the return of Justin Verlander, the Astros still need to stabilize their rotation for the remainder of the season. Getting Cristian Javier back on track is a top priority for Houston. After showing great potential with his role in a combined World Series no-hitter last year, Javier has struggled recently, posting a high ERA and allowing opponents to have success against him.

4- Rays: Aaron Civale, RHP

The Rays' rotation has encountered challenges, and reliable arms are needed to carry the load. Among them is Aaron Civale, who was acquired in a recent trade. Civale has been impressive this season with a career-best 160 ERA+ in 97 1/3 innings. Given the Rays' propensity for bullpen games, Civale's ability to provide stability and durability is crucial.

5- Mariners: Teoscar Hernández, RF

Teoscar Hernández was expected to be moved at the Trade Deadline, but the Mariners decided to retain him. Since then, he has found his rhythm at the plate, contributing significantly to the team's success. As Julio Rodríguez, a highly touted prospect, continues to adjust to the Major Leagues, it is vital for Hernández to maintain his offensive production and provide stability in the lineup.

6- Orioles: Grayson Rodriguez, RHP

The uncertain status of Jack Flaherty after being scratched from his last start amplifies the importance of Grayson Rodriguez for the Orioles. To secure the AL East and make a postseason impact, Baltimore's rotation needs to perform at its best. Despite a 5.38 ERA, Rodriguez has made significant progress with his offspeed pitches during the season. In his last six starts against contender clubs, he has showcased a 2.42 ERA and held opponents to a .532 OPS.

7- Reds: Hunter Greene, RHP

The Reds had one of the highest rotation ERAs in MLB leading up to the Trade Deadline. While they made no significant moves, they anticipated the return of Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo in August. Greene's initial start after returning from a right hip injury didn't go well, but his electric stuff and strong finish in 2022 (0.78 ERA in the final month) offer hope. Despite struggles with walks and home runs, Greene has the potential to provide a late-season boost for Cincinnati.

8- D-backs: Alek Thomas, CF

Playing alongside Rookie of the Year contender Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas has the ability to make a significant impact for the resurgent Diamondbacks in the final stretch. Thomas recently made an impressive Catch of the Year candidate, and after a sluggish start to the season that led to a demotion, he has returned with a solid .287/.321/.480 slash line over the past two months. Thomas' contributions can be vital for the D-backs as they look to finish the season strong.

9- Giants: Paul DeJong, SS

With Brandon Crawford landing on the injured list due to a left forearm strain, Paul DeJong has stepped in as the Giants' shortstop. In his debut for San Francisco, DeJong had a clutch 3-for-5 performance, showcasing his offensive capability. While his tenure may be temporary, depending on Crawford's return, DeJong's offensive contributions could earn him playing time in a potential platoon at the position.

10-Cubs: Javier Assad, RHP

The Cubs have faced challenges in their rotation, with Marcus Stroman dealing with a late-season injury and Drew Smyly struggling. In this situation, Javier Assad has emerged as a surprisingly reliable presence, excelling in both relief and rotation roles. With a 2.86 ERA in four August starts, Assad's craftiness and effective use of his pitch mix have made him a valuable asset for the Cubs.

11-Marlins: Eury Pérez, RHP

The Marlins have taken precautions to manage Eury Pérez's innings, including sending him down to the minors midseason. However, Pérez, known for his electric stuff, is back now and ready to contribute. While the Marlins have added offensive firepower with acquisitions like Josh Bell and Jake Burger, maximizing the potential of their pitching staff is crucial for their chances of securing an NL Wild Card spot.

12-Phillies: Trea Turner, SS

Trea Turner's performance has been ignited by a standing ovation from the Philadelphia fans after taking responsibility for a tough loss. Since then, Turner has been on a tear, going on a 10-game hitting streak and slashing an impressive .343/.385/.630 over an 18-game stretch. Turner's ability to ignite the offense, combined with Bryce Harper finding his power stroke, has given the Phillies a boost and has them looking like a formidable team.

13-Brewers: Tyrone Taylor, RF

Despite a somewhat disappointing season, Tyrone Taylor has been earning more playing time with his strong performance in August. He has posted an impressive .356/.408/.711 slash line in his first 49 plate appearances of the month. As the Brewers focus on run prevention rather than run scoring, Taylor's hot streak is appreciated and necessary as they aim to secure the NL Central division.

14-Red Sox: Garrett Whitlock, RHP

With the recent activations of several players, including Garrett Whitlock, Chris Sale, Tanner Houck, and Trevor Story, any of them could be highlighted. However, Whitlock stands out due to the Red Sox's decision to utilize him as a multi-inning relief option rather than a starter. He excelled in that role in 2021 and played a crucial part in the team's deep postseason run. Despite a couple of rough outings since returning from an elbow injury, Whitlock has the ability to provide vital bridge work for the Red Sox.

15-Padres: The Big Four (Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr.)

Rather than focusing on a role player or recent acquisition, the spotlight should be on the Padres' star players. The Padres have struggled to put together a four-game winning streak throughout the year, and their star quartet of Xander Bogaerts, Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Fernando Tatis Jr. have not delivered as expected, particularly in the crucial month of August. To climb up in the NL Wild Card race and surpass four teams, the Padres need all four of these stars to get hot and perform at their best.

16- Guardians: Kole Calhoun, 1B/OF

The Guardians' path to the postseason relies on winning the AL Central, and a significant part of that involves performing well in their remaining games against the Twins. With close games between the two teams so far, every run matters, and Kole Calhoun has been a surprising source of run production since joining the team in August. His unexpected contributions have earned him a spot in the No. 3 spot in the lineup, as Cleveland looks to maximize their offensive output.

17-Twins: Byron Buxton, DH

Despite dealing with recurring injuries, Byron Buxton is expected to return from a hamstring strain for the September stretch run. Manager Rocco Baldelli has even mentioned the possibility of Buxton seeing time in the outfield, which would be a significant boost for the Twins. Buxton's bat will be crucial for the team as they aim to make a late-season push.

18-Dodgers: Walker Buehler, RHP

The status of Walker Buehler, who is currently recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, remains uncertain. The Dodgers hope to have him back in September, but the specifics of his return, his role, and his availability for postseason play are yet to be determined. Buehler's talent and the Dodgers' willingness to be creative with their pitching usage make him a significant X-factor in the home stretch.

19-Braves: Kyle Wright, RHP

For the Braves, the focus in September is on securing seeding for the playoffs. Getting an effective Kyle Wright back in the rotation would provide an additional layer of strength for an already championship-caliber team. Last season, Wright had an impressive performance, winning 21 games with a 3.19 ERA. However, he has been limited to only five starts this year due to a shoulder issue. Having Wright back in top form would be crucial for the Braves as they prepare for October.

These players, each with their specific roles and potential impact, can play pivotal roles in their teams' success in the final stretch of the season. Their contributions can be instrumental in securing playoff berths, improving seeding, and providing key performances when it matters most.

Sport Globel