Every baseball postseason, there is an unsung hero who delivers a walk-off home run, makes a game-saving catch or comes out of the bullpen to close out a game.
Those players etch their names in baseball lore — players like Bill Mazeroski, Bucky Dent, Kirk Gibson, Joe Carter, Aaron Boone, David Freese and Don Larsen, to name a few.
Who will step up this year? Every playoff team has players capable of such feats, so here’s a look at an under-the-radar player from each of the 12 squads.
Houston Astros — It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle on a talent-laden roster, but the Astros are fully aware of Cristian Javier’s ability under pressure. Facing the Yankees, Rays, Guardians, Mariners and Braves, the righty (2.54 ERA, 0.95 WHIP in 2022) flat-out dominated, giving the Astros a valuable weapon.
New York Yankees — Acquired from the Cubs at the trade deadline, Scott Effross has shown he can be a vital piece of a short-handed bullpen. In 12 2/3 innings since arriving, the righty sports a 2.13 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, and is 3-for-3 in save chances.
Toronto Blue Jays — A first-time All-Star, catcher Alejandro Kirk led a potent Toronto lineup in OBP (.372), finished second in batting average (.285) and hit 14 homers. The 23-year-old was also solid defensively, tying for the AL lead among catchers with seven double plays turned.
Seattle Mariners — Cal Raleigh, who launched the walk-off homer that clinched the Mariners’ first postseason berth since 2001, established himself as their No. 1 catcher. Not only did he connect on 27 homers and 20 doubles, but he also threw out an AL-leading 25 baserunners.
Tampa Bay Rays — Picked up in March in a trade, Harold Ramirez has been a key cog, leading the Rays in batting average (.300) and finishing second in RBIs (58). The DH filled in at first base, right field and left field as the club dealt with various injuries.
Los Angeles Dodgers — Evan Phillips flourished in 2022 as the best reliever on the best team in baseball. Featuring a vicious slider and a nasty cutter, the righty — nicknamed “High Leverage Honey Bun” — finished in the top 10 among all relievers in WHIP (0.76) and ERA (1.14).
Atlanta Braves — While fellow Braves catcher William Contreras produced a breakout All-Star campaign, steady veteran Travis d’Arnaud quietly posted career highs in hits (106), homers (18), runs (61) and total bases (187) while notching his first 4.0 fWAR (Fangraph’s calculation of WAR).
St. Louis Cardinals — How important is Brendan Donovan to the Cards? The versatile rookie appeared in 126 games and played six positions — all four infield spots, plus left and right field — and hit .281 with a .394 on-base percentage.
New York Mets — His numbers aren’t eye-popping, but Luis Guillorme’s ability to play Gold Glove-caliber defense at second and third gives manager Buck Showalter lineup flexibility. “Having Luis here gives us a nice safety net in a lot of places,” Showalter said.
San Diego Padres — Nabil Crismatt played an important role in the Padres punching their postseason ticket, posting a 2.94 ERA over 50 appearances. The righty pitched in middle relief, long relief and extra innings, and even made one spot start.
Philadelphia Phillies — Demoted last year, 2018 Phillies first-round pick Alec Bohm rebounded in a big way. The third baseman hit .280, drove in a career-high 72 runs and led Philadelphia in hits (164) while displaying improved defensive skills.