Every October, it seems some player comes out of nowhere to make a major impact. In the Wild Card round it was San Diego’s Trent Grisham. Last year, it was Atlanta’s Eddie Rosario.
Who will it be in the Division Series? We asked our eight beat reporters for their picks.
• What's next? Here are the Division Series matchups
Astros: Trey Mancini
Mancini hasn’t quite produced at the levels the Astros had hoped when they acquired him from the Astros at the Trade Deadline. Mancini played in 51 games, splitting time between first base, left field and designated hitter, and slashed .176/.258/.364 with eight homers and 22 RBIs. Still, he figures to get some starts in the playoffs and should be one of manager Dusty Baker’s first bats off the bench. And what a story it would be if Mancini comes through in the postseason: he's appeared in 752 career regular-season games without playing in the playoffs. — Brian McTaggart
Braves: Travis d'Arnaud
A.J. Minter’s eligibility as an unsung hero may have expired after he capably filled the role the past two seasons. The same could apply to Rosario, Atlanta's reigning NLCS MVP. Therefore, this year’s best candidate is Travis d’Arnaud. d’Arnaud is a great clubhouse leader and he has consistently shown the ability to battle pitchers in big situations. His ability to clear an outfield wall, drive a ball into a gap or simply hit the ball the other way makes him one of those guys opposing pitchers don’t want to see at certain points of a game. — Mark Bowman
Dodgers: Will Smith
Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman get all the attention in the Dodgers’ lineup, and deservingly so. All three are All-Stars and elite players at their respective positions. But Will Smith will be the key for the Dodgers in October. Smith has established himself as one of — if not the best — hitting catcher in the Majors. Because of the attention to the “Big 3," most people might not appreciate just how good Smith has been, posting an .848 OPS since the start of the 2020 season. He’ll have a chance to show it over the next month. — Juan Toribio
Guardians: Will Brennan
With a team that features many unsung hero candidates, considering its roster’s collective lack of experience, it’s easy to turn to the guy who has … well, the least amount of experience. Brennan has only 12 big league games under his belt: 11 in the regular season and one so far in the postseason. But there’s a reason the Guardians wanted to bring him up with just two weeks left, with all intentions of carrying him on the playoff roster: because they believe that the player who dazzled in the Minors this season can show up in the big leagues when it matters most.
Between Double-A and Triple-A this year, Brennan hit .314 with an .850 OPS. He joined the Guardians and immediately settled in, going 15-for-42 (.357) with eight RBIs in those 11 games. Although facing hurlers like Gerrit Cole is no simple task for a rookie, Brennan could be someone who thrives for Cleveland this series against right-handed pitching. — Mandy Bell
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Mariners: Adam Frazier
After his game-winning heroics that sealed Seattle’s epic comeback to win the Wild Card Series, how could it be anyone else? There’s no dancing around the fact that Frazier had a disappointing first season with the Mariners, hitting .238/.301/.311 with a .612 OPS that was 167 points off his tally from 2021, when he was an All-Star. But slates are clean at this time of year, and Frazier spoke recently about this being the first winning team he’s been on since college. Sometimes, that extra motivation can go a long way. — Daniel Kramer
Padres: Robert Suarez
Suarez is a little-known middle reliever with big-time stuff. He signed with the Padres in the offseason after six dominant years in Japan, and that success has translated to the big leagues. Suarez was hit hard on Opening Day but has been dominant ever since. In the second half, he posted a 1.48 ERA. Said manager Bob Melvin: "He's just been a godsend for us, and that's just a great sign by A.J. [Preller] to bring a guy over that you're not really sure, hasn't pitched here before — and he's performed beautifully for us." — AJ Cassavell
Phillies: Seranthony Domínguez
Domínguez was one of baseball’s best relievers from late April through mid-August, posting a 1.16 ERA and securing nine saves in 41 appearances (38 2/3 innings), before missing a few weeks because of right biceps tendinitis. He struggled upon his return, specifically with throwing strikes with his fastball. But Domínguez struck out Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado in a big eighth inning in Game 2 of the NL Wild Card Series to help Philadelphia nail down the series sweep.
It was a huge confidence booster for Domínguez, and perhaps a little one for (newly extended) Phillies manager Rob Thomson. Because if Domínguez is back to his prior form, it gives Thomson another high-powered late-inning option, which would be big for the Phillies. — Todd Zolecki
Yankees: Oswaldo Cabrera
Cabrera had yet to make his Major League debut when the Yankees and Guardians last tangled in July, still wearing the uniform of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at that time. The switch-hitter has been a surprise contributor down the stretch for the Bombers, showing some pop (8 doubles, a triple and 6 homers) and multi-position versatility, including a knack for making plus defensive plays in the outfield.
While Cleveland might be unfamiliar with Cabrera, Yankees fans quickly gained affinity for the 23-year-old product of Venezuela. New York is likely to start Cabrera in left field early in the postseason, with Harrison Bader in center field and Aaron Judge in right field. Look for Cabrera to contribute a big knock or a leaping grab at some point. — Bryan Hoch
Division Series 2022 unsung heroes – MLB.com