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8 players who could change the course of the playoffs


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Who will become October heroes during the 2021 MLB postseason?

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(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2021 MLB postseason is here and with it, a new round of opportunities for players to become forever heroes in the cities they represent.

The great thing about baseball, of course, is that anyone in the lineup can have a big impact in that day’s game. But some players have more of a chance than others. Here are eight players — one from each of the remaining teams in the playoffs — who could really help their teams reach the promised land.

San Francisco Giants — Brandon Crawford

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(Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

There aren’t a lot of Giants remaining from the run of World Series titles in the first half of the 2010s. But Crawford has been better than ever. The oldest everyday shortstop in the league at 34, Crawford hit career-highs with a .298 average and 90 RBI. He was a huge reason the Giants won 107 games to win the NL West over the Dodgers, and he’ll be a big reason the Giants have a shot at Crawford’s third ring.

Chicago White Sox — Carlos Rodon

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(Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

There arguably isn’t a bigger boom or bust team than the White Sox in this postseason, and Carlos Rodon is a big reason why. A Cy Young frontrunner for the first half of the season, the left-hander ran out of gas in the second half and he experienced a drastic drop in velocity. It remains to be seen how much of even if he’ll be able to pitch in the playoffs. His presence would mean a world of difference to a White Sox rotation that was one of the big reasons the team cruised to the AL Central title.

Houston Astros — Kyle Tucker

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(Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Tucker has been projected to be one of Houston’s next big things for awhile, and he broke out in a big way in 2021, hitting .294/.359/.557 with 30 homers and 92 RBI. The 24-year-old outfielder also just won the AL Player of the Month award for September after posting an OPS of 1.130 with eight homers, 10 doubles and 19 RBI. The Astros were already extremely dangerous before he blossomed; now they are downright lethal.

Milwaukee Brewers — Kolten Wong

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(Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)

We know the Brewers’ starters are going to produce, but whether the lineup shows up may be another matter. Wong was a great offseason addition for the Crew, producing 3.3 WAR and stroking 32 doubles in just 116 games (he missed time with oblique and calf strains). As the Brewers’ leadoff hitter, Wong will have a huge impact on whether or not Milwaukee can get past the Braves in the NLDS.

Atlanta Braves — Freddie Freeman

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(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)

The Braves have won four straight division titles and Freddie Freeman, the reigning NL MVP, is a big reason why. Yet, Atlanta has never been to a World Series in his tenure, and it has been 22 years since the Braves made the Fall Classic at all. It goes without saying that they’ll need Freeman’s bat to break that streak. He’s slashed .283/.377/.465 with four homers and nine RBI in 26 career playoff games.

Tampa Bay Rays — Randy Arozarena

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(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

The Rays may be an “all hands on deck” kind of squad, but it was Arozarena’s bat that keyed them to an AL pennant during the pandemic season. Arozarena hit 10 homers during the four rounds and won ALCS MVP during the series with Houston, posting a line of .321/.367/.786 with four homers and a double. Arozarena also produced in 2021, becoming just the 11th rookie to post a 20/20 season.

Los Angeles Dodgers — Mookie Betts

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(Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)

Betts struggled with some injuries in 2021 and played only 122 games, his lowest total in a full season. He finished the year with a. 264/.367.487 slash line, with 23 homers and 58 RBI. Not bad numbers, sure, but also not reflective of what Betts is truly capable of.

While the Dodgers lineup has any other number of players who can hurt opposing pitching, the easiest path Los Angeles has to repeating as champs is by having Betts find that MVP level for the next month. He got off to a good start, going 2-for-4 in the wild card game against the Cardinals.

Boston Red Sox — J.D. Martinez

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(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Boston’s postseason chances took a hit when J.D. Martinez sprained his ankle late in the season, and the injury forced him to miss the wild card win over the Yankees. But they got good news when it was revealed the ankle wouldn’t need surgery. And they got even better news when they were able to add him to the ALDS roster. Boston will need every bit of power to take down Tampa Bay pitching and Martinez obviously makes that a much easier job.

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