As we prepare for the decisive Game 5 of the SDLN between the Dodgers and the Giants, to be played Thursday night in San Francisco, it is a good time to review who have been some of the best players so far in the 2021 postseason.
You may be one of the best players in the world, but it is during October when what you do shines brighter than ever, when everyone sees you. During the Wild Card Games and Division Series, we have seen some names stand out from the rest. Here’s a look at the top 10 players so far in the playoffs.
1. Enrique “Kike” Hernández, OF, Red Sox
The Puerto Rican obviously has a long history of postseason success with the Dodgers, including two massive home runs in last year’s SCLN. And his next playoff game will be his 64th, more than Buster Posey has played, for example. But I’ve never been in a better time than now. He hit .450 with two home runs in the ALDS and also hit the ground-breaking homer to the Rays to seal the pass.
2. Joc Pederson, OF, Braves
Pederson, who came in midseason from the Cubs, has hit two monstrous home runs, including a three-stripe that contributed the only three runs in a Game 3 win over the Brewers. His best performances have been coming off the bench – he’s 5-1 despite his two pinch-hitting shots – but there are few things more valuable than a home run coming out of the cave in the postseason.
3. Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Astros
The man obviously has a lot of playoff experience. The Astros almost certainly wouldn’t have won the 2017 World Series without him. But McCullers has also become their most reliable starter, and he’s been fantastic in both of his starts so far, allowing just one solo homer in 10.2 innings. He won’t be the starter for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series, but assuming his forearm pains aren’t anything serious, he’s always a weapon over the hill. In Houston they certainly know they can trust him.
4. Will Smith, C, Dodgers
Many within the Dodgers believe that Smith, in addition to being the best catcher in all of baseball right now, could well be the biggest and most underrated hitter on the team. He’s been key in what the Dodgers have done so far, hitting .333 with two homers for a team that has finally started scoring runs. We’ll see what happens in Game 5, but you can be sure Smith will be in the middle of it all.
5. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP, Red Sox
You’d think it’s impossible for Eovaldi to top what he did in the 2018 World Series, but so far he’s trying. He’s been fantastic in both of his starts for the Red Sox, striking out 16 in 10.1 innings, more fanned than any other starter in these playoffs. With Chris Sale’s troubles, Eovaldi seems to be Boston’s ace right now. Against the Astros, he will need to stay at that level.
6. Kris Bryant, LF, Giants
Bryant’s arrival is paying dividends in the postseason. Bryant is hitting an incredible .462 in October, and has also played four positions, including a brief stint in center field. (Bryant hasn’t played third base yet in the SDLN.) The Giants need a win to keep their incredible year going. Where you need him, Bryant will be there.
7. Kyle Tucker, OF, Astros
Without making much noise, he was the Astros’ best hitter in the regular round and has kept pace in the postseason, leading all hitters with seven RBIs. Tucker is living his big star moment this month.
8. Rafael Devers, 3B, Red Sox
Devers hit two homers and posted a .429 OBP against the Astros in the 2017 ALDS… at age 20. So it should come as no surprise that he is hitting the way he is now, with two home runs this October, including a key three-stripe in the decisive Game 4 against the Rays. Lifetime postseason hitting .308 / .387 / .538. in 20 games. Not bad, not bad.
9. Yordan Alvarez, BD, Astros
The extraordinary sight of the Cuban Álvarez has always been one of his super powers and it is giving him great results. He has walked six walks in just four games and has the best OBP of all players still in action this October at .529. In a lineup where no one is particularly fun to pitch, the player pitchers consistently avoid facing is Alvarez.
10. Tyler Matzek, LZ, Braves
Winning in the postseason comes a lot from using your relievers at the right times, and Matzek has been everything the Braves could hope for from him. He pitched in all four Atlanta games against the Brewers and allowed no runs in 4.1 innings, striking out six on the road. It will be used when the Braves need it, that is, a lot.