Judge, Harper lead top players to watch in MLB postseason


The MLB postseason has finally arrived.

It was a long regular season, but the 12 best teams in baseball aren’t finished yet as they embark on the 2022 playoffs.

As expected, there are a number of superstars who will be competing in October (and November) baseball. Some will be making their playoff debuts, while others are searching for even more success.

Here are 10 players to watch in the 2022 MLB postseason:

1. Aaron Judge, New York Yankees

It was a dominant season for the Yankees star outfielder. Judge narrowly missed the Triple Crown, leading the American League with 62 home runs and 131 RBIs while finishing second in batting average (.311). The 30-year-old Judge has 11 home runs in 35 career postseason games, but the Yankees haven’t reached the World Series since winning it all in 2009.

2. Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Betts’ third season with the Dodgers was his best statistically (35 home runs, 82 RBIs), and Los Angeles set a franchise record with 111 wins. The 2018 AL MVP already has two World Series rings – with the Red Sox in 2018 and the Dodgers in 2020. If you believe in patterns, Betts is due for another title in 2022 after his recent even-year success.

3. Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

After missing nearly two full seasons due to Tommy John surgery, the 39-year-old Verlander didn’t miss a beat in 2022. He’s likely to win his third Cy Young award after going 17-4 with a 1.80 ERA and 175 strikeouts for the top-seeded Astros. In 31 career postseason appearances with the Astros and Tigers, Verlander has a 3.40 ERA and one World Series ring in 2017 with Houston.

4. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

The second-generation star had another strong season in 2022, hitting .274 with 32 homers and 97 RBIs. Guerrero made his postseason debut in 2020, going 1 for 7 with four strikeouts in two games. Expectations are higher for the Blue Jays this time around as they head into a wild card matchup with the Mariners.

5. Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves

It’s hard to lock in on one player from the defending World Series champion Braves. The offense is filled with stars – Ronald Acuña Jr., Matt Olson, Dansby Swanson and more – but Riley stands out as the biggest bat in the lineup this season. He finished with 38 home runs and 93 RBIs for the NL East champions, putting him among the top NL MVP candidates.

6. Max Scherzer, New York Mets

The Mets’ regular season ended with a thud, but there’s still hope entering the postseason thanks to their pitching staff. Scherzer has a bevy of postseason experience – 3.22 ERA, 160 strikeouts in 26 appearances for the Detroit Tigers, Washington Nationals and Dodgers. With his fiery personality, the 38-year-old Scherzer is always a must-see on the mound.

7. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies

After winning NL MVP in 2021, Harper’s 2022 season was injury-plagued. He still finished with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs in 99 games, and he’s now healthy as the Phillies return to the postseason for the first time since 2011. Harper has 19 games of playoff experience with the Nationals, hitting .211 with five home runs.

8. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals have the likely NL MVP (Paul Goldschmidt) and a superstar third baseman (Nolan Arenado), but Pujols has been the story all year. In his swan song season, the 42-year-old hit 24 home runs to finish his career with 703 dingers. Pujols has played in 86 playoff games, boasting a .321 average with 19 home runs and two World Series rings (2006, 2011).

9. Julio Rodriguez, Seattle Mariners

From the oldest player in the postseason to the youngest, the 21-year-old Rodriguez is a lock to win AL Rookie of the Year. His debut season included 28 home runs, 75 RBIs and 25 stolen bases while leading Seattle to its first postseason appearance since 2001. This could be the first of many October trips for Rodriguez and the young Mariners.

10. Juan Soto, San Diego Padres

Even though it’s been a quiet year for Soto, he’s still a threat to go off in the postseason. Since being traded to the Padres in August, the 23-year-old lefty has six home runs and a .388 OBP. This will be his second playoff appearance after winning the 2019 World Series in Washington, when he hit .277 with five home runs in 17 games as a 20-year-old.

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