What’s better than the crack of a bat? The cracking of a bat in October.
The MLB playoffs are set to get underway with the AL Wild Card game kicking things off on Tuesday night. Some of the best hitters in baseball are still playing into the postseason, trying to bat their way to a World Series title.
While big names like Fernando Tatis Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bryce Harper and Juan Soto won’t be participating, there is no shortage of talent that will be stepping into the batter’s box in the playoffs.
Here’s a look at the top 10 hitters in the 2021 MLB playoffs.
Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
Tim Anderson was once again one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball this season for the Chicago White Sox. The heartbeat for the South Side squad has put together another fantastic season at the dish. The shortstop batted .309 in 2021, which was tied with Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos for the sixth-best in baseball among batters who qualified (at least 3.1 plate appearances per game). It was also his third consecutive season batting over .300.
Anderson finished the regular season with 17 HRs, 61 RBI, a .338 on-base percentage (OBP) and .469 slugging percentage (SLG). He was in the top 25 in the MLB in hits (163) and runs scored (94). Anderson is a big part of why the White Sox won the AL Central and will be needed more for Chicago to advance past the Houston Astros in the ALDS.
Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros
When people think of the highly-potent Houston Astros offense, it’s names like Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Michael Brantley that come to mind. But this season, it was 37-year-old Yuli Gurriel that led the way for the Astros as they won the AL West.
Gurriel took the AL batting title with his .319 batting average. Only Trea Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers had a better average among those hitters that qualified. It’s the first time Gurriel has gotten over the .300 threshold, coming close in 2017 with a .299 and in 2019 with a .298. The outfielder also slashed a .383 OBP and .462 SLG with 15 HRs and 81 RBIs. Perhaps this is the year Gurriel puts it all together in October, as he’s a career .236 playoff hitter across four posteasons.
Wander Franco, Tampa Bay Rays
The No. 1 prospect in baseball entering the 2021 season, Wander Franco wasted no time transitioning to the top level in baseball. He smacked a home run and three RBIs in his MLB debut in late June. Franco ripped off a historic 43-game on-base streak, tying Frank Robinson for the longest in MLB history for a player 20 years old or younger.
He played in just 70 games, but finished his first regular season with a .288 BA, .347 OPS and .463 SLG. He launched seven home runs and drove in 39 RBIs. Had he played the full season, there’s a good chance Franoc would have run away with the AL Rookie of the Year, but it likely will be going to his teammate Randy Arozarena. The shortstop now enters his first MLB postseason, looking to help the Rays repeat as AL champions.
Austin Riley, Atlanta Braves
Austin Riley finally hit his groove in 2021. After showing flashes of power the last two seasons for the Atlanta Braves, Riley put everything together this season. He became not just the everyday third baseman, not just one of the best players on the Braves, but a legitimate NL MVP candidate.
The 24-year-old batted .303 with a .367 OBP and .531 SLG. His batting average was the 11th-best in the league and his slugging was 18th. Riley smacked 107 RBIs, the eighth-highest in baseball, and 33 HRs, which was tied for 23rd. He, along with the next player on the list, make up the best offensive infield in baseball. Not bad for a guy who failed to bat over .240 his first two seasons.
Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
Across from Riley at the other hot corner for Atlanta is Freddie Freeman, a player people are all too familiar with when it comes to offensive success. The 2020 NL MVP batted over .300 for the fifth time in six seasons, hitting an even .300 with a .393 OBP and .503 SLG.
Freeman hit 31 RBIs and 83 RBIs in 2021, in addition to drawing 85 walks. He had a career-high in runs scored with 120, which ranked third in the MLB, and his 180 hits ranked fifth. The Braves will rely on Freeman and his bat again this postseason, looking to avenge blowing a 3-1 lead in the NLCS last postseason.
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
There’s a number of reasons as to why the San Francisco Giants came out of nowhere and finished with the best record in baseball. One of those is Brandon Crawford’s career year. The shortstop had failed to bat over .260 for four straight seasons before breaking out in 2021 for his best season to date.
The 34-year old had career-highs in batting average (.298), home runs (24), RBIs (90), runs scored (79), OBP (3.73), SLG (.522) and total bases (252). His batting average ranked 16th in baseball and his SLG ranked 24th. Crawford’s postseason experience will be crucial for the Giants in the playoffs as the shortstop eyes his third World Series win.
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
The most consistent hitter for the New York Yankees, Aaron Judge bounced back from a less-than-stellar 2020 campaign. The 29-year-old outfielder had a career-high .287 batting average in 2021.
Judge batted in 98 RBIs with 39 home runs this season, with his home runs placing him in a four-way tie for sixth-most in the league. His .544 SLG ranked ninth in the league while he also had a .373 OBP. It’s fitting that he was the one to drive in the walk-off run in game 162 to clinch the Yankees a wild card spot. The Bonrx Bombers will need him again in the Wild Card game.
Rafael Devers, Boston Red Sox
Did someone say game 162? Rafael Devers had a monster final regular season game to give the Red Sox home-field advantage in the wild card game. Devers hit two home runs, including a go-ahead, two-run homer in the 9th to clinch the win for the Boston Red Sox.
The third baseman batted .279 with a .352 OBP and .538 SLG. His 113 RBIs put him in a tie for fourth-most in the league and his 38 HRs had him in a tie for 10th. In his career, Devers has been sensational in the postseason as well, with a .311 batting average. He’s the hottest Red Sox hitter heading into Tuesday’s AL Wild Card game and might just punch the Red Sox a ticket to the ALDS himself.
Trea Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
It’s crazy that Trea Turner wasn’t the main piece in the trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals at the deadline. As he enters the postseason with the reigning World Series champs, he is fresh off winning the NL batting title, leading the entire league with a .328 batting average.
Turner led the league in hits with 195, while he posted a career-high 28 home runs in 2021. His 319 total bases ranked fourth, 107 runs scored ranked ninth, .375 OBP ranked 12th and his .536 SLG ranked 15th. Oh, and he can run too, finishing third in stolen bases with 32. The 28-year-old eyes his second ring as he looks to help the Dodgers go back-to-back.
Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals are back to the postseason for the third consecutive year and a lot of that has to do with Paul Goldschmidt. The veteran first baseman batted .294 this season with 31 home runs and 99 RBIs, which he ended in a four-way tie for 21st in the league.
Goldschmidt also added a .365 OBP and .509 LSG, which was 29th in the MLB. He also ranked high in both hits and total bases, with his 177 hits ranking seventh and his 102 runs scored running 13th. The 34-year-old enters his fifth postseason in his career, where he is a .280 batter. The Cardinals will rely on him in the heart of the order to get by the Dodgers in the NL Wild Card Game.