Around the MajorsSeptember 26, 2008
It's a Young Man's World, Part 2
By Marc Hulet

The National League teams likely headed for the 2008 playoffs do not feature as many key young players on their rosters as their American League counterparts. That said, there are still a handful of young National League players who could impact the playoffs. Earlier this week, on Wednesday, I took a look at the American League.

New York Mets

The New York Mets are a veteran-heavy team thanks to a number of key free agent and trade acquisitions made in the last couple of seasons by general manager Omar Minaya. The young offensive superstars - David Wright and Jose Reyes - currently qualify as "veterans," at least in this instance.

Mike Pelfrey RHP
Experience: 1.5 seasons
Age: 24

Only Johan Santana has given the Mets more innings or recorded more wins. Mike Pelfrey, whose secondary stuff is still lacking compared to his fastball, will be relied on heavily if the Mets make the playoffs, which is not a sure thing at this point. Of his fellow starters beyond Santana, John Maine has healthy issues, Oliver Perez is continually inconsistent, and Pedro Martinez is... not the Pedro of old. The Mets must be cautious with Pelfrey, though, as his numbers have slipped a bit in September - especially his control (11 walks in 25 innings, and just 10 strikeouts) which could suggest he's a little tired after recording a career high in innings pitched.

Joe Smith RHP
Experience: 2 seasons
Age: 24

In just his second Major League season, Joe Smith is already an iron man, having appeared in 133 games for the Mets. In 79 games this season, he has thrown just 61.1 innings but wear-and-tear can also come from warming up on multiple occasions before coming in to a game. The Mets will want to watch him carefully, and also avoid the righty-lefty match-ups as left-handed batters are hitting .340/.456/.489 against Smith. He does a nice job of keeping the ball on the ground with a 62.1 GB%.

Others: Outfielders Nick Evans and Daniel Murphy could see some significant playing time in the outfield, with Murphy currently swinging the hotter stick.

Chicago Cubs

The Chicago Cubs, like the Mets, rely heavily on veteran players, with the exception of catcher Geovany Soto, who is very well on his way to winning the National League Rookie of the Year title.

Jeff Samardzija RHP
Experience: 0.3 seasons
Age: 23

It's hard to know what to expect from Jeff Samardzija. His Major League numbers have been good, but not spectacular enough to guarantee the unproven rookie a spot on the post-season roster. He's limited hitters to a .232 average and has recorded 8.33 K/9. That said, Samardzija has walked five batters per nine innings and has throw just 58 percent of his pitches for strikes. I wouldn't count him out, though, from having an excellent post-season, as the former college football star has a true gamer mentality.

Geovany Soto C
Experience: 1.2 season
Age: 25

Soto has had a great offensive season for a young backstop but the long year may be catching up to him (pun intended) as his numbers have dipped in September after a monster August. It will be interesting to see if the long season (He's started 130 games behind the dish) takes a toll on the catcher in the playoffs, whose conditioning has been questioned in previous seasons. His power (23 homers, .219 ISO) and run producing ability (86 RBI) will be invaluable for the Cubs this fall.

Micah Hoffpauir 1B/OF
Experience: 30 games
Age: 28

It has to feel pretty good to finally make the Major Leagues after seven long Minor League seasons at the age of 28. It has to feel even better to have a major impact on a club's late-season playoff hopes and play well enough to earn post-season roster considerations. Micah Hoffpauir has made the most of his chances and is heading into the final weekend of the season hitting .387/.441/.613 with two homers (hit last night) and 13 runs scored in 30 games (62 at-bats). His left-handed bat could be quite valuable coming off the bench for the Cubbies.

Los Angeles Dodgers

As our theme continues... the Los Angels Dodgers also have a fairly veteran roster, with few spots open for players with less than two years of Major League experience. However, players like Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, and James Loney did not miss the cutoff by much.

Blake DeWitt 3B
Experience: 1 season
Age: 23

Nobody expected Blake DeWitt to play in the Majors in 2008 - at least not for any significant period of time. But due to injuries, he has appeared in 113 games for the Dodgers at both second base and third base, providing solid defence. DeWitt's power is seriously lacking for the hot corner (.116 ISO, .722 OPS) but he is back hitting for average after a terrible June and July. He won't be an impact player in the playoffs, but he'll be solid.

Clayton Kershaw LHP
Experience: 0.75
Age: 20

Clayton Kershaw has been in the prospect spotlight ever since high school and made it to the Majors in his third pro season. The talent is obvious to everyone who sees him pitch, but there are still a few rough patches, which could get magnified in the playoffs. He has a walk rate of 4.30 BB/9 and has allowed more hits than innings pitched. On the plus side, the Dodgers organization has done a nice job of controlling his innings, which should help keep him fresh and healthy for the playoffs.

Cory Wade RHP
Experience: 1 season
Age: 25

Who saw this coming? Cory Wade has been brilliant out of the bullpen for the Dodgers after finally settling in the bullpen after years of bouncing around in various roles. His 2.19 ERA looks nice, but the .199 average and 49 hits allowed in 70 innings is even more impressive. He also has a WHIP of 0.90. On the downside, Wade has a strikeout rate of just 6.43 and his BABIP is really low at .222, suggesting some luck has been involved with his numbers.

Philadelphia Phillies

Like the Dodgers, the Phillies do not have a lot of inexperienced players on the squad, but they are not an overly old team with young stars such as Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

Kyle Kendrick RHP
Experience: 1.75 seasons
Age: 24

Kyle Kendrick is definitely not one of the Phillies top starting pitcher options and he could find himself in the bullpen for the playoffs. This season, he has allowed 190 hits in just 151.2 innings. He has also struck out just 3.98 batters per nine innings. Kendrick has also allowed a line drive rate of 27.3 percent. He has been dismal as of late, having posted ERAs of 6.08 in August and 19.89 in September.

Others: Left-hander J.A. Happ could make the post-season roster due to his ability to throw multiple innings and because he could be thrown up against a difficult left-handed hitter.

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers' late season fade has been well-documented, but the team still has a chance in the wild card race, and it will rely heavily on the two players listed below.

Manny Parra LHP
Experience: 1.2 seasons
Age: 25

A former Minor League phenom, Manny Parra has battled back from serious injuries to realize his potential. The 25-year-old lefty allowed a lot of hits (180 in 164 innings) and walks (75, 4.12 BB/9) this season but has shown improvements despite fading late in the season. Parra has also fallen victim to a rather high BABIP at .336. If Parra can learn to limit his walks and improve on his secondary pitches (He has an above-average fastball), he could be a dangerous real weapon.

Ryan Braun OF
Experience: 1.8 seasons
Age: 24

I'd say this guy is pretty good, wouldn't you? Along with having an outstanding bat, Ryan Braun has also made a successful transition from third base to the outfield. His average has slipped a bit from his breakout rookie season, to no one's surprise, but the rest of his offence has held pretty steady with two straight 30-plus homer seasons (and a .266 ISO in 2008). Braun has also been a major run producer for the club with 104 runs driven in.

Others: Mark Difelice and Mitch Stetter have both pitched well out of the bullpen for the Brewers, despite possessing average stuff and little hype. Difelice made it to the Majors this season for the first time in his 11th minor league season, and at the age of 31.

Houston Astros

Hanging on by a thread, this veteran club has been aided in its late-season push for the playoffs by a couple of young outfielders.

Hunter Pence OF
Experience: 1.8 seasons
Age: 25

Hunter Pence does a little bit of everything (except perhaps show patience at the plate, with a 6.4 BB%). He has hit 24 homers, driven in 80 runs, stolen 11 bases and plays good defence. If Pence is going to hit for more power, though, he needs to hit some more balls in the air (51.2 GB%). He also has a low line-drive rate at 14.2 percent. If Pence is going to keep the ball on the ground as much as he has, he should improve his base running (10 caught stealing in 21 attempts).

Michael Bourn OF
Experience: 2 seasons
Age: 25

Michael Bourn is pretty one-dimensional as a player with a great set of wheels. He has hit just .225/.285/.295 in 454 at-bats (His ISO is a paltry 0.70), but with 41 stolen bases in 51 attempts. Bourn could benefit from walking a little more with a 7.5 BB% to help offset the poor batting average.

OK, so is it time for the playoffs yet?