Former MLB GM Picks Top Postseason Breakout Candidates

We know about players like Aaron Judge, Justin Verlander, Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and all the other superstars that are getting set to take part in the postseason. 

But every year, unexpected heroes step up to deliver performances that help carry their teams deep into the postseason. Who will they be this season? Former MLB GM and now an Insider and writer with The Athletic, Jim Bowden tells us who to look for to step out of the shadows this October.

American League

Christian Javier, Houston Astros

While Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander gets all the Houston headlines for the pitching staff, Bowden says Javier has "flown under the radar" with a 2.54 ERA and 194 strikeouts in 148 2/3 innings. He could be used as a starter or a lock-down option out of the bullpen. Either way, he adds a secret weapon for the Astros' pitching staff for teams to deal with.

Alejandro Kirk, Toronto Blue Jays

When it comes to neutralizing the Blue Jays' offense, most of the attention will be on guys like Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and George Springer. But Kirk, the All-Star catcher, has come up with oodles of clutch hits for the Jays this season and is one of the best pure hitters on the team. 

Cal Raleigh, Seattle Mariners

Another catcher, Raleigh has already shown the clutch gene, by hitting the walk-off home run that sent the Mariners into the playoffs.

He also leads all catchers this season with 26 homers. 

National League

Brendan Donovan, St. Louis Cardinals

As Bowden notes, we'd all love to see Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina be playoff heroes as they head into retirement, but he picks the much less heralded rookie Donovan. With a .394 on-base percentage and some big hits under his belt, perhaps the 25-year-old multi-dimensional infielder/outfielder will step up to be the man.

Brandon Drury, San Diego Padres

After wondering if he'd even have a major league job coming into 2022, Drury had a career season at the age of 29, banging 28 homers along with 87 RBIs and an .813 OPS, all miles above his previous highs. Could that magic continue in the postseason with the Padres? 

Photo: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports