The Major League Baseball postseason is coming to a close, as the Championship Series is over and the World Series is set. The American League’s Houston Astros are taking on the National League’s Atlanta Braves, who have powered through the playoffs behind their starting pitching and heroic performances from Eddie Rosario and Austin Riley. The Astros are as stacked as ever, and their stars continue to step up in the playoffs. This year, it has consistently been Carlos Correa and Yordan Alvarez, with huge hits from Jose Altuve. The Astros are full of stars, while the Braves have made it despite the loss of Ronald Acuna Jr. midway through the year.
10. Austin Riley, 3B, ATL
The Braves third baseman finally broke out in 2021, and he has come up big in the postseason so far. He tore up the minors and made his big-league debut in 2019 but struggled in his first two years. This year, we have seen a whole new Austin Riley, who slashed .303/.367/.531 with a 135 wRC+ and 4.2 fWAR in 2021. He has seemingly been at the center of every big moment for the Braves so far in 2021. Riley only has a 98 wRC+ so far in the postseason, but he has come up clutch for the Braves with game-tying and go-ahead hits throughout the playoffs.
9. Framber Valdez, SP, HOU
It has been an up-and-down season for Framber Valdez, who had a potential season-ending injury scare in spring training. He has established himself as one of the best pitchers in baseball over the past two seasons, as he has a 3.29 earned run average 3.61 fielding independent pitching, 3.36 xFIP, and 3.60 SIERA in 205.1 innings pitched. It has also been an up-and-down postseason for Valdez, but he threw eight innings of one-run ball in a huge game five victory at Fenway Park. His ground-ball rate was 70.3 percent in the regular season, and it is up to 72.1 percent in the playoffs. Valdez’s ability to strike batters out while still managing contact gives him the potential to be electric on any given night, which the Astros will need in order to win their second World Series in five years.
8. Max Fried, SP, ATL
Max Fried has also been one of the best pitchers in baseball since 2020, as he has established himself as one of baseball’s premier lefties. Since 2020, he has thrown 221.2 innings, with a 2.84 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 3.60 xFIP, and 3.90 SIERA. Fried’s 2020 seemed fluky due to his 4.9 HR/FB percentage, but he had an even better year in 2021. He has shown up in the playoffs in both 2020 and 2021, with a huge start in game one of the National League Championship Series in 2020, and then again in game one in 2021. He struggled in game five and will look to bounce back in game two of the World Series.
7. Charlie Morton, SP, ATL
The best pitcher showcased in the 2021 World Series will be Charlie Morton of the Atlanta Braves, who was on the Houston Astros in 2017 when they last won it all. He has won another pennant since then, as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays in 2020. He showed out in the postseason since 2019, as he has put up a 2.62 ERA in 34.1 since then. Morton is known as a game-seven hero, and rightfully so. He sent the Rays to the World Series with a game seven victory, after winning game seven of the ALCS and World Series in 2017.
6. Yordan Alvarez, DH, HOU
The first of Houston’s big bats to appear on this list is their designated hitter, Yordan Alvarez, who has been one of the most feared hitters in baseball over the past few seasons. In his career, Alvarez has slashed .290/.371/.577 with a 153 wRC+, and 7.5 fWAR through 976 plate appearances. He didn’t have the same type of regular season as he did in 2019, but he has been a postseason hero so far for Houston, winning the ALCS Most Valuable Player Award and putting up a ridiculous .794 slugging and 252 wRC+ in the first ten games of the postseason.
5. Jose Altuve, 2B, HOU
Jose Altuve was once the face of the young, up-and-coming Houston Astros who won 101 games and the World Series in 2017. Since then, his image has changed, but his play on the field really has not. He may not be the MVP anymore, but he still had a five-win season in 2021. Altuve always steps it up in the playoffs, but he has just a 119 wRC+ in the 2021 playoffs. He has the clutch hits, but not the consistency, which seems like it will inevitably come in the World Series.
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL
The 2020 NL MVP had another great season in 2021, finishing the year with a .393 on-base percentage, .503 slugging percentage, 135 wRC+, and 4.2 fWAR. He is off to a great start to the 2021 playoffs, with a .455 OBP, .618 SLG, and 178 wRC+ in the first two rounds. Freddie Freeman appeared in 159 of the 162 games the Braves played and had a 144 wRC+ in the 2nd half as the Braves made the playoff push without Ronald Acuna Jr., who would easily be the top guy on this list. Instead, the best player for Atlanta is their longtime star first baseman, who hits free agency this offseason.
3. Kyle Tucker, RF, HOU
The 2021 season was the first full one of Kyle Tucker‘s career, as he put up a 147 wRC+, .395 xwOBA, .557 SLG, and 4.8 fWAR to solidify his spot in the Astros lineup. Whatever doubt was left after the 2020 season due to the small sample size or other factors can be thrown out the window, as Tucker has played himself into the top 20 players in MLB. The 24-year-old was underrated all season long but has garnered national attention through his elite showing in the first two rounds of the playoffs.
2. Alex Bregman, 3B, HOU
It has been two straight underwhelming seasons for Alex Bregman, who had back-to-back 7+ win seasons in 2018 and 2019, but it’s too early to count him out as one of the best players in baseball. He has had back-to-back injury-riddled seasons but managed a 117 wRC+ and 2.9 fWAR in 133 games regardless. He put up a 108 wRC+ so far in these playoffs, but he has still gotten on base at a .364 clip. Bregman still one of the best hitters in baseball and can break out of his funk at any point.
1. Carlos Correa, SS, HOU
Carlos Correa is the best player in the World Series, and the best player hitting free agency this winter. He has been great in the postseason, coming up with big hit after big hit, including a game-winning home run in game one of the ALCS and a go-ahead two-run double in the clincher in the American League Division Series. Correa has shined in big games before, with multiple ALCS walk-off homers, and a career 134 postseason wRC+. Now, the face of the Astros’ cheating scandal and the biggest villain in baseball will try to win his second ring, this time without an asterisk.
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