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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

No Mariners, but there are still plenty of fun players to watch in these MLB playoffs

Mookie Betts, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is a seven-time all-star and two-time World Series winner.  (Tribune News Service)
By Scott Allen Washington Post

As MLB’s postseason kicks off Tuesday without the Seattle Mariners, here’s a look at some of the most fun players – one from each team – to watch. The rookies, veterans, mashers and defensive wizards among this group all figure to have a major say in which club lifts the Commissioner’s Trophy as World Series champs one month from now.

Baltimore Orioles: Gunnar Henderson

Back in the playoffs for the first time since 2016, the American League East champion, homer hose-toting Orioles just might be baseball’s most fun team. Henderson, the favorite to be named the franchise’s first rookie of the year since closer Gregg Olson in 1989, is the most exciting of Baltimore’s young crop of stars. Splitting time in the field between shortstop and third base, the 22-year-old broke Cal Ripken Jr.’s Orioles rookie record for extra-base hits with 66, including 28 home runs. He also legged out nine triples, including the rarely seen three-bagger on a sharp groundball to left field.

Minnesota Twins: Michael A. Taylor

Fun: Twins Manager Rocco Baldelli and his wife, Allie, recently welcomed a pair of actual twins to the world. Less fun: Minnesota has an almost unfathomable 18-game playoff losing streak dating back to 2004. Rookie third baseman Royce Lewis had a stellar season after being called up in late May, including a ridiculous four grand slams in the span of 18 games, but the former No. 1 overall pick could be limited in the playoffs by a hamstring injury, so the pick here is Michael A. Taylor. Known mostly for his Gold Glove defense in center field, the former Nationals fan favorite and 2019 World Series champion hit a career-high 21 home runs after being acquired in a trade with the Royals in January. He’s a career .316 hitter in the playoffs with four home runs in 38 at-bats.

Houston Astros: Kyle Tucker

Tucker rarely shows much emotion on the field, but the AL RBI king’s left-handed swing, which has drawn comparisons to Ted Williams, is a thing of beauty. Tucker drove in a career-high 112 runs despite slumping down the stretch as the Astros overtook the Texas Rangers to clinch their sixth AL West title in the last six full seasons. After hitting three home runs with six RBIs in 13 playoff games last season, King Tuck is looking to help the Astros become the first repeat World Series champion since the Yankees won three straight titles from 1998 through 2000.

Tampa Bay Rays: Randy Arozarena

Cleveland limited Arozarena to one hit in nine at-bats in last year’s first-round series sweep, but the 28-year-old outfielder has often shined brightest in the postseason, including an MLB playoff record 10 home runs during Tampa Bay’s run to the 2020 World Series. Arozarena is poised for another memorable October after hitting a career-high 23 home runs and being named to his first all-star team. The Cuban-born Mexican citizen led Mexico to the semifinals of the World Baseball Classic this spring, flashing his signature crossed-arms celebration along the way. Expect to see a lot more of that this fall.

Texas Rangers: Adolis García

Rookie Evan Carter has provided a spark since the Rangers called up their top prospect in September, but it’s the player he temporarily replaced in right field who could be the most fun to watch in October. García, who burst on the scene as a 28-year-old in 2021 after defecting from Cuba five years earlier, hit a career-high 39 homers this season while earning his second all-star nod, despite missing two weeks with a knee injury. Carter has shifted to left field since García, who will be making his playoff debut, returned to the lineup.

Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Bo Bichette would be a worthy selection, but Vladito is the pick for the Blue Jays, who face the Twins in the first round. Guerrero hasn’t replicated the monster numbers he put up in 2021, but he still finished with 26 home runs and 94 RBIs. Despite battling knee inflammation, the reigning Home Run Derby champion got hot in September, with six home runs, 15 RBIs and more walks than strikeouts, to help the Blue Jays clinch consecutive playoff berths for the first time since 2016. Guerrero, who always wears his heart on his sleeve, is 4 for 17 with one RBI in four career postseason games.

Atlanta Braves: Ronald Acuña Jr.

Outside of Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, who is home for the playoffs once again, there’s not a more exciting player in baseball than Acuña. The 25-year-old outfielder became the fifth member of the exclusive 40-40 club, and he did it in historic fashion, with 73 stolen bases to go along with his 41 home runs. (No other member of the club stole more than 46 bases in his 40-40 season.) It’s easy to forget that Acuña missed the Braves’ run to the 2021 World Series after tearing his ACL in July. He’s fully healthy this year and ready to build on a regular season for the ages.

Milwaukee Brewers: Devin Williams

While many of today’s closers attempt to blow hitters away with triple-digit heat, Williams has found success fooling them with his signature high-spin change-up. The pitch, which Williams threw 58% of the time while posting a 1.53 ERA and 36 saves during the regular season, is so effective it has its own name – the Airbender. Williams, the 2020 NL rookie of the year and a two-time all-star, will be making his postseason debut. He was unavailable for the Brewers’ NLDS loss to the Braves in 2021 after breaking his pitching hand punching a wall in frustration after Milwaukee celebrated its NL Central title.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Mookie Betts

Betts, a seven-time all-star and two-time World Series champion, established a career high with 39 home runs for the NL West champion Dodgers while playing Gold Glove defense at second base and in right field. He was also involved in one of the best fan interactions of the season. Standing in the on-deck circle at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 2, Betts struck up a conversation with a fan behind home plate who vowed to give his soon-to-be-born daughter the middle name “Mookie” if Betts hit a home run in his next at-bat. Betts launched a 463-foot bomb into the left field bleachers. After the fan shared his daughter’s birth certificate on social media a week later, Betts called it “one of the coolest moments” of his career.

Philadelphia Phillies: Kyle Schwarber

With apologies to Trea Turner and Bryce Harper, both of whom ooze fun and excitement on the diamond, sometimes you just want to watch a dude pummel a baseball as far as he can – or fail spectacularly trying. Schwarber is the ultimate boom or bust bopper. He hit a paltry .197 and led the league in strikeouts for a second consecutive season, but he also blasted 47 home runs. That’s one fewer round-tripper than the left-handed swinging Schwarber had singles, which is fun. Schwarber’s average exit velocity when he does make contact ranks in the 94th percentile.

Miami Marlins: Luis Arraez

After being acquired from the Twins for right-hander Pablo López in January, Arraez hit .354 to join DJ LeMahieu as the only players to win a batting title in both leagues. The second baseman and clubhouse leader, who was hitting .400 in late June, did it in back-to-back seasons, helping the Marlins go from 69 wins a year ago to the franchise’s first postseason berth outside of the coronavirus-shortened 2020 campaign since 2003. Arraez, a Venezuela native, was at the center of a fun moment during the Marlins’ clinching celebration when he poured beer over teammate Jake Burger’s head during an interview while shouting “hamburguesa.” After missing time down the stretch with an ankle injury, Arraez is expected back for Miami’s first-round series with the Phillies.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Corbin Carroll

Carroll, 23, had a historic rookie season to help lead the Diamondbacks back to the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound outfielder, who boasts elite sprint speed and a ton of pop for someone his size, became the first rookie in major league history with at least 25 home runs and 50 stolen bases. He’ll be one to watch for years to come, but blink and you might miss him.