Here are 10 players to watch in the 2023 MLB Playoffs

This postseason will be sure to have its fair share of moments and surprises

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The 2023 MLB season has had its fair share of outstanding and record-breaking player performances.

Unfortunately, not every great player will be playing this postseason. The phenom known as Shohei Ohtani won't be seen on the diamond. And this year's likely American League Cy Young winner, Gerrit Cole, won't be playing this October, either.

But this postseason is sure to be filled with great player performances, and some will do well enough to take their team's over the top. Here are 10 players to watch as they pursue a World Series title:

Ronald Acuña Jr., Atlanta Braves

Acuña has had a year for the ages for the Atlanta Braves. He became the fifth player in MLB history to hit 40 home runs and nab at least 40 stolen bases in a season, and then went on to start his own category by ending the season with 40 home runs and 70 stolen bases.

By the way, Acuña also led the National League in runs, hits, on-base percentage and OPS.

The Braves ended the season with the best record in baseball and are a clear favorite to win the Fall Classic. If they do make a run for the title, Acuña's bat will certainly have to continue the level of play from his historic regular season.

Freddie Freeman, Los Angeles Dodgers

It was a real tough choice between Freeman and his Dodgers teammate, Mookie Betts. Either way, Betts and Freeman make the most formidable top two spots in the lineup this postseason.

Freeman, for what its worth, has stellar postseason numbers (Betts not as much). In 46 games, he has a .296 batting average, .403 on-base percentage, along with 10 home runs and 23 RBIs. During the 2021 World Series, where he got his only ring with the Braves, Freeman played well with a .636 slugging percentage.

Plus, with Freeman behind Betts in the batting order, it should help the star outfielder get better at-bats.

Jordan Montgomery, Texas Rangers

The mid-year trade acquisition has pitched like the Rangers' ace since moving to the Lone Star state.

In 11 starts, Montgomery has a 2.79 ERA and is averaging more than six innings per start.

The Rangers have, statistically, the best offense in the American League, and only rank behind the Braves overall. But outside of Montgomery, their pitching is a question mark.

Starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi has struggled in September after coming back off the IL, and starter Jon Gray will be starting the postseason on the IL.

The Rangers, with Bruce Bochy as their manager, could be a surprise team this postseason, but they will need their pitching to hold up. And to win the World Series, you need an ace.

Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies

First, let's hope Angel Hernandez isn't an umpire this October.

Second, the Phillies in recent years live or die based on Harper's bat.

Last season, Harper won the National League Championship Series MVP as the Phillies went on to the World Series, where they lost to the Astros. In the NLCS, Harper had a .400 batting average and an .850 slugging percentage. In the World Series, Harper batted .200 with a .400 slugging percentage.

This season, the Phillies are a .500 team without Harper in the lineup.

With Trea Turner not batting like he has in years, and Kyle Schwarber hitting on the interstate, the Phillies are relying on Harper to have another postseason performance that great players like him should have.

Gunnar Henderson, Baltimore Orioles

The odds-on favorite to be the American League Rookie of the Year, Henderson has been a standout amongst a team that finished with the best record in the American League. An impressive accomplishment for a 21-year-old.

When the Orioles play their first game in the Divisional Sound on Saturday, Oct. 7, it is all but certain that it will be Henderson leading off the O's batting order.

Nothing to this point has suggested that Henderson will struggle under the pressure of the playoffs, and it's a shame we have to wait nearly a week to see what he can do.

Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves

It has been a solid sophomore season for Strider, who broke a Braves modern franchise record with 281 strikeouts.

Two of the Braves' other starters, Max Fried and Charlie Morton, are entering the postseason on the 15-day injured list, but thankfully for Atlanta the Braves have a bye for the wild card round.

It's unclear if Fried or Morton will come back in time for the Divisional Sound, and if they do make it back, it's unclear what state their arms will be in.

With questions in their rotation, the games where Strider takes the mound will be must-wins for the Braves.

In his one postseason start last season, Strider gave up five runs to the Phillies and didn't make it out of the third inning. If he performs like that again this time around, it might be panic time in Atlanta.

The Arizona Diamondbacks will face the Milwaukee Brewers in a National League Wild Card Series.

Randy Arozarena, Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays left fielder practically got introduced to the majors by playing in the postseason.

In 2020, Arozarena played 23 games in the regular season before tearing it up in the postseason. The 2023 All-Star won the ALCS MVP after the Rays beat the Astros in seven games and then went on to bat .364 with three home runs in the World Series.

Overall, Arozarena has a .333 batting average and a ridiculous .705 slugging percentage in 31 lifetime postseason games.

Arozarena appears to be one of those special players who not only meets but exceeds expectations in the playoffs.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

The three-time All-Star has received some heat from fans north of the border in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, the Jays were swept in a four-game series against the Rangers. Both teams needed to win games to ensure their spots in the postseason, and the Rangers undoubtedly bested the Jays.

In the series, Guerrero went 2-for-15, leading some to point out his inability to perform when it matters most.

Albeit in not that large of a sample size, Guerrero has gone -- guess what -- 2-for-15 in four lifetime playoff games.

If Guerrero struggles again this postseason, criticism will only get louder for the second-generation All-Star. Now is the time for him to silence his doubters.

Luis Arráez, Miami Marlins

The Marlins played their way in the National League's final wild card spot in the last week of September while mostly missing their best player, Luis Arráez.

Arráez has sat out, with the exception of one pinch hit appearance on Friday, since Sept. 23 due to a sprained ankle he suffered during fielding practice.

Arráez finished the season with a .354 batting average, earning him his second straight National League batting title. Even more impressively, Arráez entered the second-half of the season hitting .383, giving him a real shot at Ted Williams' godly 1941 season, when he became the last person to hit above .400 in a season (.406).

This postseason marks the fourth time in Marlins history that they have made the playoffs. You can be sure that Arráez will be in the lineup for the occasion.

Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

Kershaw's resume is more than impressive. Three Cy Youngs, an MVP, 210 wins and a career ERA of 2.48 already make Kershaw one of the greatest pitchers of all time.

However, the knock on Kershaw has always been that he does not perform the same in the playoffs. Kershaw has a 4.22 ERA in the playoffs overall, but he has put up confounding numbers such as a 7.36 ERA in two starts in the 2018 World Series.

Kershaw seemed to quiet down his critics when he gave two solid starts in the Dodgers' World Series victory over the Rays in 2020, but one good series does not erase questions raised from a career of postseason struggles.

In the playoffs, if a starter, especially a team's ace, pitches poorly and gives up a handful of runs or more, it could sink a team's chances.

As impressive as it is for Kershaw to still be the ace of the Dodgers staff at the age of 35, it still remains a question what pitcher L.A. will get this October. The Dodgers could very well sink or swim based off of what Kershaw does on the mound.

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