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Wild cards to watch in the Wild Card games

Prospect edition

National League Tiebreaker Game - Colorado Rockies v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

After a pair of National League Game 163’s that we watched from our laptops at work, the 2018 MLB postseason picture is set. The Wild Card round kicks off today with the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies getting right back at it at Wrigley. On Wednesday, the payroll scale tips as the New York Yankees host Oakland.

It’s one and done, win or go home, for all the marbles.

Former prospects —from chart toppers to organizational depth— decorate each of the four wild card team’s rosters. Let’s look at some who could make a big difference on Tuesday and Wednesday.

David Bote, IF/OF, Chicago Cubs

Bote, a 2012 18th rounder, was never a talked-about prospect. His defensive versatility resembles another Cubs minor leaguer, Chesney Young, who most expected to reach the big leagues before Bote did.

Injuries ravaged baseball this year, the Cubs not immune. Bote was recalled in April by the 2016 World Series champs to replace Ben Zobrist on the active roster.

Used marginally throughout June, he played first, second and third base. He can play outfield, though he has just one appearance in left field. (I’m doubly listing him as outfield eligible regardless.)

He returned in July when Kris Bryant went down and was extremely impressive, hitting .458 in 32 plate appearances for the month.

On August 12, in a nationally televised ESPN game against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs had been held scoreless all night until Bote smacked a pinch-hit, game-winning grand slam in the bottom of the ninth.

Bote played hero again (had to work in a Bowie reference somewhere) at the end of the month during Player’s Weekend, blasting one out of Wrigley’s confines in the 10th inning for another game-winner.

The postseason is the time to be clutch, and Bote has proven he has it in him.

David Dahl, OF, Colorado Rockies

The Rockies postseason roster will be veteran heavy, especially with Matt Holliday brought back at the tail end of the season. His presence will likely see Garrett Hampson excluded, and might leave off Ryan McMahon.

David Dahl’s bugaboo in his young pro career has been health and only health. When he is on the field, all he’s done is hit. The 10th overall pick in 2012 has been worth the hype, as long as he can stay off the disabled list.

Unfortunately, after a fantastic 2016 rookie debut, he was limited to just 19 minor league games in 2017 with a nagging back injury.

Injuries were on Dahl’s agenda once again in 2018. He broke his foot in the spring, battling a stomach virus early on in the year as well.

He played just 19 MiLB games again this year, but went from 0 to 76 MLB contests.

In those 76 games, he hit .276 with 16 home runs and an .866 OPS. He also drove in 48, and since mid-August, has jumped veteran Gerardo Parra as Colorado’s primary left-fielder.

In the Game 163 loss to the Dodgers, he hit third for Bud Black’s team. No matter the length of the Rockies 2018 playoff run, Dahl is going to be a factor.

Texas Rangers v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Franklin Barreto, IF, Oakland A’s

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted yesterday (is there any other way to get news?) that former top prospect Franklin Barreto will be among the AL Wild Card participants, usurping Dustin Fowler to make the 25-man roster.

Barreto was the headliner in the forgettable Josh Donaldson trade of 2014 (unless you’re Toronto) and has not yet developed into the everyday middle-infielder the A’s had hoped.

Like Fowler, Barreto has good wheels. However, Barreto has impressed internally with a strong September, including a two-run homer in the season finale Sunday. He has defensive history in the outfield, but that is distant, without an appearance outside of second or short since the 2016 Venezuelan Winter League.

Oakland is hoping this assignment gives the former blue chip prospect a vote of confidence for an impact this postseason, perhaps also going into 2019 as the A’s remain hopeful he can take over shortstop long-term.

Stephen Tarpley, LHP, New York Yankees

A pitcher’s life is simply better left-handed.

Okay, that’s a generalization, but while Stephen Tarpley’s career outlook remains an admittedly lower bar than say, highly regarded prospects Chance Adams and Jonathan Loaisiga, Tarpley has become one of Yankees manager Aaron Boone’s most trusted bullpen arms.

Originally a third round pick by Baltimore, he was traded to New York via Pittsburgh in 2016 as one of two minor leaguers for Ivan Nova.

Fully converted to the bullpen in 2017, Tarpley’s been lights out since. This season, he began at Double-A Trenton (1.26 ERA, .93 WHIP in 35.2 innings), saw his first Triple-A action (2.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in 34 innings) and was added to the 40-man roster and promoted to the big league club in September.

He has just nine MLB innings under his belt, but hasn’t allowed a run since his first appearance and hasn’t allowed a hit in his last six outings. He’s capable of facing multiple batters, but in a postseason expected to be feature a lot of team’s bullpens, he could be a valuable lefty specialist at minimum this October.