The Most Surprising Prospects Added To 2020 MLB Playoff Rosters
(This story has been corrected to include Oakland's Mark Kiger debuting in the big leagues in the postseason.)
Until 2006, no player had made his big league debut in the postseason. That changed when Oakland's Mark Kiger got into two games in the American League Championship Series against Detroit. It happened again in 2015 when the Royals brought Adalberto Mondesi in as a pinch-hitter in the World Series.
The Royals won that championship, meaning Mondesi earned a World Series ring before ever appearing in a regular-season game. Kiger never played a regular-season game in the big leagues. This year, with their assignments to their teams’ postseason roster, three more players—Chas McCormick (Astros), Alex Kirilloff (Twins) and Shane McClanahan (Rays) have a chance to join Mondesi and Kiger.
That trio leads our list of the most surprising additions to this year’s postseason rosters, but they’re not the only ones.
Chas McCormick, OF, Astros
McCormick has yet to rank among Baseball America’s Top 30 Astros prospects. If McCormick gets into a game, he will become the first alumnus of Millersville (Pa.) to appear in the big leagues. He was a 21st-round senior sign in 2017 and hit .269/.386/.432 between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock in 2019. He was a non-roster invitee to this year’s spring training as well.
Alex Kirilloff, 1B/OF, Twins
Kirilloff can flat-out hit, and he’s proved it at every step of his pro career. He crushed in his pro debut—after missing his first year recovering from Tommy John surgery—when he hit .348/.392/.578 between both Class A levels. He wasn’t quite that good in Double-A in 2019, but was excellent nonetheless as a 21-year-old. He has the versatility to play both first base and the outfield, but at the very least could provide a potent bat off the bench in a pinch.
Shane McClanahan, LHP, Rays
As noted by BA correspondent Marc Topkin, McClanahan has a chance to be the first pitcher in big league history to make his debut in the postseason. Looking at his pure stuff, it’s easy to see why. McClanahan brings an upper-90s fastball and a devastating slider from the left side, which should easily make him a weapon out of the bullpen. The fact that very few of the players on the Blue Jays’ roster have ever faced McClanahan (he faced Alejandro Kirk in the Appalachian League playoffs two years ago) also adds an element of unfamiliarity that can be an X-factor in the postseason.
Shane McClanahan Becomes First Pitcher To Make MLB Debut In Postseason
On an otherwise forgettable night for the Rays, they did get one positive, promising glimpse of their future.
It’s not surprising that these players are on their teams’ postseason rosters, but it was a bit of a shock to see them reach the big leagues, even in this stunted, bizarre season.
Alejandro Kirk, C, Blue Jays
Kirk’s inclusion on the roster isn’t the surprising part. He was, after all, Toronto’s starting catcher down the stretch. That he got to the big leagues and nabbed that starting spot after peaking in high Class A in 2019, however, was stunning. But when he got to the big leagues, he hit (albeit in a small sample size) and hit the ball hard. In 20 batted ball events, Kirk had an average exit velocity of 95. While that’s likely to stabilize as he gets more at-bats (the highest average exit velo in the big leagues this year was 95.9 mph, from Fernando Tatis Jr.), his average of 91.7 mph last year suggests he is going to continue to hit the ball very hard as he gets deeper into his big league career.
Garrett Crochet, LHP, White Sox
Despite having zero minor league innings to his name, Crochet was a slam dunk to go on this roster. The White Sox’s first-round pick from this year’s draft has been dominant since the day he got to Chicago. Of the 85 pitches he threw this season, 45 were at 100 mph or faster, and eight of those were at 101 mph or faster. He had a swinging-strike percentage of 16.5 and racked up eight strikeouts in six innings.
Braxton Garrett, LHP, Marlins
Garrett ended 2019 with a start at Double-A Jacksonville and made two rocky appearances in the big leagues this year. In any other year, that probably doesn't earn you a spot on the playoff roster. In 2020, however, when rosters can be stretched to 28 players, it makes sense. Garrett can provide an extra lefty out of the pen, and one whom none of the Cubs players has ever faced.
Keibert Ruiz, C, Dodgers
Ruiz started his big league career with a bang by launching a home run in his first at-bat during his debut on Aug. 16 but played in just one game thereafter and spent the rest of his time at the Dodgers' alternate training site. He's the clear third catcher on Los Angeles' roster, behind Will Smith and Austin Barnes.