The 2017 MLB postseason is here.
With the wildcard games over, eight teams remain to battle for baseball’s ultimate prize. While every team has great players on their roster, some stand alone as the sport’s most spectacular athletes. These “freaks” are outliers—they may not all necessarily have the best stats, but they’re the players most capable of using their phenomenal athletic tools to do unbelievable things. When a jaw-dropping play happens this postseason, there’s a good chance one of these athletic freaks will be responsible.
1. Mookie Betts
What Makes Him a Freak: Betts, a 24-year-old outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, has been a freak athlete since high school. As a member of his high school bowling team, Betts averaged a score around 230. Considering that only one player on the PBA tour averaged better than 230 last season, Betts easily could’ve become a dominant professional bowler. On the basketball team, Betts threw down slam dunks despite consistently being the smallest player on the court (he’s now listed at 5-foot-9). While Betts played mostly infield in high school, he’d also occasionally toe the rubber. His high school coach remembers him once hurling a 96-mph fastball during a game. Betts nearly won the AL MVP trophy last season, and he’ll likely capture one in the future. This season, he recorded 102 RBIs and 31 defensive runs saved (the second-most of any MLB player). I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how he turned this into an out.
2. Yasiel Puig
What Makes Him a Freak: Puig, a 26-year-old outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, simply does things no one else can on the baseball diamond. Like this throw:
The word “freak” has been associated with Puig ever since the Cuban-born slugger played his first MLB game in 2013. His physique is befitting a Marvel superhero, as he was once measured at just 7 percent body fat. Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel told Men’s Fitness that “(Puig’s) got a body we can’t explain.” That muscular build allows him to both launch 440-foot moonshots when he barrels one up or snap his bat like a toothpick when he whiffs on strike three:
3. Trea Turner
What Makes Him a Freak: Turner, a 24-year-old shortstop for the Washington Nationals, is a speed demon. He played in just 98 games this season due to a broken wrist, but still managed to swipe 46 stolen bases (third-most in MLB). Last season, Turner hit a max speed of 22.7 mph on two occasions. For context, the fastest max speed an NFL ball carrier has hit so far this season is 21.52 mph. Look for Turner to wreak havoc with his supersonic speed this postseason.
4. Javy Baez
What Makes Him a Freak: Baez, a 24-year-old infielder for the Chicago Cubs, is an electrifying athlete. One game, you might see him launch a 450-plus foot home run. The next, you might see him teleport across the field to snag an unbelievable catch. But perhaps Baez’s most elite ability is his tagging. Sounds strange, I know. But Baez is a wizard at catching the ball and applying a tag in one lightning-fast motion, and it’s helped him get a ton of guys out:
Baez has plenty of pop in his bat and he’s also an unreal defender, but don’t be surprised if one of his trademark tags turns the tide of a game this postseason.
5. Bryce Harper
What Makes Him a Freak: Harper is MLB’s equivalent of LeBron James in that everyone knew he was going to be a freaking superstar well before he graduated high school. When he was 15 years old, Harper hit a 570-foot home run. Now a 24-year-old outfielder for the Washington Nationals, Harper already has one NL MVP award under his belt. Despite being limited to just 111 games this season due to injury, Harper still slammed 29 home runs and posted a ridiculous .413 OBP. Harper is the total package, and he’s also a freak inside the weight room:
Harper looks to be healthy heading into the postseason, which is bad news for Nationals’ opponents.
6. Aroldis Chapman
What Makes Him a Freak: Chapman, a 29-year-old relief pitcher for the New York Yankees, can throw a baseball harder than anyone on the planet. He once unleashed an 105.1 mph fastball, the fastest recorded pitch in MLB history. That was in 2010, but Chapman’s arm is still mythically strong—he threw a 103.7 mph fastball just a few days ago. One Statcast leaderboard displays the fastest pitches of the season, and it’s totally dominated by Chapman. They had to invent a “Chapman Filter” (an option which toggles all of Chapman’s pitches off the leaderboard) just to keep the page interesting. Oh, and he can Leg Press nearly 1,000 pounds. There might not be a more intimidating pitcher in all of baseball.
7. Aaron Judge
What Makes Him a Freak: Judge, a 25-year-old rookie outfielder for the New York Yankees, will likely win both the AL Rookie of the Year and the AL MVP award this season. He’s a 6-foot-7, 282-pound behemoth who pulverizes baseballs. He wears size 17 shoes and can Bench Press nearly 400 pounds. His 52 home runs ranked second in the MLB this season and his average exit velocity of 95.6 mph ranked first. “Watching his BP, I mean, I’ve seen balls go farther than balls I have ever seen. Obviously, he is a massive human being. He has that kind of power,” Yankees teammate Chase Headley told ESPN. “He’s a freak.” Judge was also a dominant tight end during his high school days, earning offers from Notre Dame, Stanford and UCLA.
8. Francisco Lindor
What Makes Him a Freak: Lindor, a 23-year-old shortstop for the Cleveland Indians, is one of the game’s most spectacular defensive players (he won the AL Platinum Glove award last season). But it’s his recent power explosion that earns him a spot on this list. Slick-fielding shortstops who measure in at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds aren’t supposed to be home run threats. Yet Lindor crushed 33 homers this season, which was eight more than any other shortstop. His 11 “No Doubt Home Runs”—which are defined as home runs that clear the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and land at least 50 feet past it—were tied for the 6th-most of any player in the MLB. Equally capable of delivering fireworks with his glove or his bat, Lindor’s an athletic marvel.
9. Jose Altuve
What Makes Him a Freak: Before Altuve, a 27-year-old second baseman for the Houston Astros, came along, the last MLB player of his stature was Fred Patek. Patek retired in 1981, so that gives you a sense of how rare it is for a player of Altuve’s size (he’s generously listed at 5-foot-6) to make it in the MLB. But Altuve’s not just surviving in the big leagues—he’s thriving. He’s a front-runner for AL MVP after hitting .346 with 24 home runs and 32 steals. He has the best hand-eye coordination of any player in MLB, as he’s recorded four straight seasons of 200-plus hits. Altuve’s also devilishly fast, as he recently recorded the fastest home-to-first time (3.33 seconds) ever measured by Statcast. You don’t become this good at his size without being a bonafide athletic freak.
Photo Credit:Rob Carr/Getty Images, Stephen Dunn/Getty Images, Patrick McDermott/Getty Images, Rich Schultz/Getty Images, Jason Miller/Getty Images, G Fiume/Getty Images, Jon Durr/Getty Images, Jamie Squire/Getty Images