Beltway Freshmen Bring Teen Spirit to Postseason

(The following was originally published at The Captain’s Blog; follow me on Twitter at@williamnyy23).

Machado has made a rapid rise from high school to the postseason.

Who says the Beltway operates under an Old Boys Network? Not only do the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles boast two of the younger teams in baseball, but each club also features a precocious teenager playing an integral role in their everyday starting lineup.

It’s rare enough for any team, much less a playoff caliber one, to rely on a teenager during the regular season. In the 112 years of baseball’s modern era, only 40 positions players have amassed over 200 plate appearances before their age-20 season, and the Nationals’ Bryce Harper (597 PA) and Orioles’ Manny Machado (202 PA) rank among them. However, by playing in October, the two rookies have joined an even more exclusive club.

Before the start of this postseason, only 10 teenage position players had appeared in a postseason game, but three names have since been added to the list. Along with the Texas Rangers’ Jurickson Profar, Harper and Machado have already injected unprecedented youth into the 2012 postseason. Now, can they make a meaningful impact?

Teenage Position Players in the Postseason, Since 1901

Note: Age is as of June 30 in each season.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

Harper's star was on the ascendant before turning 16. (Photo: SI)

Machado and Harper have already amassed more postseason at bats than all but five fellow teenagers, and nearly all from that group made significant contributions to their team. Aside from the Chicago Cubs’ Phil Cavarretta, who went 3-24 in the 1935 World Series, the other teens surpassing the 10 plate appearance plateau all excelled in October. Most notably, a 19-year old Andruw Jones batted .345/.486/.690 in the 1996 postseason, including a memorable two-HR game against the Andy Pettitte in the first game of the World Series. Not far behind Jones in terms of overall production was Justin Upton. In 2007, the Diamondbacks’ young outfielder posted OPS rates of 1.350 and .919 in the NLDS and NLCS. The New York Giants’ Freddie Lindstrom, who was only 18 when he played in the 1924 World Series, and Oakland Athletics’ Claudell Washington had more modest postseason OPS rates in their teenage postseason appearances, but each player’s contribution was worthy of a veteran superstar.

In order for Machado and Harper to join the ranks of October’s best young guns, they have some catching up to do. Each player has only managed one hit so far, which puts them on par with Profar, who singled in his only at bat before the Rangers were eliminated. However, with their teams tied 1-1 in the LDS, and two more rounds to go should they advance, there’s still plenty of time for Machado and Harper to leave their mark on the postseason. Eventually, youth must be served, and for the Nationals and Orioles, there would be no time better than this October.