TBS crew spotlights young stars to watch

TBS crew spotlights young stars to watch

The greatest collection of 25-and-under talent in any Major League Baseball season has been a constant and defining trend in 2015, from Opening Day through All-Star Week and the conclusion of the regular season. So it will not be surprising if this postseason follows that storyline.

Which young player is most likely to impact a series? Dusty Baker, Pedro Martinez and Gary Sheffield will be studio analysts for TBS' exclusive coverage of the National League playoffs starting with tonight's Cubs-Pirates Wild Card Game presented by Budweiser at 8 ET, and each was asked that question during a national media conference call on Wednesday. Here were their responses:

Sheffield: "Kris Bryant. There's something about this kid that I just love. I like a lot of players, but I love this guy. You could put him anywhere on the field, he will go there and he's still going to hit. ... When you have guys hit 10-12 homers during Spring Training and then as soon as the season starts, where are they? But what happened to him after Spring Training, he had to go down [to the Minors], we know why. But to come back and not be bitter about it and just do his job, and now his team's in the playoffs, I love this kid."

Martinez: "I'm going with a sleeper. Nobody's saying anything. I think Noah Syndergaard is one kid that could surprise the heck out of everybody. He throws near 100 [mph], he's going about it quietly, it's building up his experience, has the demeanor to be out there, he's pitching a critical game. He could become big. Now, Jacob deGrom versus Clayton Kershaw, you see that uphill battle. But having the extra arm just like deGrom and not well-known, not well-mentioned, could surprise a lot of people. I like Noah Syndergaard."

Baker: "See, I like Carlos Correa. I like him a lot. He's hitting third in his rookie year. That's not easy. I batted fifth behind Hank Aaron my rookie year and that's not an easy task, and this guy's hitting third. But you know something, he's got people surrounding him that aren't afraid. When I look over there at their right field, second base -- these guys come to play every day, and they got Carlos Gomez out there acting crazy and loose and everything."

Martinez reverted to his own postseason-veteran mode by responding to Baker's choice of the Houston shortstop: "Dusty, if I have you in the third spot, it's for a reason, right? I'm not letting you do damage to me, I'm keeping those two in front of you off the bases. And then I'm dealing with you."

"But how are you going to keep them off the bases?" Baker asked. "You can keep Jose Altuve off the bases."

"They're a swing-and-miss team," Martinez said of the Astros. "They either hit the homer or they swing and miss."

"But Altuve doesn't swing and miss too much," Baker said.

"That's your problem," Martinez said. "You have to keep Altuve away from the bases, and then you pitch Correa, and you use his young experience to try to fool him."

Baker, Martinez and Sheffield join Casey Stern in the TBS studio as TBS begins its ninth consecutive year of live MLB postseason coverage. Play-by-play man Ernie Johnson will be joined by analysts Cal Ripken Jr. and Ron Darling for the NL Wild Card Game, as well as reporter Matt Winer.

The network's NL Division Series coverage will begin Friday, when the Cardinals host the Wild Card winner, followed by Game 1 of the Mets-Dodgers series. Johnson will provide play-by-play for Mets-Dodgers with Darling, Ripken and reporter Sam Ryan. Brian Anderson will call the other NLDS with analysts Dennis Eckersley and Joe Simpson and Winer. TBS also will broadcast the NL Championship Series, scheduled to start Oct. 17.

"I love this time of year, and I love being here with these former players," Baker said.

Speaking of young talent, all three studio analysts stressed the importance of handling the Matt Harvey situation immediately. Harvey apologized on Tuesday for missing the Mets' workout.

"As a manager, you've got to handle it right away," Baker said. "It has to be known from the get-go. My No. 1 rule was, 'Don't be late to work. Call me, but don't be late a couple times in a short period of time.' You have to handle it when he's young, because what's going to happen later on? And you have to handle the teammates' perspective."

"Harvey is at an age and time in baseball where you can still hold the leash," Martinez said. "I know you're a big horse, you have a lot of blood, you want to run your race, but this is our race, we wait for the rest of the horses. They still have plenty of time to hold the leash on Harvey. Everybody messes up one day. He gets the benefit of the doubt. I don't know how much it happened in the clubhouse, but I think some of the vets will pull him aside and get into his face and say, 'Are you in?'"

Their NL Wild Card picks? Baker, the former Cubs manager, said he goes with the Pirates because of the home-field advantage. Sheffield said "I just can't pick against Jake Arrieta," and Martinez said he would go with Pittsburgh if it becomes a bullpen battle but otherwise chooses the Cubs if Arrieta goes deep into the game.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.