Scouting the Playoff Races - National League

Each year there are players who take their games to the next level in the hunt for playoff baseball. Some of those same players then become household names on a national scale, as David Freese did last fall. This year, there will be more players stepping up to alter their team's fortunes. Here's a look at some of those players in the National League.

Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants

Yes, the Giants playoff berth is all wrapped up, but let's look ahead to October. Tim Lincecum has been much better down the stretch, but he's not the same guy he was in the Giants' last run to the World Series. San Francisco needs Bumgarner to step into that role, along with Matt Cain. And, the good news for the Giants is that they can rely on their big left-hander in the playoffs. He has grown in leaps and bounds in terms of arsenal development, and he's now a full-fledged four pitch pitcher. In other words, if something fails him, he now has other weapons to go to. His 90-94 mph fastball and frequently used plus slider are his best weapons, but he also has a very serviceable curveball and changeup to go to.

Lance Lynn, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals

If St. Louis is going to make it into October baseball and have some staying power, they are going to rely on the quality depth in their rotation. A big part of that rotation is Lance Lynn. The big right-hander has emerged as a pitcher with a swing and miss stuff in 2012, and St. Louis is going to need him to maintain that in the coming weeks. Armed with a fastball that sits at 91-95 mph, Lynn pounds the zone with his fastball and only sporadically goes to his secondary pitches. It's not that he lacks quality in that department, however. His curveball is an outstanding weapon.

Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Star power and how well stars perform tend to make or break teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers. So, with that said, it's fairly obvious that the Dodgers need Matt Kemp to re-emerge and carry their offense as the season winds down. It's hard to knock Kemp, because on paper his season is still very impressive. But, we also know what he's capable of when he's completely on top of his game. Kemp has been caught out front in 2012 more than we're use to seeing, and the changeup has been an effective pitch against him of late. If the Dodgers have a shot at a playoff run, it rests on the shoulders of Kemp and his ability to stay on his back leg and drive the ball to the gaps and out of the park.

Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Milwaukee Brewers

Given his limited amount of time on the mound remaining in 2012, of course Yovani Gallardo won't be able to pitch the Brewers to the playoffs on his own. But, if they do continue to mount and pull off an impressive wildcard comeback, Gallardo will have played a major role. He's been the consistent ace they've needed, and he's becoming a more rounded pitcher before our eyes. His 91-93 mph fastball is still key in his attack, but we're also seeing more variety on his breaking ball. Gallardo has featured the slider much more of late to go along with his plus, late breaking curveball. A front end starter may not be able to completely carry a team, but it sure doesn't hurt to have one when you're in a situation like the Brewers'.

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