American League Wild Card Series
1. Tampa Bay Rays vs. 8. Toronto Blue Jays
Don’t scoff at the Rays being the best team in a 60-game season. They did accomplished this feat in ways most teams can’t. A lot of unknown names, but just know that their pitching is mainly what got them here. Blake Snell still had a good year with an ERA just over 3.00 in 11 starts. Tyler Glasnow almost had 100 strikeouts in 11 starts. Their bullpen is anchored by Nick Anderson, Diego Castillo and John Curtiss. Brandon Lowe was their best hitter driving in 37 runs with 14 homers. If Austin Meadows is ready to go this lineup could click at just the right time.
The most intriguing young team of the season clinched the final spot. Let’s see what comes of them if Teoscar Hernandez continues his stellar season (.289 AVG 16 HR 34 RBI). Also Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was next in line (.308 AVG 11 HR 33 RBI), but how will Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. fair in the Postseason? Toronto’s rotation had some solid performers. Hyun Jin Ryu (2.69 ERA 72 K in 12 starts) was the bona fide ace and acquiring Taijuan Walker was a smart move with his 1.37 ERA in 6 starts for the Blue Jays. Their bullpen is more questionable, but they have been tinkering with it to find a balance.
Rays in 2 games (best of 3)
4. Cleveland Indians vs. 5. New York Yankees
The Tribe were hot down the stretch and a big reason for that was Shane Bieber (8-1 1.63 ERA 122 K) who won the Triple Crown for American League pitchers. The likely AL Cy Young award winner never faltered and is the clear ace of the staff. Carlos Carrasco provided a nice balance in the rotation with a 2.91 ERA. Brad Hand was perfect as the closer converting all 16 of his save opportunities. Jose Ramirez has a case for AL MVP with a .292 AVG and 46 RBI. The lineup didn’t provide much support the entire year, but having Francisco Lindor in any capacity helps boost the Indians chances.
Injuries affected them at various points of the season, but their team depth held up. DJ LeMahieu led the league in batting average (.364) and is a dangerous spark plug. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are both healthy are raring to go for a long Postseason run. Luke Voit has been one of those unsung heroes for them with 22 HR and 52 RBI on the year. If the Yankees vaunted bullpen play to their potential this won’t be easy for anyone. Zack Britton and Aroldis Chapman are up to the task of closing out games. Gerrit Cole was given the big bucks for moments like this and he should deliver. If Masahiro Tanaka or J.A. Happ can be the next guy to follow then watch out.
Yankees in 3 games (best of 3)
3. Minnesota Twins vs. 6. Houston Astros
They got exactly what they needed from Kenta Maeda with a 2.70 ERA and 80 strikeouts in his 11 starts. He anchors a solid rotation that has a stellar bullpen. The strength of Minnesota though is in their lineup. Nelson Cruz is still producing with a .303 AVG 16 HR 33 RBI season. Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario had solid run production with 27 and 42 RBI respectively.
The lineup has any number of guys that can get hot at any point. That might need to happen now with the way the season went for most of them. George Springer and Kyle Tucker were the lone bright spots, but Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa struggled mightily. They won’t have Justin Verlander or Roberto Osuna. Zack Greinke needs to be better than his 4.03 ERA would suggest. Framber Valdez was their best starter, but he might not be ready for this stage. Ryan Pressly was a solid closer, but not having Osuna in the 9th will hurt
Twins in 2 games (best of 3)
2. Oakland Athletics vs. 7. Chicago White Sox
It might be time to take them seriously. Their starting rotation is not a strength for them, but they do just enough. Once they have a lead their bullpen does the rest. Jake Diekman, Yusmeiro Petit, J.B. Wendelken and closer Liam Hendriks all had ERAs well under 2.00 in over 20 games played for each of them. Not having Matt Chapman will hurt, but Jake Lamb was a solid replacement (.267 AVG 3 HR 9 RBI) in his 13 games played for Oakland late in the year. If Matt Olson continues to be the main run producer this could be a dangerous lineup.
They have a legitimate contender for the AL MVP in Jose Abreu (.317 AVG 19 HR 60 RBI). Eloy Jimenez and Tim Anderson benefited greatly from Abreu’s presence and performance. Luis Robert is a future star, but did suffer through a slump down the stretch. Alex Colome was near perfect with a .081 ERA and 12 saves. Codi Heuer was solid in the setup role. Dallas Keuchel (1.99 ERA) in 11 starts showed that he still has another Postseason run in him. Lucas Giolito will need to be that shutdown starter this team needs.
Athletics in 3 games (best of 3)
National League Wild Card Series
1. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. 8. Milwaukee Brewers
If there was ever a more perfect time for the Dodgers to win the World Series, this would be the year. They’ve been the best team in baseball all year and they are stacked at almost every position. Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin have been solid in the rotation. Joe Kelly and Jake McGee have solidified the back end of the bullpen with Kenley Jansen being the closer. Cody Bellinger hasn’t had the same MVP like season, but having Mookie Betts, AJ Pollock and Corey Seager picking up the slack shows how deep this lineup really is.
Getting Daniel Vogelbach was a wise move since this lineup has never really clicked this season. Christian Yelich will be available this time around and Keston Hiura is a future star if the strikeout totals can be lowered. Their pitching hasn’t been a strength this year, but the bullpen has some solid depth. Devin Williams and Eric Yardley have been spectacular with ERAs at 1.54 or lower in at least 22 games pitched. Josh Hader is still a good closer, but his ability to consistently throw strikes will come into question. Brandon Woodruff has been a solid starter all year.
Dodgers in 2 games (best of 3)
4. San Diego Padres vs. 5. St. Louis Cardinals
The Padres have been determined to get here and they proved it when they started making deals in advance of the August 31 trade deadline. Trevor Rosenthal hasn’t given up an earned run in 9 games with 4 saves. Mike Clevinger had a complete game shutout for them in one of his 4 starts. Those two have exactly what the Padres needed when they acquired them. Dinelson Lamet has been a stud getting almost 100 strikeouts in his 12 starts. The lineup is no different with Wil Myers and Manny Machado doing exactly what was expected of them. Fernando Tatis Jr. is a new star figure in baseball and could be primed for a Postseason to remember. Eric Hosmer has that championship pedigree this team will need.
It wasn’t easy, but the Cardinals were expected to get here. Paul Goldschmidt has been the most consistent hitter all year and after him there isn’t much more. Yadier Molina has plenty of experience being in these playoff runs. If a Harrison Bader or Tommy Edman emerge, St. Louis could surprise some pundits. The bullpen is good, but not great. You know what you’re going to get out of Andrew Miller. Will Tyler Webb and John Gant continue their solid seasons into October? Adam Wainwright like Molina has been here many times before. Which Jack Flaherty will show up though? They’ll need the one they saw after the All-Star break from last season.
Padres in 3 games (best of 3)
3. Chicago Cubs vs. 6. Miami Marlins
The last time these two teams met in October was 2003. That was the Steve Bartman episode in Game 6 of the NLCS and the eventual Game 7 win by the Marlins. This isn’t the same Cubs team since they’ve exercised those demons and won a World Series back in 2016. I would argue their pitching is better now than in 2003 and their World Series year. Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks have been a great duo at the top of the rotation. The bullpen, while not great has a steady closer in Jeremy Jeffress. The lineup is stacked, but they have underachieved all year. Javier Baez isn’t the same and neither is Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. If one or two of them get back into gear this could be the spark plug they need.
This franchise has made the Postseason only two times. And both of those times they won a World Series. Why not have it happen again? Jesus Aguilar and Brian Anderson are the big boppers in the lineup. Miguel Rojas was just an afterthought, but has been the most consistent hitter. There are a lot of young pitchers in the mix, especially in the rotation. The bullpen has been good with Brandon Kintzler converting 12 saves and Yimi Garcia shoring up the setup role.
Cubs in 3 games (best of 3)
2. Atlanta Braves vs. 7. Cincinnati Reds
It was looking rough there for a moment, but they eventually figured it out. Atlanta’s bullpen is deep and was among the best in baseball. A.J. Minter, Chris Martin and Darren O’Day all had ERAs at 1.10 or lower in at least 19 games. Max Fried was their best starter, but they’ve had issues finding consistent help behind him. Mark Melancon had 11 saves to hold down the closer role. The lineup was the strength going into the season and it delivered. Freddie Freeman (.341 AVG 13 HR 53 RBI) and Marcell Ozuna (.338 AVG 18 HR 56 RBI) both should be considered for the NL MVP award. Ronald Acuna while not as good, was an integral part and should be counted on in October. Travis d’Arnaud (.321 AVG 9 HR 34 RBI) has been that solid complimentary piece all season.
They made quite a bit of noise in the offseason and that paid off with a Postseason berth. Newcomers Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos were the typical run producers they were supposed to be. However, Joey Votto wasn’t with the lineup protection he had. Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker were the most relied upon bats and will need to continue that into October. For once the Reds had a good rotation and that was led by Trevor Bauer (1.73 ERA 100K in 11 starts) who will be the favorite for the NL Cy Young. Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray were solid and that will need to continue. The bullpen was led by an underrated closer in Raisel Iglesias with 8 saves and 31 strikeouts in 22 games. Amir Garrett and recently acquired Archie Bradley are perfect complements in the setup role.
Braves in 3 games (best of 3)