American League Wild Card Series
3. Cleveland Guardians vs. 6. Tampa Bay Rays
The one constant for the Rays the past decade has been a pitching staff that has plenty of depth and is the main reason they are Postseason participants. That is no different this year as their rotation is as strong as its ever been with Shane McClanahan as their ace. Tyler Glasnow has returned from Tommy John surgery and could be that extra spark to make a deep run. Jason Adam has been a force in the bullpen this year and with the return of Pete Fairbanks that only adds to their arsenal. Randy Arozarena had a fantastic run in September and his Postseason heroics of 2020 weren’t that long ago. Expect him to make some noise again. There needs to be more from the lineup if they want to play in the Division Series. Could that be Wander Franco with his return from injury?
Cleveland managed to be the sole representative from the AL Central. Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie and Cal Quantrill anchored a rotation that just about guaranteed a win for the Guardians down the stretch. Emmanuel Clase saved 42 games and is considered one of the best closers in baseball currently. Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez were fantastic during the season and should continue that into October. Steven Kwan was a constant all year and will be a tough out for any opponent. Can Josh Naylor, Amed Rosario or Oscar Gonzalez be that other guy to ease the burden on Ramirez and Gimenez to perform?
Guardians in 3 games (best of 3)
4. Toronto Blue Jays vs. 5. Seattle Mariners
They have returned to the Postseason for the first time since their 116 win season of 2001. The Seattle Mariners roster boast a youth movement that is led by the likely AL Rookie of they Year in Julio Rodriguez. If he returns to form having come back from injury the Mariners will be in a good spot in October. Relative unknowns in Cal Raleigh and Ty France were constant performers in the lineup and Eugenio Suarez had a resurgent season leading the team in home runs (31) and RBI (87). The youth movement was also apparent in the pitching staff with Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Andres Munoz all being key contributors. Robbie Ray and deadline acquisition Luis Castillo anchor a rotation that makes Seattle a sneaky team to watch.
For Toronto their lineup is among the best in baseball. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., George Springer, Alejandro Kirk, Teoscar Hernandez, Matt Chapman. The names are almost endless. However, the one that really propelled them into October was Bo Bichette. He had a rough start to the season, but ended up with a .290 batting average and driving in 93 runs. Is there just as much depth in the pitching staff as in the Blue Jays lineup? That will become apparent this Postseason, but one thing is certain. Alek Manoah is a bona fide ace and helped immensely in offsetting the bullpen’s struggles. Kevin Gausman and Ross Stripling were good throughout the year, but which Jose Berrios will show up in October for Toronto?
Blue Jays in 3 games (best of 3)
National League Wild Card Series
3. St. Louis Cardinals vs. 6. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies can mash with the best of them and that was a large reason why they clinched the final Wild Card spot. Kyle Schwarber led the way with 46 home runs. Rhys Hoskins added 30 and J.T. Realmuto had a 20-20 season (22 HR – 21 SB). An added boost should come from Bryce Harper and Jean Segura returning to the lineup. Will the Phillies pitching staff be better than their regular season selves? That’s not to say they don’t have solid options. Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler led the way in the rotation, but Wheeler did have an injury down the stretch that will need to be monitored. Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson and Brad Hand all can pitch late in the game, but they all had up and down moments during the season.
This will be the last ride for three Cardinals legends in Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Albert Pujols. It’s been a sight to see as most Cardinals fans are wondering if this could be destiny in the making? If it is, it will start and end with Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado and whether they continue to mash at the plate. Tommy Edman is a good base stealer and if he gets on base often look out. While Adam Wainwright had a solid season he was backed up by Miles Mikolas. Deadline acquisitions Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana have made the Cardinals rotation formidable going forward. The backend of their bullpen is the Cardinals strength though. Giovanny Gallegos and Ryan Helsley were a solid combo that closed out 33 games during the season.
Cardinals in 2 games (best of 3)
4. New York Mets vs. 5. San Diego Padres
While there were moments that could have spelled disaster for the Padres, they held fast and clinched a Wild Card spot. Manny Machado was the lone constant for the Padres lineup all season. Jake Cronenworth was a reliable run producer finishing with 88 RBI, but his .239 batting average was a disappointment. This is the moment for Juan Soto who was acquired to perform in October after his Postseason prowess was solidified in the 2019 Washington Nationals World Series championship run. Josh Bell has been a letdown, but he could bounce back in October. Their rotation has been the strength of this team with Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove and Blake Snell all having sub 3.40 earned run averages and striking out at least 170 batters. Which Josh Hader will show up for the Padres? His struggles especially in October are not a secret around the league. If he solidifies himself as a shutdown closer in October that bodes well for San Diego.
The Mets had the NL East for most of the season and now they are a Wild Card team after a late season sweep to the Atlanta Braves. This rotation is still among the best in baseball with Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt as a formidable 1-2-3 punch. Edwin Diaz has been lights out in the 9th inning for them. Will the Mets get that opportunity to get to Diaz in the 9th inning? There is plenty to like about the Mets lineup with Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor being the top run producers. Especially Lindor who was on a tear after the All-Star break. Starling Marte is a dangerous base stealer and if he gets on constantly the Mets will be in good shape. The batting champion of the National League, Jeff McNeil isn’t the flashiest, but is a consistent performer and he should be counted on once again in October.
Mets in 3 games (best of 3)