The MLB playoffs are here in force. Who will be playing in the October Classic? Who could upset those teams? And who should you be watching?
October is here, but in the end, only one series really matters. Who will be the World Series winner?
Josh Yuen: When it comes to engaging the sports world, the World Series is at about the same level as the Stanley Cup finals — but significantly behind the NBA Finals and the Super Bowl. From an engagement and marketing standpoint, a Yankees-Dodgers matchup would be a match made in heaven for Rob Manfred and all MLB executives. Both teams obviously have loud lineups, but the Yankees have a stronger bullpen while the Dodgers’ rotation probably has the upper hand. As much as I can’t stand the Bronx Bombers, I’m all for the Dodgers dropping a third straight shot to claim their first championship since the 1980s. Best odds for me to win it all: 1) Yankees 2) Dodgers 3) Astros 4) Braves.
Chanun Ong: Young core? Check. Immense talent? Check. Battle tested? Slightly more than last year. After dropping the 2018 NLDS to the Dodgers, the Braves have struck gold with starters Mike Soroka and Max Fried to ease some of the pitching woes that plagued them last season. Flash and style ooze out a lineup sporting the dynamic Ronald Acuña Jr. and the veteran presence of Josh Donaldson. There should always be a “next year” for such a high-potential team — but this could be the time that Atlanta steals the NL pennant from the Dodgers and has a shot at winning it all.
Ethan Waters: If the Giants owned the MLB for the first part of the decade (on even years, that is), then the Astros own the second half. After reaching the playoffs in 2015 for the first time since 2003, Houston has been there for four of the past five seasons — including this one. After winning their third straight AL West title this season and winning an MLB high of 107 games behind Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander, the Astros are ready to repeat and take a title from the Dodgers in 2019. ‘Stros in five.
Noah Parker: The Dodgers will make it back to the World Series for their third straight year — but with more holes in their bullpen and lineup then ever before, they will go home still searching for their first title in over 30 years. That leaves the winner of the ALDS to most likely be either the Yankees or Astros. I give the Astros the slight edge over the Yankees due to their ridiculous starting rotation. If Houston can get past the American League, they will stroll right to their second ring in three years. Astros over Dodgers in six.
Benjamin Coleman: I’m predicting a rematch of the 2017 World Series between the Astros and the Dodgers. The Astros will no doubt be the favorite, but the Dodgers have depth on both sides of the ball like no one else. LA is loaded, and after two straight World Series disappointments this is the year they bring the title home. Dodgers in seven.
The favorites are fun, but who will spoil the party? Dark horse(s)?
NP: Both the Rays and the Oakland A’s have won more than 95 games, and the team that advances out of that intriguing Wild Card matchup has a good chance to make some noise in the AL. I give Oakland the slight edge over Tampa, as the A’s have shown the ability to beat good teams, especially Houston.
JY: It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the pup. The Tampa Bay Rays went blow-to-blow with the Red Sox and Yankees this season, with Charlie Morton and Austin Meadows emerging as legitimate superstars for this overlooked club. This group of undervalued players reminds me of the 2015 Kansas City Royals, one of the best stories of this decade. If the Rays can get past Oakland on Wednesday, I’m interested to see just how far Kevin Cash can take his squad this October.
BC: In the National League, I think the Nationals can finally exorcise their playoff demons with a deep squad built differently than past failed incarnations, as well as an elite rotation. They have enough talent to at least win their Wild Card matchup and maybe more. Meanwhile, the Twins are my American League dark horse. Championship teams are built on power and Minnesota has that in spades. They are a home run hitting machine and that should keep them in every game they play. They have the blueprint of a successful team and come into the postseason with no expectations. Expect Minnesota to make some serious noise this October.
Players to watch: Who is essential? Who is a breakout? Which players should fans be following?
EW: Although he is often overlooked, Marcus Semien compiled a solid case for his AL MVP candidacy this season. He logged 123 runs and 92 RBI. Beyond that, he juiced 33 homers out of the leadoff spot. Keep an eye out for Semien in the Wild Card matchup: He has a .357 average with two doubles in fourteen at bats against Rays starter Charlie Morton in his career.
CO: When hitters are trained to swing for the fences, a starter that maintains an ERA sub 2.00 is almost unheard of. The Rays’ lanky right-hander Tyler Glasnow owned a 1.86 line and was named AL Pitcher of the Month in April, but whispers of a Cy Young award were quashed when an untimely forearm injury sidelined him for four months. Since his return, he’s quietly put together more dominant innings while making progress toward a full starter’s workload. If Glasnow is back, I’m expecting good things for this year’s Cinderella team.
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