by Julian Spivey
The MLB Postseason begins on Tuesday, Oct. 6 with the American League Wild Card game between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros. This year’s MLB Postseason seems like it could be the most open in a long time with so many teams having an excellent shot at World Series glory. This makes it one of the most exciting playoffs in some time.
Here are my rankings of most likely to least likely win the World Series …
1. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays are the scariest team in the playoffs and I think this makes them the favorite. I worried about their pitching even after acquiring ace David Price ahead of the MLB Trade Deadline, because I didn’t think they’d have the right 2-4 guys to do much come playoff time. However, Marco Estrada had a very solid season as the Blue Jays No. 2 guy going 13-8 with a 3.13 ERA and Marcus Stroman has been darn near perfect going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA since coming back from an injury that kept him out almost all season. All Price, Estrada and Stroman have to do is keep the runs down and the best offense in baseball led by likely American League MVP Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki and Edwin Encarnacion should get the job done.
2. Chicago Cubs
It might seem ridiculous to have the Chicago Cubs as the team with the second best chance of winning the World Series for many reasons – 1) they’re the Cubs and the Cubs can’t possibly win a World Series 2) they’re too young to win a World Series right now 3) They might be eliminated after just one playoff game if they lose the National League Wild Card game to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night. But, if they can get past that one-game wild card playoff I think the Cubs are the best team in the N.L. right now. The young bats of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Kyle Schwarber and more will have to step up big in the playoffs, but they’ve shown what they’re capable of all year. The biggest plus the Cubs have going for them is their top two starting pitchers: Jake Arrieta has been lights out with possibly the greatest second half of any pitcher in baseball history and Jon Lester has a ton of big time playoff experience in the past with the Boston Red Sox.
3. Kansas City Royals
Before the Toronto Blue Jays acquired David Price and Troy Tulowitzki before the Trade Deadline I would have had the Kansas City Royals as the biggest threat to win the title from the American League, but I think they’ve been surpassed by the Jays. The Royals are a tight knit bunch who showed last year in their surprising playoff run that they can find more ways to win tight, important games than any other team in baseball. The key for the Royals will likely be what they get out of their rotation led by ace Johnny Cueto, who has been off lately, and Yordano Ventura.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke. Those two guys are the entire reason that I have the Los Angeles Dodgers this high. They have been two of the three best pitchers in not just the National League, but the entirety of Major League Baseball all season long and could be devastating to opposing offenses throughout the playoffs. There’s simply no better 1-2 in baseball. The problem could be that for some unknown reason Kershaw has always choked in the playoffs, which he’ll have to get over immediately for the Dodgers to have any World Series hopes.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
I am predicting that the Pittsburgh Pirates playoff run is only going to last one game. I think they will get shutdown by Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta in the National League Wild Card game on Thursday night (which could prove to be the best game of the entire playoffs). However, if Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, also one of the N.L.’s very best hurlers, and the Buccs’ offense can lead the Pirates past the Cubs I believe they’ll have the opportunity to go very far. Not only is Cole a great pitcher, but the Pirates have a top notch No. 2 guy in Francisco Liriano and a terrific offense led by Andrew McCutchen. They won almost 100 games this season, despite not even winning their division, which shows you just how strong they are.
6. New York Mets
The New York Mets have arguably been the hottest team in baseball since the All Star break cruising by the Washington Nationals and going on to win the National League East Division. The one weakness they had was their offensive didn’t have a big bopper and then they acquired Yoenis Cespedes right before the MLB Trade Deadline and he’s been so terrific for them that some people believe he should receive N.L. MVP votes just for two months of work in the league. What makes the Mets truly scary is their young pitching led by Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey, though everybody wonders exactly how much Harvey will be allowed to pitch in the playoffs due to an innings limit.
7. Texas Rangers
The Texas Rangers truly came out of nowhere to win the American League West Division. In fact, many wondered whether or not the Rangers would be sellers come the MLB Trade Deadline at the end of July. Then they made a big splash acquiring ace Cole Hamels from the Philadelphia Phillies that was considered a deal for the future. Except, the Rangers believed they still had life this year and went on a torrid run that was aided by a struggling Houston Astros team to take the division. The Rangers have a good offense led by Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder, but the pitching after Hamels is somewhat of a question mark. If Derek Holland and Colby Lewis are strong this team can accomplish something great.
8. Houston Astros
The Houston Astros struggled mightily in the second half of the season losing a pretty decent lead in the American League West Division and falling almost completely out of the playoffs before clinching the second A.L. Wild Card on the last day of the season. The young bats and arms pretty much fell off completely in the second half of the season as a team filled with guys who’ve never had to play this far into a season grew tired. The only reason I have them at number eight on this list is because I believe their ace Dallas Keuchel will shut down the New York Yankees in the A.L. Wild Card game on Tuesday night to get them to the American League Division Series. Keuchel threw 17 shutout innings in his two games against the Yankees this season.
9. New York Yankees
The New York Yankees overachieved this season, which is something you absolutely never expect from the Yankees. Many didn’t believe the Yankees could make the playoffs and here they are. Unfortunately, when it comes to the MLB Wild Card games a lot of times you have to take the team with the best pitcher on the mound. The Astros have probable A.L. Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel on the mound Tuesday night who has owned the Yankees this season, while the Yankees have their ace Masahiro Tanaka who has battled injuries for much of the last two seasons and hasn’t been the shutdown pitcher he’s capable of being. I expect the Yankees playoff run to be one game and done.
10. St. Louis Cardinals
I can hear people saying aloud, “are you freakin’ kidding?” right now. The St. Louis Cardinals were the best team in baseball record-wise all season long. But, as we’ve seen before the regular season and postseason are two different things and the Cardinals have stumbled into the postseason with major injury problems and poorer play than the other four National League playoff teams. The Cardinals heart and soul catcher Yadier Molina may not be able to play and the Cardinals best hitter Matt Holliday has not been 100 percent all season long. The Cardinals two best pitchers this season, Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, are either ailing or have been struggling as of late. The Cardinals overachieved in my opinion for the entire season. Now when it’s time to be at your best they are arguably struggling more than they have all season long. That’s not a good recipe for postseason success.
Who do you think is the favorite in the MLB playoffs?