MLB Postseason Power Rankings – Wild Card Round
MLB Postseason Power Rankings – Wild Card Round
After 162 games, the MLB Postseason is upon us. It has been a season where four teams dominated their division and essentially cruised to the playoffs. Now that the games are must-win and a majority are not against their division, it will be time to step up.
#10 Colorado Rockies
Seed: #5 in National League
Series: @ Arizona Diamondbacks
A one game playoff on the road is never an easy task. For the past three weeks, the Rockies have been in a heated Wild Card race that was not decided until the final Saturday of the year.
Battling for the final postseason spot forced Colorado to be unable to prepare for the winner-take-all contest unlike their opponents. There are no breaks for Colorado either if they were to get by the Diamondbacks either. Los Angeles is up next where the season series was split 9-9.
Charlie Blackmon (.331 BA, 86 extra base hits) is dangerous. When he gets going he can awake the bats of the Rockies. Other than their centerfielder, there is not much reliability for their offense. Their pitching isn’t that great either. Worst of all playoff teams and 17th in terms of ERA at 4.51, their staff will have trouble against all of the hard hitting National League teams.
Jon Gray (10-4, 3.67) is lined up for the start in their Wild Card Game on Wednesday.
#9 Minnesota Twins
Seed: #5 in American League
Series: @ New York Yankees
Being on the road may be the best way for the Minnesota Twins to start their postseason run. Away from Target Field, they are 44-37, three wins higher than when at home.
Against the Yankees though, who they got swept by three games in late September, the Twins will be chasing. Luis Severino will be their opposing pitcher on the hill but will have to get past him earlier to have any chance. The Yankees sport the best lockdown bullpen, from start to finish in baseball.
Fortunately for the Twins, Brian Dozier (34 HRs, 93 RBIs) is heating up at the right time. In the final month he hit eight long balls and brought home 19 RBIs. He will be a great compliment to small ball hitting Joe Mauer (.305 BA) and catcher Jason Castro (.242 BA, 47 RBIs).
Getting Miguel Sano back will be huge in this series and if there is a prolonged run in the postseason, it is easy to say it will be behind him.
After being swept by New York, the Twins did finish the season 7-3 and ended the season on a good note. Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28) gets the start in the winner-take-all contest on Tuesday.
#8 Arizona Diamondbacks
Seed: #4 in National League
Series: vs. Colorado Rockies
The Diamondbacks are back in the MLB postseason for the first time since 2011. They did it with one of the most interesting line-ups in baseball. Their batting average is only 17th best but they are 8th in runs scored.
Pitching is their difference maker. Arizona is sneaky good with their arms, especially in their starting pitching. Only the Dodgers’ pitching staff yields a better ERA in the National League. Of course Zach Greinke leads the charge and has been announced as the Diamondbacks starter for the NL Wild Card game.
Robbie Ray, their potential No. 2 starter, has been stellar this year. For most he is known for taking a line drive off of his head on July 28. Since the injury his ERA is 2.16 in August and September. Their hardest choices will be whittling down the bullpen to the right guys in the right situations.
Arizona has thrived this season facing opponent’s bullpen and non-aces. In the playoffs they will not be as fortunate and will have to rely on the bats early other than Paul Goldschmidt (36 HRs, 120 RBIs) and former Detroit Tiger J.D. Martinez (45 HRs, 104 RBIs combined).
Starting September as one of the hottest team’s in the National League, the Diamondbacks have cooled off. Since August 15 they are 8-7 but no games have been against plus-.500 opponents.
#7 Boston Red Sox
Seed: #3 in American League
The Red Sox almost blew the AL East after notching it up nearly two weeks before the regular season. Of all teams entering the postseason, Boston has the least momentum. They are 2-5 in their final week of the year.
It does not make things better that they will face one of the hottest teams in the majors, the Houston Astros. Closing the regular season, Houston took three of their four games.
The biggest thing going for the bean-town Sox is their ace Chris Sale. Winning 17 of the 32 games he started with a 2.90 ERA, he has been a difference maker for the Red Sox. If Boston were to lose their match-up with Sale, then the rest of the series will not go well.
Boston is fortunate to have a handful of days off before the postseason. They need to regroup and completely forget about the last week of the year.
#6 Los Angeles Dodgers
Seed: #1 in National League
Ending the season nicely, Los Angeles quietly rebounded from an atrocious end of August, beginning of September stretch. From top to bottom, there is no one that has as dominant of a line-up in the league, besides arguably the Washington Nationals.
In 2017, the club earned 104 wins, the most for the franchise in the city of Los Angeles. The mid-season addition of Yu Darvish (10-12, 3.86) did not quite come to fruition during the last half of the regular season. Darvish made nine starts, earning four wins and three losses.
He will provide support as another potential ace to support Clayton Kershaw. Last season, it was evident the team relied on Kershaw (18-4, 2.31 ERA in 2017) far too much in the postseason. In 2016 Kershaw pitched in five of the team’s 11 games, four times as a starter and once as a closer.
This all does not mention they are clearly the best, or second best, team in baseball. Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, another mid-season addition in Curtis Granderson, Corey Seager, etc. there are no breaks in their line-up.
#5 New York Yankees
Seed: #4 in American League
Series: vs. #5 Minnesota Twins
Yes, these New York Yankees, the same ones that were not supposed to be good until next season are the highest Wild Card team in these rankings.
Heading into the postseason, they are one of the hottest in baseball after winning 16 of their last 20. Albeit of their 20 games, only three (all were wins) were again postseason teams.
Aaron Judge is out of his post-All-Star break funk and has ignited a fire under this squad. Since September 1 he has 15 home runs, 31 RBIs with a .314 batting average.
It is not just the rookie phenom either. As a team, the Yankees have hit 51 long balls in the last 30 days of the season. Heading into the postseason, the Yankees are living up to their Bronx Bombers nickname.
Luis Severino (14-6, 2.98 ERA), Sonny Gray (4-7, 3.72 ERA), Masahiro Tanaka (13-12, 4.74 ERA) and CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA) are going to be the postseason starters. All with tremendous talent, but also all are struggling with consistency issues.
If everyone can get it together at the right time, the Yankees can really make some noise this postseason.
#4 Washington Nationals
Seed: #2 in National League
There was no threat to the Washington Nationals throughout the regular season. Dominating their division similar to the way the Cubs did their’s in 2016, it was a cake walk to the postseason.
There was no real worry about Max Scherezer and Stephen Strasburg missing time due to injury. Yes, Bryce Harper had a scary slip on first base, but he is back, healed, and was not needed as September moved forward.
Trea Turner and Jayson Werth are both back and in-form after missing significant time this year. This team is good; with their line-up and production this season, they should be primed for success.
There will be no breaks for opposing pitchers on this Nationals roster. All season Dusty Baker has been prepping his team for alternating left, right batting order.
The only concern, are the Nationals fully prepared for the playoffs? They clinched a long time ago and garnered 48% of their wins against NL East opponents.
#3 Chicago Cubs
Seed: #3 in National League
This season has not been like the historic 2016 that the Cubs rode to a World Series title. There was no 17+ game lead. The drought is no longer a motivating factor. Yet this team is pretty dangerous once again.
Overlooked by many because they were the last division winner to clinch a postseason, the Cubs are rolling heading into October. As defending World Series champions, the team enters the postseason 15-4 in their last 19 games.
Unlike the Indians, Astros, Nationals, and Dodgers, this team was forced to continue to win up until the final week. They also have managed to wiggle in a weekend of rest for some of their starters.
Their rotation is the best in baseball, the same starting pitchers that led them to the title a year ago. In fact, most of their line-up is back from 2016.
Kris Bryant (.295, 73 RBIs) and Anthony Rizzo (32 HRs, 109 RBIs) continue to be the main stars. Though just like last year, there will be no easy spots in the batting order.
Each year balancing rest and momentum are debated from the top teams heading to their first series. Right now the Cubs have both and not many teams can say that.
#2 Houston Astros
Seed: #2 in American League
Houston gave the Indians a run for their money at the end of the season battling for home field in the American League. Keep in mind, the Astros finished a game behind Cleveland for the top seed in the AL without a 22-game winning streak.
All season long, Houston was the class of the league. Not because the Astros dominated the AL, but rather because they dominated their division. Against AL West opponents, the division champion was 50-26, the best of any team against their division in baseball. Playing all other teams, not in their division in the American League, Houston is 36-30. That is the eighth best of all playoff teams against their respective league competition.
Their No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers are undeniable in Justin Verlander (15-8, 3.36 in 2017), who joined late in the year, and Dallas Keuchel (14-5, 2.90 ERA), not particularly in that order. They are followed by Brad Peacock (13-2, 3.00 ERA). After that there is a significant drop-off in their pitchers.
If Game 4 is an elimination game for Houston, I would not at all be surprised to see them push up either Verlander or Keuchel on short rest.
The bats though can bail out their pitching. Four starters are above .300 and the team’s average is .282. AL MVP Candidate Jose Altuve is having a phenomenal season.
#1 Cleveland Indians
Seed: #1 in American League
There are many reasons for the Indians to be considered the favorite to win the World Series this year. By far, they are the hottest team in the majors with a 22-game winning streak and winning 33 of their last 37.
This streak is even coming with players being able to rotate their rest to end the season. Lonnie Chisenhall (53 RBIs in 82 games) is primed to comeback, after a right calf injury and gives Cleveland another lefty bat in their line-up.
Their starting pitching rotation doesn’t even make the top five in terms of firepower of the playoff teams, but they find ways to win every day. This is reminiscent of last year’s run, except they are better this time around.
The bullpen is just as strong with Andrew Miller (1.44 ERA in 57 games) and Cody Allen (30 saves) on the back-end. Corey Kluber (18-4, 2.25 ERA) and the rest of the starting pitchers are having better performances than 2016. The addition of Austin Jackson and Jay Bruce who are having resurgent seasons in Cleveland, also bring a new element to the offense.
Keep in mind Cleveland made it to the World Series last year and were motivated to get back in 2017. On the American League side there is no other team that can match the playoff experience of the AL Central champions.
The Indians are hot at the perfect time, or perhaps was it was too early?