Staff Writer: Colton Almeida
As the 162-game Major League Baseball regular season comes to a close, the playoff picture is all but finalized. The playoffs are set to begin Friday, October 7th, with the best-of-3 wild card round matchups kicking off.
Who is a serious contender and who is just happy to be in the dance? Time to rank every team’s realistic chances at taking home the championship.
*Note: The Phillies hold a 2.0-game lead over the Brewers for the final NL wild-card spot at the time of this writing. The Braves hold a 2.0 game lead over the Mets for the NL East title*
#12 Philadelphia Phillies (NL Wild Card*)
The Phillies are set to make their return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season.
There are a variety of reasons to have the Phillies dead last here, but the inconsistencies that they have displayed all year, coupled with the fact that they are going to be the last team to clinch, earn them the basement spot on this list.
If they do make a deep run, expect it to be on the shoulders of pitchers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler.
#11 Tampa Bay Rays (AL Wild Card)
Tampa Bay yet again has found its way into the postseason, even with one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.
A team that always seems to surprise and make a deep run, I believe this year they will bow out early. A team that has significantly worse splits on the road than at home, they do not possess the traits that I look for in a serious contender.
Pitching will once again have to carry them if they generate any sort of run.
#10 San Diego Padres (NL Wild Card)
To say it bluntly, the Padres are incredibly average.
I’d argue they have wildly underachieved this season, but here they are, with a chance to capture a title for the first time in franchise history. I think they’ll be a fun and frisky team this October, but don’t rush to the window to place a Padres title bet.
#9 Cleveland Guardians (AL Central Winner)
In a division that heavily underperformed this season, the Guardians were able to capture the Central title for the first time since 2018.
The Guardians have been very solid on the road, which is something you always want to have going for you around this time of year. They also don’t strike out, as they have the fewest strikeouts in the MLB.
At the end of the day, however, a lack of offensive firepower will likely be the culprit for Cleveland’s demise.
#8 St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central Winner)
Potentially a hot take to have the Cardinals this low, but they just simply do not scare me.
Sure, Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are potent offensive threats, and they are above average in both starting pitching and bullpen numbers.
Call it a gut feeling, but I do not see the Cards advancing past the NLDS.
#7 Toronto Blue Jays (AL Wild Card)
You got to love watching the Blue Jays play baseball.
They are a young, exciting team that is built for the future. Just not totally sure if their future is necessarily right now.
I believe they may be the best long-shot threat, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on a Blue Jays World Series appearance (yet).
#6 Seattle Mariners (AL Wild Card)
Call me biased, but this feels like a team of destiny.
The Mariners are back in the playoffs for the first time in a whopping 21 years. They have officially ended the longest playoff drought in North American pro sports.
Led by young talent such as breakout rookie Julio Rodriguez, the Mariners can ride the excitement and lean on their strong pitching this postseason.
#5 New York Yankees (AL East Winner)
This season has been a bit of a roller coaster for Yankees fans.
Long win streaks followed by highly disappointing stretches have defined what has been an overall solid season for the Yanks. Aaron Judge is chasing records as he currently sits on 61 home runs. The Yankees have some characteristics of an early-exit team, but I believe they’ll do enough to make at the very least a decent run.
The only problem is a “decent run” will not be enough to satisfy New York fans.
#4 New York Mets (NL Wild Card*)
Mets fans have to be feeling some disappointment as the season winds down. They led the NL East basically the entire way, just to have the Braves leapfrog them during the last week of the season.
Now they will almost certainly be playing in the wild-card round, which has to feel like a letdown after the pace they were keeping.
Still, this team has loads of talent as well as two of the best pitchers in baseball in Jacob DeGrom and Max Scherzer.
#3 Atlanta Braves (NL East Winner*)
The defending champs are looking to become the first team to win the World Series back-to-back since 2000. They are arguably better than they were a year ago.
A Braves player to watch this October is strikeout machine Spencer Strider – if he returns healthy. If it weren’t for that team in LA, the Braves would be my NL favorites.
#2 Houston Astros (AL West Winner)
There is a lot to be excited about if you are a Houston fan. A still dangerous offense combined with a solid rotation and one of the best bullpen in baseball makes Houston a juggernaut of a contender.
At 39 years old, ace Justin Verlander is all but a lock to earn the AL Cy Young award.
I would be surprised if the Astros don’t at least make the ALCS.
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers (NL West Winner)
No surprises here. The Dodgers have been the best team in baseball from start to finish.
Their all-star lineup and elite pitching give them the advantage over every team in baseball. It is truly difficult to find any flaw with this team.
They are the clear-cut favorite to win the 2022 world series.