In a season where home run numbers soared, young stars emerged and traditional powerhouses fell, the 2019 MLB postseason is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. With every National League spot clinched and all but the Wild Card wrapped up for the American League, here are some of the biggest names and stories to look out for in this postseason.
The Atlanta Braves have slowly worked their way up from the bottom of the NL East standings into a legitimate World Series contender. This is due to their dynamic duo of young stars Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr. Albies has been stellar at the plate, leading the team with a .299 batting average and 187 hits on the season. Acuna showed promise as a rookie last season, but broke out as one of the biggest stars in the MLB this season, hitting .280 with 41 home runs and 101 RBI. Acuna also stole 37 bases, showing that he is not just a power-hitter, but a speedster as well. The Braves should be able to win a postseason series, but inexperience will catch up to them down the line. A World Series is not out of the question in the next few years though.
Justin Verlander has long been one of the top pitchers in baseball, and when the Houston Astros traded for Verlander in 2017, they knew they would have their ace for years to come. This season was no different as Verlander coasted to a 20-6 record on the mound to go along with a 2.53 ERA and 288 strikeouts. However, Verlander was upstaged this season by his teammate Gerrit Cole. After arriving from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2018, Cole had a solid first season with Houston. However, he managed to do even better in 2019, leading the team with a 2.52 ERA and leading the entire league in strikeouts with 316; becoming the only pitcher to finish with over 300 strikeouts this season. The Astros aces will be the key to a deep postseason run and possibly a second World Series championship in three years.
While some postseason teams are coming into the playoffs soaring from their regular season success, others are limping in with several key players injured. The most notable of these is Milwaukee right-fielder Christian Yelich, last year’s NL MVP, who is out for the rest of the season with a fractured patella. The Minnesota Twins lost center-fielder Byron Buxton for the season with a shoulder injury, while right-fielder Max Kepler is nursing a hurt shoulder as well. Finally, the New York Yankees were bitten by the injury bug all season long as only DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres played over 140 games this season. The playoffs may be the time for players to show off, but some of the biggest names may be watching from the injured list rather than shining on the field.
So, who will win it all?
This year, the Los Angeles Dodgers will finally break through and win their first World Series since 1988. With a solid rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu, their pitching is one of the most underrated in baseball. Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy have broken out this season as legitimate sluggers, while Justin Turner and Corey Seager are reliable options to get on base. However, the X-factor for the Dodgers will be Joc Pederson. After being buried on the Dodgers’ outfield depth chart in the past couple of seasons, Pederson finally got a chance to shine as the leadoff hitter. He has hit nine of his 35 home runs from the leadoff position, and despite his .249 batting average, his .536 slugging percentage is second on the team behind Bellinger among hitters with more than 100 games played. The combination of a strong pitching staff and a balanced lineup should propel the Dodgers to the top of the MLB landscape.
Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay