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2022 MLB Playoff Preview

Everyone loves predictions and hot takes. There is a reason that Stephen A Smith has a job at ESPN, and we here at The Lefty Catcher give the people what they want... without the incoherent unintelligible screaming matches at 8 AM.

Below you will find a postseason preview for each qualifying team, our picks for breakout stars, and finally, our bets on who will reign supreme.


Tampa Bay Rays (86-75):

It seems like every year, the Rays make the playoffs with a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of while having a payroll under $40 million and you wonder how they do it, but they just get it done... every year.

This year is not too entirely different, though there are a few notable characters. From a future star, Wander Franco, to postseason standout, Randy Arozarena, to former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Shane McClanahan even started the All-Star Game. But the weirdest player in my opinion is Yandy Diaz. Diaz had a 147 wRC+ this season despite only hitting 9 homers in 558 PAs. How’d he do it? By walking 14% of the time. But it gets even weirder because Diaz is in the 90th percentile in AVG exit velocity, max exit velocity, hardhit%, xwOBA, xBA, K%, BB% (of course), whiff%, and chase%. How does this guy only have 9 dingers??

Anyway, this is supposed to be a postseason preview. Being the 6th seed has its pros and cons. The pro is that if you do win the Wild Card Series, you actually have a decent shot at advancing because you don’t have to face the #1 seed in your league (leave it to MLB to incentivize losing). In the Rays' case, they would face the much more familiar Yankees instead of the juggernaut Astros. The con is that they would face the Yankees if they can even win, while burning their best pitchers in McClanahan and Glasnow, and you play a maximum of 2 home games out of a maximum of 8 games. All this, too, is looking past a Cleveland Guardians team that finished out the last month of baseball 24-6.

I try not to write off teams, but with a lack of star power on either side of the ball, it’ll be a tough road ahead for the AL’s final playoff team.

- Mitchell Barbee

Cleveland Guardians (92-70)

A shocking division winner to some (not this website), the Guardians have the youngest team in all of baseball. Riding a solid starting rotation, Jose Ramirez, and numerous breakout seasons, Cleveland’s 2022 has been a roaring success, regardless of how this postseason plays out.

However, this writer is skeptical of this rosters ability to go deep into the postseason. Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie will put a scare into teams, and the lineup possesses the high contact oriented hitters that typically flourish in October. The real x-factor for them is whether the first half version of Jose Ramirez shows up (.288 / .368 / .576 with a 162 wRC+), as his second half was solid but ultimately nothing to write home about (.269 / .339 / .439 with a 110 wRC+ while walking less and striking out more).

Without peak JRam, no one in this lineup really scares me, and it will be difficult to string enough singles together to score runs against playoff quality arms. Ultimately, you won’t find much bigger fans of the Guardians operation than me, but this team is perhaps a year too early.

- John Sanchez Jr.

Phillies (87-75)

The second longest playoff drought in baseball came to an end when the Phillies officially put the Brewers to rest. While they just barely snuck into the field, it would be unwise to count out the Phitin’ Phils.

To address the elephant in the room: yes, the defense still stinks and has multiple DH’s playing the field every game. However, Zach Wheeler & Aaron Nola form one of the best playoff duos among starters, and are capable of delivering 7+ innings of one or two run ball each time they toe the rubber. Add in the homer happy trio of Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Rhys Hoskins along with the contact oriented JT Realmuto, Jean Segura, Bryson Stott, and Alec Bohm, and I think this lineup is capable of putting up some good numbers even against playoff arms.

The big knock against the Phillies is that they seem to consistently find creative ways to lose games that they should win, often due to their bullpen, defensive woes, or both. If they can get out of their own way, this team could surprise some people and make a deep run, but it also would not surprise anyone if they got swept in the opening round.

- John Sanchez Jr.

St. Louis Cardinals (93-69)

The last time Albert Pujols finished a season in St. Louis, the Cardinals won the World Series. Baseball has a cool way of working out for the surefire hall of famers as they ride off into the sunset, as after years of declining production (Pujols was borderline unplayable in three of his final five season in Anaheim), Albert put up his best season since 2015, and should get the chance to contribute. His chase for 700 coinciding with Judge's quest for 62 was a nice way to end the regular season.

The lineup is not incredibly deep, but Paul Goldschmidt put up MVP-caliber numbers (35 HR, 115 RBI, .317/.404/.578), and Nolan Arenado, not to be outdone, put up MVP numbers as well (30 HR, 103 RBI, .293/.358/.533). Tommy Edman cooled off in the second half, but put together a nice all-around season (.724 OPS with 32 stolen bases), while breaking out as a defensive superstar, albeit one without a position.

The pitching is a lot more of a question mark. Deadline acquisition Jose Quintana will start Game 1, and with an ERA just above 2, he has been one of the biggest bounce back stories in all of baseball. Manager Oliver Marmol said he plans to use all five starters (Quintana, Miles Mikolas, Wainwright, Jordan Montgomery, and Jack Flaherty as needed, which I tend to interpret as him saying he doesn’t really know who to trust yet. The bullpen has a ton of live arms, but Ryan Helsley and Jordan Hicks are both banged up.

With this being the last dance for Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright (the only remaining from the 2011 World Champion team), St. Louis should be a trendy pick as a dark horse. However, the matchup with Philadelphia is very tough because of the contrast in styles. The Phillies are the type of team that can take advantage of a weak rotation, and Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola could shut down St. Louis if they are both on. The Cardinals are a really fun story, and if they get past the Phillies they can make some noise and give the Braves a series. Perhaps more than any other team in the Wild Card round, they are the must watch team that you should watch every inning you can.

- Michael Maynard

Seattle Mariners (89-72):

The 2022 Seattle Mariners remind me a lot of the 2018 Braves. They have a fun, young, energetic young core in Julio Rodriguez, Cal Raleigh, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby. They have established vets in Robbie Ray, Luis Castillo, J.P. Crawford, and Carlos Santana. They even have the re-emergence of Eugenio Suarez.

Is this enough to beat the Blue Jays in the Wild Card Series and the Astros in the ALDS to get to the WS? Probably not. They are likely, just like the Braves in 2018, at the doorsteps of postseason runs to come.

Julio Rodriguez just came back from a lower back injury after spending ten days on the IL. Jesse Winker (who hasn’t been great this season) just went on the IL on the final day of the season. They also just lost Sam Haggerty, who had a phenomenal 1.5 fWAR season despite only getting 201 PAs.

These setbacks don’t mean it’s impossible for the M’s to make a huge run in their long-awaited return to the postseason, however. If I had to pick an underdog for the 2022 playoffs, Seattle is the one I’d pick. Jarred Kelenic is a wild card, who managed a 113 wRC+ after returning to the majors in September. This was largely thanks to homers and walks (he still had a .188 AVG), but it could be huge for a team missing an outfielder.

The Mariners also have the advantage of having four solid starters. While this won’t really help them in the Wild Card Series, since it’s a best-of-3 series, it could be huge if they can advance, since it allows them to line up less-bad starters against the Astros' aces, while using their aces against the Astros' less-good pitchers (who are still, really, really good).

- Mitchell Barbee

Toronto Blue Jays (92-70)

Like the Padres, it took a while for all the young pieces to come together. Despite winning 91 games a year ago, Toronto finished one game back for the Wild Card, adding pressure for a playoff breakthrough in 2022. A midseason rut prompted the firing of Charlie Montoyo, but the Jays went on a nice run with interim manager John Schneider.

I will state the obvious that if the Blue Jays want to make a run, they need to mash. They led MLB in batting average, finished second in OPS, third in slugging, and fourth in runs scored. Bo Bichette went on a tear in the second half, as he and Vladdy Jr. make their long-awaited postseason debut (2020's two games doesn't count). The experience of George Springer at the top of the order will be huge, as we all know what he can do in October.

Pitching…well that’s another story. Only the Phillies have a higher team ERA of the twelve playoff teams, with a great deal of those runs allowed via the long ball (180, most of any team in the field). Alek Manoah has been their dude all season, and he’ll get the chance to showcase his stuff on the national stage. After that, the storyline can’t work out any better because the Game 2 matchup will feature the guy they signed versus the guy they didn't sign, Kevin Gausman vs Robbie Ray.

Luckily, with their offense, the pitching just needs to keep them in games. Houston is a different animal, but Seattle’s lineup can go through cold stretches, and the home crowd will be a nice advantage as well. Postseason baseball tends to be exciting in Toronto, and after patiently waiting for six years, Canadian fans once again have postseason baseball.

- Michael Maynard

San Diego Padres (89-73)

If the trade deadline was the World Series (2021 Braves?), the Padres won it after dealing for Juan Soto, Josh Hader, Josh Bell, and Brandon Drury. Then Hader had a couple bad outings, Bell, Drury, & Soto all regressed, Tatis got suspended, and the Padres World Series hype has all but ceased to exist.

Yet, the Padres seemingly average second half is exactly why I like them to heat up at the right time. For whatever the loss of Tatis appears to be, the Padres won 89 games without him. If I recall correctly, last year’s winner also won 89 games, mostly without its main superstar. The Padres acquired Juan Soto specifically for these moments. His timely confidence gave the Nationals an edge in every game in the 2019 run, and something tells me he’s just itching to get back into postseason play. Same thing with Manny Machado.

They have the experienced, top end pitching with Darvish, Musgrove, Snell, and Manaea. Darvish and Snell have two of the most deflating World Series performances (for completely different reasons) in recent memory, with this season being their first shot at redemption. The hard part is over for San Diego—even with all their talent, they could never put everything together for 162 games. They hired Bob Melvin to help them do that, but he also never won a playoff series in Oakland. If we’re throwing everything out for the chaos of the postseason, the Padres have the most to prove, and the firepower to do it.

- Michael Maynard

New York Mets (101-61):

I say this as an unabashed Braves fan: the Mets did not collapse. Does it suck that they missed out on the division title because they were swept in the most crucial series of the year, losing the tiebreaker? Absolutely! But when you play at a 95-win pace after you’ve secured a 10.5-game lead in the division, something stupid would have to happen for you to lose the division. Something like the second-place team roaring back with a 114-win pace in the same span.

That being said, the Mets are an insanely good team. Their 1-2 punch with DeGrom and Scherzer is one of the best I’ve ever seen. They have a closer who is so elite I’m surprised he’s allowed any runs this season. They have the batting title king and the RBI king (if you care about those things) and neither of those is the best SS in the game, who they also have.

It’s unfortunate that they have to go through the Wild Card Series at all, but it’s the thing that’s probably going to end their WS aspirations, even if they advance past it.

Because of the quick turnaround in the newly formatted postseason, the Mets are going to have to burn their best starters in the first two games. Even if they are able to outright win the first two games and save Chris Bassitt for game 1 of the NLDS, they are still going to need to use either Taijuan Walker or Carlos Carrasco. Neither are bad pitchers, per se, (both roughly 2.5 fWAR starters) but this does mean they will likely only have the two-headed monster of Scherzer and DeGrom at their dispense once during the series. Additionally, outside of Diaz and Adam Ottavino, the Mets’ bullpen leaves a lot to be desired.

Do I think the Mets are capable of a deep postseason run? Absolutely. Having a bunch of high OBP guys in your lineup, two of the best starters in the league, and the most dominant closer in baseball will do that for you. Do I think that the Wild Card Series is going to hurt them in the end? Absolutely.

- Mitchell Barbee

New York Yankees (99-63)

Is this the year the Yankees get over the hump? It’s theirs for the taking with the AL as wide open as it has been in a long time. If they are able to get to the World Series, they will have likely exercised their demons by taking care of the Rays and Astros along the way.

We know about Gerrit Cole, but can Nasty Nestor and others keep up their strong regular season performances in October? Will Giancarlo Stanton hit enough home runs to balance his inevitably infuriating K rate? Will anyone not named Aaron Judge catch fire? My money is on Anthony Rizzo becoming a Yankee legend. Why does it feel like peak Michael King & Clay Holmes was three years ago? Remember Aroldis Chapman?

This year has been an absolute roller coaster for the guys in pinstripes after getting off to a historic start, play horribly for the majority of the summer, and then turned it back on towards the end of the season once the Rays slashed the division lead down to a threatening level. Judge rightfully garnered most of the attention of baseball fans for the entire season, and now it's time for him to put the Yankees on his large back and carry them to glory; then the Steinbrenners would have no choice but to write him a blank check.

- John Sanchez Jr.

Atlanta Braves (101-61):

Admittedly, despite being a lifelong Braves fan and the fact that the Braves came back from a large deficit to win the division (and the World Series) last year, I didn’t think there was a chance they were actually going to win it this year by the time June came. I didn’t think they could sweep the Mets a week ago.

And yet, here we are – the Braves have won their fifth straight division title and don’t have to see either the 111-win Dodgers or the 101-win Mets (hallelujah for the tiebreaker) until at least the NLCS. I guess when you play at a 114-win pace from June out, this is what happens.

But this doesn’t mean they should look past their NLDS opponent. Atlanta has already lost series to both the Cardinals and the Phillies, the two teams who will have to gruel it out in the Wild Card Series (although the Braves won the overall season series against both teams).

Atlanta has a solid rotation 1-4 if Spencer Strider is healthy. Without the historically good rookie, things look a little different. Max Fried has been spectacular as usual, finishing the season out with a 5.0 fWAR and a 2.48/2.70/3.09 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash line. Kyle Wright has been a surprise breakout in the rotation, finishing with a stellar 3.19/3.58/3.29 ERA/FIP/xFIP slash. However, Charlie Morton has taken a step back, especially in the homer department, as his HR/9 doubled from last season. Still, he’s still striking out 28.2% of batters he faces, which makes him an acceptable starter only if he is fourth in line.

On the offensive side of things, the Braves bring a lot of thump, finishing second in the league in homers. Surprisingly, however, only Matt Olson and Austin Riley finished with more than 30. Huge surprise seasons from Michael Harris II and William Contreras made up for disappointing seasons from Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies (who is currently out with a broken pinky). One plus of this lineup is that anyone can beat you with the longball. Orlando Arcia of all people finished the season with a 104 wRC+.

Rounding up all of this is a solid bullpen. If the Braves can get a lead early, the gauntlet of Collin McHugh/Dylan Lee, Rasiel Iglesias, and AJ Minter is a tough one to beat, with the Kenley Jansen experience offering a rollercoaster finish to close things out.

The Braves are in a position to repeat, and while I’d be surprised if they didn’t at least advance to the NLCS, anything can happen and I am just praying to not have a repeat of 2019 if they have to face the Cards.

- Mitchell Barbee

Houston Astros (106-56)

As much as we all love to hate on the Trashtros after 2017 (and the Altuve 2019 wire moment), the consistency of this team is remarkable. Since 2017, here is each of their end of season results:




Won World Series




Lost World Series




Lost World Series

Despite all of the controversy and distractions that can drive a team apart, the Astros have always found a way to win games. In 2020, they lost George Springer to free agency, then lost Justin Verlander to Tommy John, finished below .500, and still made a deep postseason run in the expanded playoffs. Then they lost Carlos Correa to free agency, and won eleven more games this season without him. Even with an offense that always finds a way to be among the league’s best, the identity of Houston has always been their starting pitching. While veteran superstars like Cole, Greinke, and Morton no longer toe the rubber at Minute Maid Park, the Astros always seem to find two guys better than the one player that leaves. Framber Valdez and Cristian Javier posted career bests in ERA, and that’s not to mention Justin Verlander coming back to probably win his third Cy Young. Lance McCullers also returned after a long injury absence, posting a solid 2.27 ERA in 8 starts down the stretch. To call pitching depth a strength for the Astros is an understatement. Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia might not even crack the rotation.

Love it or hate it, the Astros depth and experience gives them a significant advantage in a seven game series. They were one game away in 2019 and two in 2021, and by winning the last game of the last series, they cement their claim as one of the best dynasties in the 21st century. And as big of a villain as the Astros are, at some point it would be neat to see Dusty Baker win a World Series.

- Michael Maynard

Los Angeles Dodgers (111-51)

What else is there to say about the Dodgers? How could a team with Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner, & Will Smith among others not win it all? A team that won 111 (not a typo) regular season games is sure to be the runaway favorite to win the World Series, right?

...The issue here lies with pitching depth. Julio Urias is a stud who will likely end up in the top-3 in NL Cy Young voting, and Clayton Kershaw is a first ballot Hall of Famer. Beyond that though, it’s kind of a huge shrug emoji? Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, and Andrew Heaney are solid big leaguers, but does anyone really feel confident that they will provide enough innings to keep the Dave Roberts October bullpen circus from becoming utter chaos? That’s even assuming Kershaw doesn’t get haunted by his October demons again!

The bullpen will likely be taxed hard here, and while it has been good this season, you have to feel skeptical trotting out Evan Phillips, Alex Vesia, and Craig Kimbrel out there consistently in high leverage spots.

The thing to remember for LA is that they won 111 games for a reason. This lineup does not let you breathe. 1-9 can take you deep at any time and are all capable of being all-stars in any given season/series. If the Dodgers are hoisting gold in November, it will be because the bats carried them.

- John Sanchez Jr.


Mitchell’s Breakout Star:

Predicting breakout stars in the postseason is always a bit random. I’m sure no one saw Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario taking home the WS and NLCS MVPs in 2021, and I don’t think anyone saw Randy Arozarena hitting 10 playoff homers in 2020.

I still like Matt Vierling of the Phillies (though that would mean him going off on the Braves, which I don’t like), so I won’t pick him.

Is picking a star a cop-out? Maybe, but I’m going to do it anyway. For nearly every other team, acquiring a guy who puts up a 133 wRC+ for you wouldn’t be a disappointment. For Juan Soto and the Padres, it felt like a massive one.

The Padres have huge hurdles to jump over if they want to get to the World Series, as they have the face the 101-win Mets and then the 111-win Dodgers. They most likely have the hardest path of them all.

But if, and I mean if Juan Soto can break out of his slump like we all know he’s capable of, he could really propel the Padres to their first WS appearance since before Soto was born.

And unlike with the Nats, there won’t be a walk-a-thon with him batting in front of Machado.

Michael's Breakout Star:

I’m going to hedge my World Series pick and say that if the Mets go on a run, the Polar Bear is going to be awesome. It is a shame his early years were overshadowed by the Mets being the Mets, and while we all know about him from the home run derby, now we get to spend some more time with him. He might hit a home run and then fight Manny Machado at third base, or have a fifteen pitch at bat ending with a double in the gap versus Clayton Kershaw. Even as they acquired Lindor, Pete Alonso is the spark plug of that offense, so if the Mets were to make a run, I bet he’s the main reason why.

For one other breakout performance note, I also can’t wait for the fifth inning in one of the Cardinals-Phillies games when the broadcast team does their touching salute to Albert Pujols, as there’s a deep drive to left by Castellanos, and that will make it a 4-0 ballgame.

John's Breakout Star(s):

Framber Valdez is exactly the type of dude who thrives in the spotlight. Pinpoint command, can whiff a couple guys, goes deep into games, and keeps the ball in the yard. He’s not the type of guy who lights up PitchingNinja, but the dude creates canyons in the infield each game he pitches with all the grounders he generates. He made a name for himself this season with his insane streak of 25 straight quality starts (!), but this postseason is where he cements himself to the general public as one of the best starters in baseball.

Jeremy Peña has flaws. He swings-and-misses too much. He can run himself into outs. He can make some easy plays look really difficult. He does a lot of things well too. He runs really fast. He hits the ball hard and far when we connects. He makes some really difficult plays look easy and also makes some highlight worthy plays. Look for Peña to find himself all over SportsCenter this postseason, much the same way peak Javier Baez did… although the plate discipline is not quite as bad as Baez’s.


Mitchell's Postseason Predictions:

Wild Card Round:

Mariners over Blue Jays

Guardians over Rays

Phillies over Cardinals

Mets over Padres

Division Series:

Astros over Mariners

Guardians over Yankees

Dodgers over Mets

Braves over Phillies

Championship Series:

Astros over Guardians

Braves over Dodgers

World Series:

Astros over Braves

Michael's Postseason Predictions:

Wild Card Round:

Blue Jays over Mariners

Guardians over Rays

Phillies over Cardinals

Padres over Mets

Division Series:

Astros over Blue Jays

Yankees over Guardians

Padres over Dodgers

Braves over Phillies

Championship Series:

Yankees over Astros

Padres over Braves

World Series:

Padres over Yankees

John's Postseason Predictions:

Wild Card Round:

Blue Jays over Mariners

Rays over Guardians

Phillies over Cardinals

Mets over Padres

Division Series:

Astros over Blue Jays

Yankees over Rays

Dodgers over Mets

Braves over Phillies

Championship Series:

Astros over Yankees

Dodgers over Braves

World Series:

Astros over Dodgers


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