Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers have overcome challenge after challenge to reach the fifth and final game of the NLDS, and they saw off the Nationals last night to advance to a meeting with the Cubs in the NLCS. They've experienced countless injuries, a managerial change, and offensive struggles, but they've powered through and beaten many other talented lineups. The return of a revitalized Clayton Kershaw has been the catalyst for L.A., because without his two starts in this series, the Dodgers would likely have been eliminated by now. The addition of Rich Hill has also bolstered their rotation, and rookie Kenta Maeda has continued to impress with his solid pitching. The Dodgers certainly aren’t an elite offensive team, but guys like Adrian Gonzalez and Corey Seager are true stars. Not only that, but they have a veteran presence as well in journeyman Chase Utley, Justin Turner, and Howie Kendrick. The Dodgers might not be the most talented team, but their postseason experience could prove to be an enormous asset. A Blue Jays/Dodgers World Series is rated at 4/1, so it’s not unlikely that they’ll go all the way.
Toronto Blue Jays
Everyone is surprised to see the Blue Jays in the ALCS – except the Blue Jays themselves. They exorcised their demons of 2015 by sweeping a talented Rangers team in the ALDS, and they look very dangerous right now. Toronto probably has the best power-hitting team left in the postseason, and they’ll use that to their advantage against a stingy Indians rotation. Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, and Josh Donaldson are all deep threats every time they step up to the plate. The Jays also have an extremely underrated rotation, especially after their recent acquisition of Francisco Liriano, the former ace of the Pirates. J.A. Happ won 20 games this year, and Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, and Marco Estrada have been positively dominant. The Blue Jays might not have the depth or the experience to win a World Series, but even if they don’t go all the way, they’ll give some of the other teams a scare before they bow out.
After all these years of missing the playoffs, the Indians are back in the NLCS. Not only that, but they swept the most potent offensive team in the MLB- the Red Sox. Andrew Miller, the reliever Cleveland acquired from the Yankees before the playoffs, has been unhittable so far in the playoffs. He’s a big reason why the Red Sox’s offense struggled to get on base late in those games. In addition, ace and reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber has continued his dominance and seems unfazed by the pressure of the playoffs. Cleveland might have one of the worst power-hitting lineups in the league, but they have guys who consistently get on base, and that was the key to the Royal’s championship run last year. Francisco Odor, Jason Kipnis, and Tyler Naquin all fit that description. Though the Indians don’t have the offensive power to offset their shallow rotation, they’ll make their opponents work hard for wins every game.
Without a doubt, the Cubs are the best team in baseball right now. The additions of Aroldis Chapman and Joe Nathan only put them that much further out of reach for the other teams. Even with the loss of outfielder Kyle Scharber, Chicago has unlimited offensive firepower thanks to youngsters like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Wilson Contreras. Veterans such as Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward have been to the playoffs before and know how to lead a team on the road to the World Series, and that doesn’t even begin to cover Chicago’s unstoppable rotation. Jake Arrieta has once again asserted himself as one of the best pitchers in the league, and Jon Lester has lived up to the monster contract the Cubs awarded to him prior to this season. Even Kyle Hendricks is looking like a Cy Young candidate, and nobody could have expected that. The Cubs are the team to beat right now, and they’re on the fast track to breaking their curse by winning a title for the first time since 1908. Should they make it to the World Series, it will be their first appearance in the final since 1945.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Chicago Cubs to win the 2016 World Series – 6/4