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MLB Wild Card Predictions: American League

In what has been such a unique year, the 2020 MLB Playoffs makes everything that much more interesting.

Tom Seipp, Michael Seitz and Christian De Block take a look at their predictions for the AL Wild Card Series.

Tampa Bay Rays vs Toronto Blue Jays:

De Block: Of all the eight first-round matchups in the Wild Card round, this will be the only series between two teams who have played each other this season. A majority of the games between the Rays and the Blue Jays were close, but Tampa Bay won six of the ten matchups in the regular season. 

Going into this best of three series, the Rays will be favored to make it to the next round of the playoffs, but it won’t be so easy. Tampa Bay currently has a few of their key bats on the sidelines, including Yandy Diaz, Austin Meadows, and Ji-Man Choi. Their absence could play a key role if they are not able to return to the Rays lineup for a game or two. With the being said, I believe the top end of the rotation including Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton will be too much for a very young Blue Jays team. Series Prediction: Rays in 2

Seitz: It is hard to not love the young, exciting Blue Jays but they have a tall task ahead of them. The Tampa Bay Rays pretty much ran the table in the American League East and have been one of the most consistent teams in all of baseball. The Rays have one of the best “big 3’s” in all of baseball with Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow. In a three game series, it will be extremely difficult for any lineup to slug out two wins with a sub-par pitching staff. I like Tampa Bay in this series and throughout the Postseason. Series Prediction: Rays in 2.

Seipp: Coming into the season, the “Buffalo” Blue Jays were one of my sleeper teams to sneak into the playoffs – that’s exactly what they did. Their lineup has performed all year, led by Bo Bichette at the top. Teoscar Hernandez has been a fantastic surprise for the team from Buffalo while Cavan Biggio and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (who hit .333 with an OPS of .986 in his final 14 games) have shown the ability to come up clutch for this team. But, quietly, the Tampa Bay Rays have been the best team in baseball all year long. Brandon Lowe is the only Ray who has played over 40 games with an OPS north of .900 as the Tampa Bay lineup has the clutch gene collectively. In a short series, it’s all hands on deck for Tampa Bay with their pitching, as they will go Blake Snell in game one with Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton following. While I’m in love with this Blue Jays squad, this Rays team is too good to fall this early. Series Prediction: Rays in two.

Oakland Athletics vs Chicago White Sox: 

De Block: Coming down the last stretch of the regular season, it looked like both of these teams were going to win their respective divisions. The Athletics had clear control of the AL West, and the White Sox were leading a tight race at the top of the AL Central. Chicago lost eight of their last ten games, causing them to end up as a seven seed.

Considering this is a very even matchup, third baseman Matt Chapman being out for the season will not only hurt Oakland’s chances of having a deep run in the postseason, but even getting past the White Sox’s. Former Arizona Diamondback Jake Lamb will look to fill the team’s hole at the hot corner, but it will be very difficult to make the same impact on both sides of the ball.

For me, the White Sox’s are one of my sleeper teams to make a deep run in the postseason. They have plenty of offensive firepower, including Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, Yasmani Grandal, and Jose Abreu to name just a few big bats in the lineup. Lucas Giolito has developed into one of the best young starters in baseball, and will lead a rotation that also includes former World Series Champion Dallas Keuchel. Watch out for 2020 first-round draft pick Garrett Crochet, who made five regular season appearances and throws his fastball above 100mph.

Even though the Athletics are a very good team who are managed by a great coach in Bob Melvin, I think the loss of Matt Chapman and the deepness of the White Sox’s lineup will be too much to deal with. Series Prediction: White Sox in 3.

Seitz: These two teams were fighting for the #1 overall seed in the American League field just ten days ago, but that all changed when the White Sox went into a freefall to end the year. Chicago ended their last 10 games with a 2-8 record, choking away both the AL’s top spot and the division lead in the process. The White Sox certainly have the pieces to contend for a World Series title, but they have to snap their cold streak to do so.

On the other side of this matchup, the Oakland A’s lost star third baseman Matt Chapman to a season ending injury last month. This is a big blow to a team who lives and dies by the long ball. The absence of Chapman and lack of solid starting pitching could do the A’s in once again. Series Prediction: White Sox in 3.

Seipp: How can you not be excited to see this series? I’m in love with this Oakland team, but this is the year for the Chicago White Sox. Everything clicked for them this season, including Jose Abreu – who, shall I add, should win American League MVP – taking that next step hitting an elite level all year long. Having Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel going back-to-back with pitchers like Matt Foster and Alex Colome sitting in the bullpen, this White Sox squad will be too much for Oakland. As much as I love watching baseball games at the Coliseum, White Sox will be the #7 seed taking this series. Series Prediction: White Sox in three.

Minnesota Twins vs Houston Astros:

De Block: Going into this series, there will be more than a few storylines that will make this matchup very intriguing. The Houston Astros have been under plenty of criticism due to the cheating scandal, producing the image of a villain over the organization. The Minnesota Twins have had very limited playoff success, and will be looking to have a deep run of their own in this postseason.

The Astors dealt with a lot of injuries that had a significant part in their 29-31 regular season record. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman both spent a couple of weeks on the injured list, which left the offense very stagnant. Things were even worse when young phenom Yordan Alveraez went down for the year after only two games, yet that still wasn’t their biggest loss.

Justin Verlander was the ace of the rotation going into the season after Gerrit Cole departed for the New York Yankees, but his season did not go as planned. The former Detroit Tiger was only able to make one start, and was forced to have Tommy John surgery towards the end of the season. Looking towards the Wild Card series, Zach Grenkie and Lance McCullers Jr. will be relied on to get past the Twins lineup.

For Minnesota, 40-year-old Nelson Cruz continues to be the heart and soul of this team. This season, he hit .303 with 16 home runs and 33 runs batted in, showing he can still be a very dangerous hitter at the plate. Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, and Eddie Rosario will also look to shoulder the load as the Twins look to make it back to the World Series for the first time since 1991. One big blow for the team is third baseman Josh Donaldson will miss the Wild Card series with a calf injury, which could have a major effect on the Twins offense.

With a lack of pitching depth and the Twins looking really hungry to prove their doubters wrong, I don’t see a world where the Houston Astros can overcome all they have dealt with this season. Series Prediction: Twins in 2.

Seitz: The Minnesota Twins have won the American League Central for the second straight year and look to exterminate MLB’s most hated team, the Houston Astros, in the Wildcard Round. The Twins are generally known for their offense, but have quietly put together a respectable pitching staff. Led by new addition Kenta Maeda, Minnesota brings four solid pitchers to the table that include Jose Berrios, Rich Hill and Michael Pineda. Coupled with a solid bullpen, the Twins could make some serious noise this Postseason.

It seemed as if the Houston Astros were silencing all the haters by sitting over .500 at the halfway point of the season, but they ended up fading away and finishing with a record of 29-31. Houston’s hitting was simply not what it has been for the past few years as many stars, such as Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, failed to hit over .250. The Astros pitching also struggled this season with the losses of Gerrit Cole to free agency and Justin Verlander to Tommy John surgery. Series Prediction: Twins in 2.

Seipp: I’m still not sure how the Astors stumbled to this point, but America’s happy they’ve fallen mighty. On the national stage in the playoffs, we’ll all love to see the Astros get obliterated. There’s not much to say on this one, their starting rotation is incredibly inconsistent and with this powerful Twins lineup. Easy choice here: Series Prediction: Twins in two.

Cleveland Indians vs New York Yankees:

De Block: Going into this season, there were plenty of expectations for both of these teams to do something special in the postseason. The Yankees have not been able to make it back to the World Series since 2009, but the signing of Gerrit Cole was the first step in the right direction. For the Indians, many wondered if they were going to trade superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor at the deadline, but opted to keep him. Instead, they made a move for the future, trading away Mike Clevinger to the San Diego Padres for a few MLB quality players and prospects.

As I look at this matchup, the likely game 1 starters will be Shane Bieber and Cole for the Yankees. If the Indians want any chance of advancing through this Wild Card round, they can ill afford to lose when their ace is on the bump. The Yankees have the capability to score runs in bunches, but Bieber is one of the few guys who has the ability to shut them down.

Although the Indians have a pretty good offense of their own, the struggles of first baseman Carlos Santana could come back to hurt them. He has been a really productive hitter for the most of his career, but he only hit .199 with eight home runs and 30 runs batted in this season. If the Indians want any chance of making a run in this postseason, they will need more production from Santana at the plate.

The Yankees are one of the favorites to make it back to the World Series this season, and I believe they will take the first step in getting past the Indians. Shane Bieber could single handley win Cleveland game 1, but the Yankees offense will be too much for the rest of the pitchers to limit. Series Prediction: Yankees in 3.

Seitz: This series may be the most intriguing of any Wildcard Matchup. Both teams have had up-and-down years, yet have still found themselves in the Postseason. The pitching matchups in this series are comparable to multiple heavy-weight fights. Game one sees the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole face AL pitching triple crown winner Shane Beiber. Game two should see Masahiro Tanaka face Carlos Carrasco. Finally, if game three is necessary, it would be assumed J.A. Happ would go against Zach Plesac.

The Indians themselves are red hot winning 8 out of their last 10 games down the stretch, while the Yankees are 4-6 in their last 10. Both teams have had their highs and lows this season, but no one has been as streaky as the New York Yankees. The Yankees got so cold during the middle of the year, that they were only one game away from dropping out of the playoffs entirely. Luckily for them, they were able to put it together and surge into the Postseason. This series should be extremely entertaining as two great teams slug it out. Series Prediction: Cleveland in 3.

Seipp: We have the best pitching matchup in the first game between Gerrit Cole and Shane Beiber, it’ll be a pitcher’s duel in that one. After that, I don’t see how the Yankees don’t win this series. Yes, the Yankees have had their struggles, but the Indians offense isn’t good enough for me to believe they could win this series, no matter how short it is. The only chance the Indians have is if all of their other pitchers step up, such as Triston McKenzie, Zach Plesac, and Cal Quantrill. Even if Cleveland takes the first game, don’t panic New York fans, I wouldn’t bet against Masahiro Tanaka in a playoff game if my life depended on it, while their bullpen of Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton and Chad Green is as stable as they come. My full prediction: Cleveland takes the first game just so the Yankees can dramatically come back. Series Prediction: Yankees in three.

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