Last Updated on September 27, 2020 by Luke Arkins

The MLB playoff brackets are finally set. So, I decided to have fun by compiling power rankings for the 16 teams with a shot at winning the World Series. These aren’t predictions – just assessments of how I view these clubs heading into the oddest postseason of all time.

Realistically, it’s conceivable a Cinderella gets hot and goes deep into October or even wins the Fall Classic. This is particularly true for a playoff tourney with teams playing 3-game series in the first round – we’re bound to see a few upsets along the way.

First up, the prohibitive favorite to win it all.


1. Los Angeles Dodgers

The winner of eight straight NL West titles finished the regular season with the best record in MLB thanks to being top-3 in both run production and run prevention. Heading into October, the Dodgers’ talented and deep pitching staff should be a difference-maker during early postseason rounds with no off-days. Perhaps this year is the first time since 1988 the World Series trophy returns to Los Angeles. The roster certainly favors such an outcome.


2. Tampa Bay Rays

The organization with one of the lowest payrolls is primed to be a disruptive force. The Rays aren’t great at any one thing, but the team is top-10 in hitting, pitching, and defense. That’s a good blend heading into postseason, especially with an innovative tactician like Kevin Cash at the helm. To a degree, Cash and his crews are already battle-tested after going 21-9 against teams with winning records this season.


3. Minnesota Twins

Run production fell off after the Twins set the MLB record for most home runs last season, although ageless Nelson Cruz continued destroying baseballs as did Byron Buxton, Eddie Rosario, and Miguel Sano. Offsetting the downturn in offense, a solid starting staff led by probable Cy Young finalist Kenta Maeda and a deep bullpen relying on Taylor Rogers, Matt Wisler, Tyler Clippard, Tyler Duffey, Trevor May, and Sergio Romo. Minnesota certainly has a strong chance of representing the AL in the World Series.


4. Cleveland Indians

If pitching is truly key to going deep into the postseason, Cleveland is also be a strong contender for the AL pennant. The offense ranked in the bottom-third of MLB, but the team has one of the best and deepest rotations in baseball headlined by AL Cy Young front runner Shane Bieber. Again, starting staffs with length should be vital during compressed playoff series – the Tribe certainly has that box checked.


5. San Diego Padres

Recent injuries to starters Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet are concerning, especially if one or both pitchers aren’t available for the playoffs. Then again, San Diego’s super-charged offense and strong relief pitching could help keep the club competitive. Will that be enough to propel the Friars back to the Fall Classic for the first time since 1998? Tough to envision it without an effective Clevinger and/or Lamet rejoining the team.


6. Oakland Athletics

The A’s are tough to gauge. They were dominant within the dreadful AL West, but a pedestrian 10-10 against the more competitive NL West. Oakland’s offense and starting rotation were average, but the bullpen stood out as one of baseball’s best. An added edge for the team – veteran skipper Bob Melvin making the most of his roster. Assuming Melvin’s squad generates enough run production to the get the ball to the bullpen with a lead, the AL West division champions are championship material.


7. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs pack a powerful one-two punch with Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks atop the rotation. Joining in on the fun with strong Septembers were veteran Jon Lester and Alec Mills, who tossed a no-hitter. Even a bullpen that struggled early has been reliable during the stretch run. Still, the lineup is below average in every significant offensive category, including the most important of all – runs scored.


8. New York Yankees

The offense is potent thanks to the bats of DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, Clint Frazier, Gio Urshela, Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres and 36-year-old Brett Gardner. Plus, Gerrit Cole, Masahiro Tanaka, and J.A. Happ form a very respectable top-of-the-rotation. Nevertheless, the Yankees’ once-formidable bullpen has been less-than-ordinary lately. A troubling development for an organization that believes there is only one acceptable outcome for any season – a World Series win.


9. Cincinnati Reds

The Reds barely made the tournament, but they’re the type of opponent high seeds probably prefer avoiding. Why?  A dynamic rotation with a top-three of NL Cy Young front-runner Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray. Shoring up the rear – a versatile bullpen with closer Raisel Iglesias, Archie Bradley, Lucas Sims, Amir Garrett, Tejay Antone, and Michael Lorenzen. The issue most likely to slow Cincinnati’s roll in October – an underachieving offense averaging just 4.05 runs/game.


10. Atlanta Braves

The Braves led the majors in runs scored with Freddie Freeman having an MVP-worthy season, but the team’s success moving forward hinges on an injury-decimated rotation. Max Fried is a Cy Young candidate and rookie Ian Anderson has been superb. After that, it gets squishy. Atlanta does have a solid bullpen headed by veteran closer Mark Melancon, although it may not be enough to drive deep into the postseason.


11. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox were top-5 in offense and run prevention with a fun roster featuring both youth and experience. The rotation was solid with Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, and Dylan Cease, while the bullpen led by closer Alex Colome was a strength. The most fascinating Chicago reliever – 2020 first round pick Garrett Crochet, who typically tops 100-MPH on the radar gun. One concern – the Sox finished the season 2-8, which includes a 4-game sweep by Cleveland.


12. Toronto Blue Jays

Deadline pickup Taijuan Walker performed well along with staff ace Hyun Jin Ryu, but the rest of the Blue Jays’ rotation struggled in September. Moreover, the bullpen wasn’t particular good down the stretch. This doesn’t bode well for a club that backed into a postseason berth that wouldn’t normally be available.


13. St. Louis Cardinals

A COVID-19 outbreak wreaked havoc on the Cardinals’ schedule, but the team powered through to reach the postseason. St. Louis defenders were among the best in MLB with the most defensive runs saved (DRS). But the offense ranked in the bottom-third of MLB and the pitching staff doesn’t rate much better. That’s not going to work in a frenetic postseason tourney.


14. Miami Marlins

The surprising Marlins overcame an even more disastrous COVID outbreak than the Redbirds to earn a playoff berth for the first time since they won the 2003 World Series. The Fish don’t appear to be built for a deep postseason run, but their stable of young rotation arms that includes Sixto Sanchez, Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez could make them a difficult early round opponent. The future is bright in Miami.


15. Houston Astros

Oh, how far the defending AL champions have fallen. Houston limps into the postseason thanks to a second place finish in the underwhelming AL West. Give manager Dusty Baker credit for keeping the club moving forward, but the end is looming for a once-formidable franchise.


16. Milwaukee Brewers

Pitching has been a strength with Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes at the top of the rotation and Josh Hader, Brent Suter, and rookie Devin Williams the marquee arms in a power bullpen. Unfortunately, Burnes just went down with an oblique strain and likely misses the postseason. Adding to the Brewers’ woes – well below-average run production. This eleventh hour qualifier appears destined for an early exit.


Looking Ahead

In a few weeks, my power rankings will probably look awful with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Then again, who cares?

We were lucky to have an MLB season to watch or debate about. I’m okay with being roasted for my rankings.

Bring on the postseason.

 

Image courtesy of Jeffrey McWhorter / AP Images
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