ALCS: Wild Card Toronto Blue Jays @ #2 Cleveland Indians
Both teams enter this showdown coming off series sweeps of the ALDS. Toronto’s power lineup featuring Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion has carried them along with great starts from starters Marcus Stroman and Marco Estrada. The Blue Jays also have playoff experience on their side, having reached the ALCS last year before losing to eventual World Series champion Kansas City. Cleveland, despite missing two starters in Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, still has excellent pitching which includes former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber along with Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. This trio was able to silence the Red Sox #1 offense holding them to under 10 runs total in the ALDS. Cleveland also has an advantage at manager, with two time World Series champion Terry Francona who has plenty of playoff experience. Despite sweeping the Red Sox, I still think Cleveland is being underrated in this series partly due to the flashy and more exciting Blue Jays. However, I like Cleveland to win this series in 5 games and advance to the World Series.
NLCS: #3 Los Angeles Dodgers @ #1 Chicago Cubs
Much like the Toronto Blue Jays, the Chicago Cubs are also one step away from the World Series for the second consecutive year. Clearly the 103 win powerhouse Cubs are the odds on favorite to win the World Series, so the only question is if they can handle the pressure and actually deliver. For a young team, having had previous postseason experience last year will make a big difference this time around. Kris Bryant has emerged as an MVP candidate this season, the starting pitching is lights out with Lester/Hendricks/Arrieta, and the acquisition of closer Aroldis Chapman at the deadline has the Cubs a complete team. For the Dodgers, their chances in this series will come down to how Clayton Kershaw is able to perform. Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game, but has had consistent postseason struggles. He will need to deliver 2 lights out performances against the high powered Cubs offense to give them a chance. I think the Chicago Cubs ultimately win this series in 6 games.