MLB

MLB playoff predictions: Sporting News experts make picks for 2023 postseason bracket, World Series

Welcome to postseason prediction time, where we spend way too much time trying to figure out what might happen in the 2023 postseason and then remember the 2022 NLCS featured the No. 5 seed playing the No. 6 seed with a spot in the World Series on the line, and then just throw some darts at the board. 

The prediction business is brutal. Good thing nobody’s keeping score, eh? 

Here’s a prediction that we feel quite confident in making: Even though we don’t know the specifics of what might happen, we do know it’s going to be fun. Heroes emerge. Legends are made. Champagne is sprayed and lifelong memories are made, in the clubhouse, in the stands, at home with your family and friends.

It’s gonna be a fun month, folks. Without further ado, here are the 2023 MLB postseason predictions from The Sporting News baseball staff. 

MORE: Expert model projects winners for 2023 playoffs | Full bracket | Schedule

Ryan Fagan, Senior MLB Writer

National League Predictions

Wild card

  • Phillies over Marlins
  • Brewers over Diamondbacks

NLDS

  • Braves over Phillies
  • Brewers over Dodgers

NLCS

American League Predictions

Wild card

  • Rays over Rangers
  • Twins over Blue Jays

ALDS

  • Orioles over Rays
  • Twins over Astros 

ALCS

World Series prediction: Braves over Orioles

World Series winner: As much as I hate picking the team with the most wins (boring, I know), that Atlanta lineup is just so very good it’s hard to get away from the Braves. The thing that type of offense does is, it allows for a larger margin of error. If you’re a pitcher and your offense is suspect, every mistake you make can cost a game. With that Atlanta lineup of mashers, it’s probably not a one-mistake-and-you’re-done thing, at least for the starters. 

Playoff breakout star: Edouard Julien, Twins. Yes, I know the AL Central was not good this year, and we all would joke how all you’d need is a .500 record to win the division. But the Twins were actually very good for a long time— a 95-win pace after the All-Star break — and Julien, the rookie second baseman was a big reason why. In 109 games this year, he posted a .381 OPS, with 16 homers and a 130 OPS+. The Twins have the pitching to make a deep run, and Julien is the type of player who can help the offense do enough to make that happen. 

One random playoff thought: Pretty sure I say this every year, but my favorite part of the postseason is the heroes who emerge, the guys you never see coming. October is a stage, and you just never know who will play a leading role. Will it be Eddie Rosario again? Maybe a Cody Ross clone? A Mark Lemke wanna-be? Who has the David Freese clutch gene? The beauty is, it’s just damn impossible to know. But it happens every year. 

OK, a second random thought: Fascinated to see how the pitch clock impacts playoff games. It’s one thing to be rushed in the eighth inning of a close game in May or even September, but can you imagine losing a game because of a pitch-clock violation in October?

FAGAN: Power ranking the playoff teams by chances to win it all

Bill Trocchi, Senior Editor

National League Predictions

Wild Card

  • Phillies over Marlins
  • Diamondbacks over Brewers

NLDS

  • Braves over Phillies
  • Dodgers over Diamondbacks

NLCS

American League Predictions

Wild Card

  • Twins over Blue Jays
  • Rangers over Rays

ALDS

  • Twins over Astros
  • Rangers over Orioles

ALCS

World Series prediction: Braves over Rangers

World Series winner: When facing the Braves offense, it seems inevitable that no matter the deficit, they have too many outs left to make it up. The Braves’ No. 8 hitter is Michael Harris II, who has a .887 OPS the last four months. That’s better than every regular in the Rangers lineup – the team that led the AL in runs. When teams say there are no breaks in the Braves lineup, that’s what they are talking about. Spencer Strider is a solid ace, and the back end of the pen has been fairly reliable. There will be some bumpy moments with the rest of the staff, but the bats will power the Braves to their second title in three years.

Playoff breakout star: Nathaniel Lowe, Rangers. With Marcus Semien and Corey Seager looming behind him in the Texas lineup, Lowe will get some pitches to hit. The guess here is that he takes advantage and sparks an unlikely Rangers run to the World Series.

One random playoff thought: No Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets, Cardinals, Guardians or Shohei Ohtani is not going to be good for TV ratings. But casual fans that truly make time and lock into the telecasts for the first time are going to LOVE the pitch clock/stolen bases rules and how much it has improved the product.

Edward Sutelan, content producer

National League Predictions

Wild card

  • Diamondbacks over Brewers
  • Phillies over Marlins

NLDS

  • Braves over Phillies
  • Diamondbacks over Dodgers

NLCS

American League Predictions

Wild card

  • Rays over Rangers
  • Blue Jays over Twins

ALDS

  • Blue Jays over Astros
  • Orioles over Rays

ALCS

World Series prediction: Blue Jays over Braves

World Series winner: I picked the Blue Jays to win the World Series at the beginning of the season, and I’m not backing off them now. This team has all it takes to be a sleeping giant. The lineup has the potential to explode in the playoffs, and Kevin Gausman and Jose Berios give the Blue Jays a standout one-two punch. Toronto and Atlanta could be a slugfest, where the bullpen would be the difference. Edge: Toronto.

Playoff breakout star: Tim Mayza. The Blue Jays southpaw reliever pitched in 68 games, and did not allow an earned run in 62 of them. He finished the season with a mind-boggling 1.38 ERA and an impressive 2.42 FIP. Closers are in vogue during the regular season, but ace relievers like Wade Davis and Tyler Matzek have stolen the show in past postseasons. Mayza is a weapon against left-handed bats, and could get some huge moments in the playoffs this year.

One random playoff thought: The 2023 regular season might have had some of the best rookie classes ever, and that’s translating now to the postseason. Corbin Carroll, Gunnar Henderson, James Outman, Edouard Julien and Yainer Diaz at the plate. Bobby Miller, Grayson Rodriguez, Hunter Brown, Yennier Cano and J.P. France on the mound. Sure, this field will have its usual crop of big-name players like Ronald Acuna Jr., Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman that have been around a few turns, but there’s going to be some rookies playing huge roles in the playoffs. These kids are more than alright.

Bob Hille, Senior Content Consultant

National League Predictions

Wild card

  • Diamondbacks over Brewers
  • Phillies over Marlins

NLDS

  • Braves over Phillies
  • Dodgers over Diamondbacks

NLCS

American League Predictions

Wild card

  • Rays over Rangers
  • Twins over Blue Jays

ALDS

  • Orioles over Rays
  • Astros over Twins

ALCS

World Series prediction: Braves over Astros

World Series winner: Pitching is for suckers. You like offense? Get ready for fast-paced games (thank you MLB) with a lot of runs scored. The Astros’ run differential this season was plus-129. Impressive. Until you see that the Braves, in a history-making season for individuals and the team, outscored opponents by 231 runs. If you’re looking for close-to-the-vest baseball, this ain’t it. The Braves bash their way to another title. 

Playoff breakout star: If you saw Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman soak in his first start as a rookie this year, then know that he’s emblematic of franchise that’s been down on its luck but now built for big things in the near future.

One random playoff thought: Fifty years ago, the Oakland A’s won their third straight World Series. If/when they win another, it will be in Las Vegas, the fourth home for the franchise. Wild.

Adley Rutschman

Dan Treacy, Content Producer

National League Predictions

Wild card

  • Brewers over Diamondbacks
  • Phillies over Marlins

NLDS

  • Braves over Phillies
  • Brewers over Dodgers

NLCS

American League Predictions

Wild card

  • Twins over Blue Jays
  • Rays over Rangers

ALDS

  • Orioles over Rays
  • Astros over Twins

ALCS

World Series predictions: Orioles over Braves

World Series winner: A World Series champion typically is largely healthy, has stable pitching and boasts a lineup with both power and timely hitting. With the emergence of Kyle Bradish, a dominant second half by Grayson Rodriguez and the return of John Means, the Orioles finally have the pitching they needed. Their rotation stability should help offset the loss of Felix Bautista, and the no-quit mentality of the Orioles’ young bats will play well in October. Forget the future — Baltimore is positioned to make a title run right now.

Playoff breakout star: Kyle Bradish has already broken out, but it’s one thing to do it during the regular season and another to do it in October. The 27-year-old Orioles right-hander certainly seems ready for the national stage, and he can become a Baltimore hero if he helps lift the O’s to the World Series.

One random playoff thought: Watch the Brewers very closely. The Dodgers and Braves were the favorites in the NL last season, but neither made it to the NLCS. If any team is going to spoil their hopes this year, it’s Milwaukee. The Brewers’ rotation is firing on all cylinders, even outside of Corbin Burnes. Brandon Woodruff has been excellent since returning from the IL, Freddy Peralta has hit his stride in the second half, and Wade Miley seems to always look comfortable in Milwaukee. The Brewers’ bullpen, led by Devin Williams, has a 2.24 ERA since the start of September. Pitching often prevails in October, and the Brewers have much more of it than the Dodgers. 

Jacob Camenker, senior content producer

National League Predictions

Wild Card

  • Phillies over Marlins
  • Brewers over Diamondbacks

NLDS

  • Braves over Phillies
  • Dodgers over Brewers

NLCS

American League Predictions

Wild Card

  • Rays over Rangers
  • Blue Jays over Twins

ALDS

  • Orioles over Rays
  • Blue Jays over Astros

ALCS

World Series prediction: Braves over Orioles

World Series winner: The Braves are the chalky pick to win the World Series, but it’s with good reason. Their lineup seems impossible to stop. While other teams may have stronger pitching than Atlanta, the Braves can simply outscore any team in MLB. Their 947 runs scored were 41 more than the second-highest scoring team, the Dodgers, and are 66 more than the Rangers, who led the AL with 881 runs. And the Braves hit a lot of homers — they have five players with 30-plus dingers and three with 40-plus — so they will be able to strike quickly and overpower their way to a World Series title.

Playoff breakout star: Gunnar Henderson. He started his rookie season with the Orioles slowly but has since shown that his combination of power (28 home runs) and speed (10 steals, 9 triples) can be a weapon for Baltimore. He may not be a household name just yet, but rest assured that by the end of the postseason, Henderson will have established himself as one of baseball’s brightest young stars.

One random playoff thought: MLB has to be drooling over the thought of a Braves-Dodgers NLCS meeting. The two were in-line to face one another during the 2022 postseason but were upset respectively by the Padres and Phillies. But now, we may get to see Freddie Freeman face his former club with everything on the line while Mookie Betts and Ronald Acuna Jr. showcase their wide-ranging skill sets head-to-head as lead-off hitters. Add in that they are the two highest-scoring teams in MLB and this potential series would be a great one — if it happens.

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