2023 MLB playoffs: Our predictions from the wild-card games through the World Series

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The 2023 MLB playoffs kick off on Tuesday afternoon, with 12 teams hoping to raise this year’s World Series trophy.

The Braves — who enter October with MLB’s best record — look to win their second World Series title in three years, while the Phillies will try to take down their NL East foe to return to the Fall Classic — and win it this year. The Astros, on the other hand, want to become baseball’s first repeat champions since the Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000. And the Orioles hope to ride their momentum from the regular season all the way to their first title in 40 years.

Who will win each round? And which squad will be the last standing at the end of the postseason? We asked more than 25 of our MLB experts — from ESPN.com, TV, Stats & Information and more — to give us their predictions.

Below are their picks for the wild-card winners (two teams will make it out of each league), division series winners, league championship series winners and World Series champion.

Everything you need to know | Playoff schedule | Live updates | Watch on ESPN, ABC

American League Wild Card Series

ALWC: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Minnesota Twins

Toronto Blue Jays 17
Minnesota Twins 10

Our voters seem to be split between Minnesota and Toronto. Why do you think the Twins will prevail? This is a tight matchup between two franchises really starved for some postseason validation. The Twins’ offense has been better than Toronto’s in recent weeks, which is not something you’d guess just looking at the names of who has been available. The rotation matchup is fantastic, and a lot hinges on Pablo Lopez against Kevin Gausman in Game 1. When and if it goes to the bullpen, I really like the way Minnesota’s current pecking order stacks up, with Chris Paddack back on the mound, Kenta Maeda able to work the middle innings and, of course, Jhoan Duran waiting at the end. The margins are somewhere between small and invisible, but I like the Twins in three. — Bradford Doolittle


ALWC: Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays 22
Texas Rangers 5

How do the Rangers come out of the wild-card series triumphant against the 99-win Rays? When the Rangers’ lineup is whole — which it is again — it is the most potent in the AL. Corey Seager and Josh Jung both missed extended time because of injury, but this team went 50-31 and averaged 5.5 runs/game when they both played. That, for me, is the tiebreaker in what is practically a coin-flip series. — Paul Hembekides

National League Wild Card Series

NLWC: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers 24
Arizona Diamondbacks 3

The D-backs are the overwhelming underdog in our voters’ eyes. How do you think they pull off the upset? The Brewers have the best pitching staff in the NL, and quite possibly the entire postseason. They are really hard to score runs against, and if anyone other than the Braves is going to be representing the NL in the World Series, I think it’s going to be the Brewers. But that’s where what Arizona does best comes into play. The D-backs stole the second-most bases in baseball and struck out fewer times than all but three teams. They put the ball in play and they manufacture runs. This kind of approach has a better chance against Milwaukee than an all-or-nothing home run-oriented offense, and, especially in a short series, that could add up to just enough scoring to pull off the upset. — Dan Mullen


NLWC: Miami Marlins vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia Phillies 25
Miami Marlins 2

The Marlins surprised everyone by even making the playoffs. What makes you think they won’t get past Philly? It’s not so much a problem with the Marlins; it’s that the Phillies continue to feel like a team that is built for October, especially while playing in front of their own rowdy fans. Bryce Harper will find his moment at some point. Trea Turner went ballistic for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic and is scorching hot yet again. And overall, the top part of their roster is significantly more talented and seasoned than that of the Marlins — and that really matters in small, pressure-filled October sample sizes. — Alden Gonzalez

American League Division Series

ALDS: Winner of Blue Jays-Twins vs. Houston Astros

Houston Astros 23
Toronto Blue Jays 3
Minnesota Twins 1

The Astros are our voters’ favorite here, but you chose the Jays. Why do you think they can win it? I’m not sure why so many people grant the Astros automatic entry into the ALCS. This isn’t the 2022 team — the Astros posted a middle-of-the-road 4.31 ERA from July forward, enjoyed no home-field advantage at all (they were three games under .500 at home, after being 29 over last year) and dropped all three games in Toronto against the Blue Jays’ top three rotation members in June. I think the Blue Jays caught a break with the silly no-reseeding rule, getting to face the Astros in the division series rather than the Orioles, against whom they were 3-10 in the regular season. — Tristan Cockcroft


ALDS: Winner of Rangers-Rays vs. Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles 15
Texas Rangers 1
Tampa Bay Rays 11

Make the case for the Orioles: When the Orioles came somewhat out of nowhere to win 83 games last season, people thought they were ahead of schedule. With a blistering 101-win pace this year, a young team that doesn’t know any better won’t be afraid of a battle-tested Rays team. The Rays’ top pitcher, Tyler Glasnow, posted an 8.22 ERA against the O’s in three starts this season. And guess who stopped the Rays’ streak of 36 consecutive scoreless innings in September? You guessed it: Baltimore. Home field will be huge here. — Clinton Yates

Make the case for the Rays: It almost doesn’t matter who the Rays play. The pitching staff generally overachieves, especially in the bullpen, and they’ll open the first few games with high-end, strikeout guys. Watch out for rookie Junior Caminero. The Rays boast plenty of power and maneuverability, and most members of the team are playoff experienced. — Eric Karabell

National League Division Series

NLDS: Winner of Diamondbacks-Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers 20
Milwaukee Brewers 7

What makes the Dodgers a threat in October? My theory about the playoffs is that they are about proven star performers and not making mistakes due to institutional continuity and excellence. Ronald Acuna Jr., Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman would be the top three for the former, and the Braves, Dodgers and Astros would be the top three for the latter. I’ll bet on the Dodgers and Braves to beat anyone until they go head-to-head. — Kiley McDaniel

How can the Brewers upset L.A. to advance? The Brewers will send the Dodgers home this season, and they’ll do it in the most teeth-grinding way possible. Short on offense but absolutely stacked in the bullpen, the Brewers will win four games by scores of 2-1 or 3-2. There might be bunts involved. One reliever after another — Hoby Milner, Bryse Wilson, Abner Uribe, Joel Payamps and finally Devin Williams — will make nine innings feel like five or six. The Dodgers are the second-best offense in baseball, so it’s a tall task, and an admittedly preposterous idea, but the Brewers will win because bullpens win this time of year, right? — Tim Keown


NLDS: Winner of Marlins-Phillies vs. Atlanta Braves

Atlanta Braves 22
Philadelphia Phillies 5

The Braves were upset by the Phillies in last year’s division series. Why do you think Atlanta has it in the bag this time around? Philadelphia pitchers will have a hard time keeping the Braves in the ballpark. Aaron Nola gave up 32 home runs — the sixth most in baseball this year — but the Braves can take anyone deep. This time, they’ll do exactly that to the Phillies. They will out-homer a good home-run-hitting team and move on to the NLCS. — Jesse Rogers

American League Championship Series

Houston Astros 9
Baltimore Orioles 9
Tampa Bay Rays 7
Toronto Blue Jays 1
Texas Rangers 1

Houston, Baltimore and Tampa Bay all received a similar number of votes. Why are the Astros your pick? The AL can be won by five, if not six, teams. I’ll take the Astros because of the way they have played since being swept at home by the Royals. They went to Seattle and won two out of three in front of loud, huge crowds. Then they went to Arizona and swept the Diamondbacks to win the AL West. Houston’s experience this time of year cannot be overstated. It doesn’t have the same depth of veteran starting pitching that it had last year, but that lineup is tremendous now that Michael Brantley is back and Yordan Alvarez is crushing. It’s corny and a cliché, but never underestimate the heart of a champion. — Tim Kurkjian

Why are the Rays yours? The Rays lost three-fifths of their rotation. They lost their entire middle infield. And yet here they are, still with a representative enough pitching staff and deep enough lineup to capture the pennant. How? Because they never stray from who they are and what they do well. Tampa Bay survived the injuries through depth — the sort of depth that, in October, plays particularly well. The depth to play platoons correctly. The depth to deploy relievers in leverage moments. Depth isn’t sexy. But in the case of the Rays, it’s enough to make up for all they lack. — Jeff Passan

National League Championship Series

Atlanta Braves 21
Philadelphia Phillies 5
Los Angeles Dodgers 1

The NL is a little more clear-cut, with the Braves the overwhelming favorite here. But you chose the Phillies. Why? It’s an upset pick. I have no illusions about that. I just really like the Phillies’ roster in a postseason context. No team can match the Braves in terms of sheer firepower, but the Phillies are in the mix for the top of the next tier. Philly’s rotation is deep and stacks up well against Atlanta’s battered group, no matter how things go in the wild-card round. The tipping-point factor to me is the Phillies’ bullpen, which has vicious stuff coming from both sides of the plate and from more than one reliever. Once we get to the LDS round and there are some built-in off-days, I think that group could carry the Phillies all the way. I can’t say the same thing about the Atlanta bullpen. — Doolittle

World Series

Atlanta Braves 21

(Matt Marrone, Jesse Rogers, Matthew Stupienski, Brianna Williams, Alden Gonzalez, Tristan Cockcroft, Karl Ravech, Enrique Rojas, Liz Finny, Michael Kay, Dan Mullen, Tim Keown, Jeff Passan, Tim Kurkjian, Peter Lawrence-Riddell, Brendan DeAngelis, Kiley McDaniel, Rachel Ullrich, Clinton Yates, David Fleming, Gregg Colli)

Philadelphia Phillies 4

(Buster Olney, Eric Karabell, Paul Hembekides, Bradford Doolittle)

Los Angeles Dodgers 1

(Jeremy Willis)

Baltimore Orioles 1

(Dave Schoenfield)

The Braves were our most popular pick. Why did you go with Atlanta here? I typically pick some series winners that aren’t favored or don’t have the best regular-season records because the playoffs are always more random than you think. But I just can’t pick against the Braves, even though that’s the chalk answer. Their offense is so overwhelming and they have Spencer Strider as their ace, not to mention a strong back end of the bullpen. Pair that with some rest and the know-how in navigating the playoffs and you’ve got a recipe for a World Series title. — McDaniel

What makes you think the Phillies can come away with the title this year? In many respects, they are better prepared for a long run through October than they were last year, when they came so close from an 87-win season to winning the whole thing. Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh, Alec Bohm and other young players on the team now have the experience of playing in the postseason, and the Phillies’ pitching staff is deeper and maybe better. They’ve also got stars who can carry the others through a big spot — Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos. Look, the Phillies have to play one more round than the Astros, Braves and Dodgers, and with that, there might well be injuries and worn-down pitchers. But this is a really dangerous team. — Olney

You were our only pick for the O’s. Explain how Baltimore wins its first World Series since 1983. The Orioles have been the AL’s most consistent team all season, winning 101 games in the toughest division. They’ve played their best baseball over the final two months, with the second-best record behind only the Dodgers. They went 51-39 against winning teams, best in the AL. They play defense and run the bases, and their lineup is better than you realize (fourth in the majors in runs on the road). Would I feel better about this prediction with a healthy Felix Bautista? Yes, but the bullpen hasn’t skipped a beat without him. Given the pitching concerns with the Braves, Dodgers and Rangers, it’s Baltimore’s year. Let the dynasty begin. — Schoenfield



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