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The most important names in the 2022 MLB postseason

Who’s ready for some October baseball? After a grueling six-month regular season, we’ve finally made it, folks. Baseball’s best teams are set to square off all month in search of taking home the ultimate prize in early November. Let’s look at 20 names that will shape this year’s postseason.


freddie freeman

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Freddie Freeman’s high-profile exit from Atlanta was arguably the biggest story of baseball’s offseason, but the perennial all-star has certainly landed on his feet back home in southern California. Freeman has become an integral piece of baseball’s best team, and he and the Dodgers have as good a chance to win this year’s World Series as anybody. And what a scene it would be if he went head to head against his old friends in Atlanta in a couple of weeks. 


aaron judge

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

What else can be said about the historical season Aaron Judge just turned in that hasn’t already been discussed ad nauseam? The Yankees superstar has morphed from a very good hitter to simply the most dangerous offensive force in the game. He’ll have to keep himself from trying to do too much in the playoffs, though. Judge is the one guy you can’t let beat you when playing the Yankees, and in game-breaking situations, the opposition will likely choose to pitch around him. His objective simply has to be to take advantage of the opportunities he’s given while also not being afraid to pass the baton if he’s not getting pitches to hit.


jacob degrom

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mets’ righty Jacob deGrom went down right at the all-star break in 2021 and didn’t come back until 13 months later. And from the first pitch he threw this summer, it was clear he was still the best pitcher on the planet, and it’s still not particularly close. deGrom is the biggest reason the Mets are one of the favorites to take home their first World Series championship since 1986. The ability to throw him multiple times in a short series gives New York justifiable confidence that they can beat anybody.


max scherzer

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Sticking with the Mets, the reason many see them as the most formidable team in October extends beyond just Jacob deGrom. New owner Steve Cohen broke the bank to bring three-time Cy Young award-winning righty Max Scherzer to Queens to be deGrom’s running mate, and heading into the playoffs, this is playing out exactly how he had in mind. Scherzer has been nothing short of fantastic in his first season in the orange and blue, and he and deGrom are intent on pitching the Mets to their first World Series title since 1986.


vladimir guerrero jr.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays star Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has not matched the astronomical offensive numbers he put up in ’21, but make no mistake–he’s still had a terrific year. Guerrero is the game-breaking bat in the middle of a very dangerous Toronto line-up, and his ability to completely turn a game on its head makes him one of the most polarizing October participants. He’s only appeared in two career playoff games–both coming in the truncated 2020 season that brought expanded postseason–and this month is when he really wants to make his name on the national stage.


ronald acuna jr.

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Braves’ Ronald Acuna Jr. has not been the same since tearing up his knee in Miami last season. The three-time all-star’s numbers this season have been noticeably pedestrian when compared to the standard he’d established over his first four seasons. That said, Acuna Jr.’s talent cannot be questioned, and if he can get hot, he has the ability to carry an already deep Braves offense. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the National League field.


alex bregman

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sport

Much to the chagrin of many baseball fans who will never forgive them for their incredibly offensive sign-stealing scheme, here are the Astros, back in the postseason as the top team in the American League. And while Houston has gotten tremendous contributions from guys like Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, and Jose Altuve, I see their third baseman Alex Bregman as the linchpin that could make them impossible to stop this next month. After a slow start, Bregman caught fire in the second half–particularly in August when he slashed .362/.452/.681 with seven homers and 17 RBI. The veteran has nearly 80 games of playoff experience coming into this October and has come up with countless big hits for this Houston team. Look for him to add to his already impressive resume.


jose ramirez

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Guardians were not expected to win the American League Central this season, but they’ve enjoyed every minute of proving people wrong. They’re led by their best player, third baseman Jose Ramirez, who has anchored a line-up with very few other household names. Entering October, the Guardians have very little expected of them and are almost playing with house money. But make no mistake, this team is dangerous, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Ramirez and company stick around longer than you’d think. 


julio rodriguez

Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners have been absent from the postseason for over two decades, and their return to the October stage is one of the best storylines heading into the playoffs. Seattle has been carried by affable young 21-year-old star Julio Rodriguez, who will be the unanimous AL Rookie of the Year. This is a veteran team with good leadership, but it is the youthful Rodriguez who will determine just how far they’ll ultimately go.


gerrit cole

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Since coming to the Bronx three years ago, right-hander Gerrit Cole has been very good–even if he hasn’t quite pitched to the numbers he did in Houston before relocating to the northeast. But Cole wasn’t brought here to be a solid upper echelon regular season starter. The objective for the Yankees is always to win in October, and Bombers fans won’t forgive Cole for his abysmal performance in last season’s wild-card game against the Red Sox until he carries them to huge postseason victories this year. Potentially no pitcher is under more pressure to deliver on the biggest stage.


buck showalter

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets have been one of the best teams in baseball from the very first day of spring training, and so much of the credit for that needs to be attributed to first-year skipper Buck Showalter, who will be a shoo-in for National League Manager of the Year. Showalter’s baseball acumen is through the roof, and New York has won multiple games this season due to his unrivaled knowledge of the rulebook and ability to never be caught off guard. The Mets will never go into a game underprepared, and that’s just one of the reasons they’ll be really tough to beat in October. 


julio urias

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers are loaded with all-stars, and their pitching staff is littered with dynamic arms. But every one of Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin, Walker Buehler, and Tyler Anderson has missed some degree of time this season. Lefty Julio Urias has been the one guy to consistently take the ball all season long, and the 26-year-old has blossomed into a legitimate force to be reckoned with. He’ll likely be the guy on the mound for LA in game one of their first playoff series, and he’ll end up having a lot to say about how their season ultimately ends. 


manny machado

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres have faced an annoying amount of adversity this season–much of it caused by immature shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.–but they’ve been able to overcome it primarily because of the performance of third baseman Manny Machado. In his fourth season in San Diego, Machado has authored his best year as a Padre and is as formidable an offensive player as there is in the National League. The Friars will face an uphill battle to make noise in October, but if they do, I can guarantee you Machado will be the primary reason why. 


edwin diaz

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets have gotten a lot of attention on this list, and for good reason. New York enters the playoffs fully expecting to make a deep run, and their pitching (as mentioned earlier) is the primary reason why. In addition to having top-tier starting pitchers, though, the Mets bullpen is anchored by the current best closer in the sport, righty Edwin Diaz. New York’s offense can sometimes be a little hit or miss, and many of their playoff games will likely be low-scoring affairs in which they hand off a slim lead to Diaz in the late innings. How far they go could easily be determined by his ability to slam the door. 


aaron nola

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It wasn’t that long ago that the Phillies’ Aaron Nola finished third behind Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer in the NL Cy Young voting. Nola has not quite matched that 2018 season, but he remains one of the more steady pitchers in the National League, and a guy that, when he’s on his game, is as good as anybody. The Phillies have finally broken a decade-long postseason drought, and Nola will have to come up big if they’re going to pull off a first-round upset.


kenley jansen

Larry Robinson-USA TODAY Sports

The defending champion Atlanta Braves have been the best team in the big leagues since June first, but if there’s one thing that gives you pause about their chances of repeating, it’s the very back of their bullpen. Closer Kenley Jansen missed time earlier this season with an irregular heartbeat, and he’s been far from dominant since returning. Braves fans have had to hold their breath in many of Jansen’s recent save attempts, and his inconsistency could come back to bite his team against better teams in the playoffs. 


corey kluber

Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Rays righty Corey Kluber has enjoyed a little bit of a renaissance this season in Tampa Bay. After struggling to stay healthy for three years in a row, Kluber has been able to make regular turns in the Rays’ rotation and has helped Tampa Bay claim a playoff spot for the 4th year in a row. Tampa’s rotation is anchored by dynamic lefty Shane McClanahan, but Kluber is their number two. The Rays are going to be thrust into a best-of-three wild card series, and no matter what happens in the game McClanahan pitches, the veteran will be under tremendous pressure to rise to the occasion in game two. 


matt olson

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Braves first baseman Matt Olson was handed the unenviable task of replacing franchise icon Freddie Freeman in Atlanta, and for most of the season, he did an admirable job. But Olson’s production has fallen off a cliff in September when the Braves have needed him most in the midst of a heated National League East race with the Mets. Olson got only nine games of playoff experience as a member of the A’s, and he’s about to be thrust into a much higher octane environment than he ever experienced in the Bay Area. 


max fried

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Sticking with Atlanta. Most baseball pundits would agree that one of the Dodgers, Mets, and Braves is going to represent the National League in the Fall Classic. And while LA and New York can fire starting pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, Jacob deGrom, and Max Scherzer, the Braves’ answer against those guys will be Max Fried, who’s one of the best pitchers in the game in his own right. Behind him, Atlanta has fire-balling righty Spencer Strider, who has never thrown this many innings, and Kyle Wright, Jake Odorizzi, and Charlie Morton–all of whom have been inconsistent at times. It’s absolutely imperative to their repeat aspirations that the Braves win the games Fried throws. 


jordan montgomery

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

An under-the-radar trade at the deadline saw the Cardinals pick up left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery from the Yankees, but the trade has helped catapult St. Louis into one of the most dangerous teams in the National League. Montgomery dominated down the stretch for the Redbirds, emerging as NL Central champions’ top starter. He’ll get a heavy workload in the playoffs, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue pitching at this level against the best teams.

Justin Mears is a freelance sports writer from Long Beach Island, NJ. Enjoys being frustrated by the Mets and Cowboys, reading Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Follow him on twitter @justinwmears

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