I will make my series predictions once the Red Sox opponent has been decided, but for now, here are the key players for each team if they want to bring home a World Series title this year:
Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward
This is an obvious one. Anyone who has watched the Braves at all this season knows that while Freeman is the run producer, Heyward has been the heartbeat of the Braves offense. If he struggles, the Braves could have a very short-lived postseason run.
St. Louis Cardinals: Adam Wainwright
The Cardinals have something almost no other NL team has: an ace with very recent and extensive postseason experience. Not to mention that the rotation is kind of ‘hit or miss’ (mainly because they don’t get deep into games) after him. Which is why I believe that Wainwright has to be locked in if this team wants to make a serious run.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Yasiel Puig
While I think Hanley has been the more consistent player, Puig has more of a chance of struggling or making one of his patented bad decisions in the field/on the base paths that could cost this team. Now, he does have the potential to win a game all by himself…but he also has the potential to lose one.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Justin Morneau
While Andrew McCutchen is obviously the MVP of this team, Morneau will be the key going forward. Batting behind McCutchen in the lineup, he should have plenty of RBI opportunities with McCutchen most likely being pitched around in key situations.
Boston Red Sox: Clay Buchholz
We all know that this offense can rake and that the Sox have a great closer in Koji Uehara. However, pitching wins championships and in order to compete with some of the other staffs in the MLB, the Sox will need Buchholz to be the Ace that he was the first half of the year.
Oakland Athletics: Yoenis Cespedes
I know this team is full of different guys that step up every night, and I love them because of that. However, after posting sub .240 averages every month until September, Cespedes responded by hitting .314 with 6 HR and 19 RBI in the final month of the season. His bat being hot would be a world of difference for that lineup.
Detroit Tigers: Justin Verlander
Verlander has had his struggles this year, but if he is right, this team is going to be incredibly tough to beat in a best of 5 or 7 series. Cabrera is crucial too, but he also is very well protected in that lineup and will be pitched around a lot.
Cleveland Indians: Ubaldo Jimenez
Since the All Star break, this guy has been phenomenal, posting a 1.82 ERA, and has looked much like the ace he was in Colorado. With a ‘hit or miss’ back end of the rotation, the Indians will need Jimenez to continue his torrid stretch if they want to do any serious damage.
Tampa Bay Rays: Ben Zobrist/Delmon Young
Both of these guys have been hitting right in front or behind Evan Longoria. Now, no team in their right mind is going to let ‘Longo’ beat them at this point, because he always seems to come up huge in crucial games. Which is why these two guys will need to carry the load RBI wise.
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