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2022 MLB Power Rankings: NL Wild Card Race

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With just one week left in the 2022 MLB season, the most exciting race in either race is for the National League Wild Card spots. Three teams are jockeying for two spots with just three games separating the No. 5 seed from being out of the playoffs entirely. How will it unfold?

Wild Card 1: NL East Runner-Up

Both the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves have clinched playoff spots, but only 1.5 games separate them within the division. The Mets have the advantage – the 1.5-game lead – but the Braves host them in the season’s penultimate series. If the Mets salvage one game from the series, they just have to match Atlanta’s record the rest of the way because they would win the season’s tiebreaker. If Atlanta sweeps, they would almost certainly lift their fifth straight NL East crown.

The runner-up will host the NL Wild Card series against the No. 5 seed. While the Mets or Braves would be reasonable favorites to win the series, it is a scary proposition to be out of the playoffs with just two losses. On the other hand, the NL East winner gets a first-round bye, and they avoid the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS.

Wild Card 2 & 3

San Diego Padres (+1.5 Games)

The Padres had some struggles immediately after the trade deadline, but they have fired off seven wins in their last 10 games to surge into the No. 5 seed. Out of the wild card contenders, the Padres likely have the best shot to make a run in October. In a three-game series, the Padres could trot out Yu Darvish, Joe Musgrove, and either Blake Snell or Sean Manaea. Darvish and Musgrove have had strong seasons while Snell and Manaea have the stuff to stifle an offense.

On the offensive side, the Padres have Manny Machado and Juan Soto as a top-tier one-two punch. Beyond the superstars, Jake Cronenwortth, Jurickson Profar, and Brandon Drury will provide lineup depth and competitive at-bats. Even a slumping Josh Bell is a dangerous bat.

The Padres finish their season with nine games at Petco Park. They host the Dodgers, White Sox, and Giants in a reasonably workable schedule. The Dodgers usually give the Padres trouble, but the Dodgers have little to play for at this point. The White Sox are in free fall while the Giants will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs in the coming days. Even a 5-4 stretch should be more than enough to clinch a playoff spot.

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Philadelphia Phillies

Currently occupying the No. 6 seed, the Phillies have been on a bit of a slide. After ripping off five wins in a row, the Phillies dropped their last game against the Miami Marlins before the Braves swept them in Atlanta. The Phillies salvaged a split against the Blue Jays with a walk-off win. They then stumbled after jumping out to a 2-0 series lead against the Braves, losing Game 3 and Game 4. A 3-7 stretch is not ideal.

Bryce Harper (.898 OPS) and Kyle Schwarber (42 home runs) will steal many of the headlines, but J.T. Realmuto might be the NL MVP since July 1. Realmuto has slashed .319/.377/.615 while bringing his usual great defense from behind the dish. He has even swiped eight bases while simultaneously shutting down opposing running games.

The Phillies set up well in a potential Wild Card series with two aces (Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler) as well as a capable No. 3 starter in Ranger Suarez. The bullpen will cause headaches for Phillies fans, but David Robertson has been reliable in closing games since coming over at the deadline. The Phillies are probably the most likely team to resemble the 2019 Washington Nationals en route to a deep playoff run as they are led by hitting stars and starting pitching.

The Phillies played their last game of the season at Citizens Bank Park on September 25. They close the regular season with series against the Cubs, Nationals, and Astros. Like the Padres, this is a workable stretch with the only quality team being a clinched Astros squad. Winning five of nine should give the Phillies a playoff berth.

Milwaukee Brewers (-1.5 Games)

The Brewers are on the outside looking in with a tough road in their last nine games. They will be at home for all nine games, but the Cardinals will look to lock up the division in a two-game series. The Brewers then host the Marlins for four games and the Diamondbacks for three, but the season could be over even before Arizona comes to town.

The Brewers have an elimination number of nine, giving the Brewers a thin margin of error moving forward. However, the Brewers do have the Corbin BurnesBrandon Woodruff buzzsaw that could squeeze out extra wins. Woodruff is the probable starter for Game 2 of the Cardinals series, so perhaps the Brewers stay alive. This could come at the cost of not having a full-strength Burnes/Woodruff for the NL Wild Card series, but making the playoffs is paramount.

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Ryan Potts is an avid football and baseball fan. He covers the NFL and Major League Baseball, focusing on the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Braves.