Originally found on Fox Sports:
Major League Baseball
Oct. 27, 2023 7:27 a.m. ET
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
FOX Sports MLB Analyst
Two years ago, the Rangers and Diamondbacks each lost more than 100 games. Last year, they both finished in fourth place. Seven months ago, they were preseason long shots to go deep in October. Four weeks ago, they were faltering down the stretch and nearly lost their wild-card seeds. This past weekend, they both trailed 3-2 in their respective league championship series against reigning league champions and needed to win twice on the road to advance.
Texas versus Arizona, therefore, is a fitting end to the most unpredictable postseason in recent memory. While they have a lot in common — and they’ve made invaluable moves in the past year alone to get here — they are quite different ballclubs stylistically.
So, who’s going to win this World Series?
FOX Sports MLB experts Deesha Thosar, Jake Mintz, Jordan Shusterman and Rowan Kavner are tackling those topics and more in our weekly roundtable ahead of Friday’s Game 1 (8:03 p.m. ET, FOX and the FOX Sports App).
1. Would the D-backs making the World Series have been a bigger surprise to you before the season or before the postseason?
Jordan Shusterman: As wild as it’s been watching an 84-win, No. 6 seed go on this run, it still has to be before the season. Even if you were optimistic about Arizona as a legitimate wild-card threat, there seemed to be far too much competition in its own division, not to mention the rest of the National League, that made even a playoff berth seem like a tall task on Opening Day. And as we’ve seen before, sometimes it’s just about getting into the tournament and then anything can happen.
Jake Mintz: I’ll say before the postseason, just because Arizona came into October on a four-game losing streak, including a gut-punch three-game sweep at home against the Astros to close out the regular season. The D-backs backed into the playoffs, only sneaking into the field with 84 wins because the Cubs and Reds bungled it even harder.
Three weeks ago, nobody knew that Brandon Pfaadt would deliver as a reliable No. 3 starter. Nobody knew that Arizona’s bullpen dragon was this fearsome. Nobody knew that Ketel Marte was going to go on a historical heater and collect hits in every single postseason game. This Diamondbacks team had potential before the season (I’ll take my flowers now), but looked like a rickety operation on Oct. 2.
2. What’s impressed you most about the Rangers‘ run this October?
Deesha Thosar: That they’ve been able to reach the Fall Classic with the pitching staff they currently have and the injuries that staff has battled all year long. Without the additions of Jordan Montgomery and Max Scherzer at the trade deadline, Texas wouldn’t be in the World Series today. Even so, remaking its rotation on the fly didn’t guarantee those moves would be successful. Every time Montgomery or Nathan Eovaldi dominate or Aroldis Chapman walks away unscathed, I’m impressed.
Rowan Kavner: While I couldn’t have predicted Adolis García to do this, the Rangers’ offense hasn’t surprised me. Their pitching has. Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi have single-handedly lifted this rotation, emerging as arguably baseball’s best starting duo in October. They’ve pitched 51 of the Rangers’ 108 innings this postseason. Their ability to provide length has helped mask the bullpen deficiencies.
Mintz: With no disrespect to the Texas duo, I’ll take Carroll and Moreno by a wide margin. Moreno looks like a great hitter at the game’s most demanding position. Carroll looks like a perennial MVP candidate. Jung looks like an everyday regular at third base, and even though Carter has impressed in his short MLB stint, we really don’t have all that much of a sample size. If Carter or Jung ever put up a season as valuable as the one Carroll just posted, the Rangers would be absolutely thrilled. Carroll is already one of the best players in baseball and Moreno is a 23-year-old catcher with an elite throwing arm in an era where that’s more important than ever.
Kavner: It’s really close, but because of the position Moreno plays, I’d lean toward the Arizona duo. Carroll is already one of the 10-20 most valuable position players in the game, and Moreno at 23 years old is already one of the game’s best defensive catchers at a premium spot. Carter has basically looked like the next Mike Trout since getting called up and has far exceeded expectations at every step, but the sample size is still so small. I’m curious to see how the power holds up over the course of a full season. He might be the player I’m most excited to watch in 2024.
Shusterman: I adore each of these players and have loved watching each of them shine on the postseason stage, and each offers a compelling argument for their value being superior over the long run. Though the offensive upside might be greater for the Texas duo, I still lean Arizona here. Finding a franchise catcher who can make such a big difference on both sides of the ball the way Moreno can is just so rare. It’s close, though, and you could also argue it comes down to whether you prefer Carroll or Carter as a long-term solution in center field versus a corner outfield spot.
Thosar: Carroll and Moreno, all the way. After going 3-for-23 with no stolen bases through the first six games of the NLCS, Carroll’s breakout moment finally arrived in Game 7 against the Phillies. He registered timely hits, stole a couple of bases, and went 3-for-4. It was just a glimpse of what the rookie can accomplish at his peak. As for Moreno, give me a solid catcher with a high offensive ceiling every day of the week. At just 23 years old, it’s exciting to speculate just how much of a central figure Moreno can become for the D-backs — and the league — for the next decade.
4a. Which player on the Diamondbacks is under the most pressure in this series?
Mintz: Two guys for Arizona: Zac Gallen and Christian Walker. Both dudes were crucial contributors to the team’s success during the regular season. Both looked subpar during the NLCS. Gallen lost both of his starts against Philly. And while he didn’t look disastrous, he certainly performed below his Cy Young-ish capabilities. The fastball command is the biggest question mark. He made too many big mistakes against Philly’s left-handed bats and they took him deep.
Walker, meanwhile, was completely lost at the dish the entire series against Philly. He started drawing a few walks — it is his name after all — later on in the NLCS, but he was far from the 30-bomb, RBI machine he was during the regular season. Arizona will need him to perform against Texas’ left-handed hurlers (Montgomery, Chapman, Andrew Heaney, Cody Bradford).
Shusterman: Zac Gallen. He hasn’t been terrible, and he’s still managed to cover five-plus innings in all four starts this postseason, but we have yet to see the Cy Young-candidate version of Gallen carve up an opponent the way he did so many times in the regular season.
Arizona losing both Gallen starts in the NLCS and still winning the series feels like an awfully difficult thing to repeat in the World Series. Texas’ lineup is relentless, and even with his struggles against Philadelphia, Gallen is certainly capable of delivering a gem or two. Merrill Kelly and breakout rookie righty Brandon Pfaadt have already shown up big time, enabling this World Series berth. It’s time for Gallen to do the same.
4b. Which player on the Rangers is under the most pressure in this series?
Kavner: Max Scherzer. He has deemed himself healthy enough to compete, but his command just wasn’t there in his first two starts back from injury. The Rangers haven’t needed much beyond Eovaldi and Montgomery in the rotation yet, but Scherzer was acquired for this reason. If he’s going up against Brandon Pfaadt in Game 3, that’s a matchup he will be expected to win.
Thosar: Max Scherzer. The aging right-hander is still a lock for the Hall of Fame, no doubt. But Texas really needs Scherzer to deliver for its rotation’s sake in the World Series, despite less ride on his fastball and fluctuations in his command. The Rangers’ bullpen is not as deep as one might think, and the staff as a whole is at its best when starters go at least five innings. These days, five innings with minimum damage would be a boon for Scherzer. If he can limit hard contact and accidental meatballs, the veteran should be in good shape.
5a. Who are you predicting to win the World Series?
Shusterman: I regretted not picking the D-backs for the NLCS when I ultimately picked Philadelphia in seven, and I am not making the same mistake here. Texas is loaded, but so were the other teams Arizona has already beaten. Snakes in seven.
Thosar: The way that Texas’ offense dismantled the Astros’ pitching seemed like just a taste of what the lineup can do when it’s at its best. Paired with the strength of a reliable 1-2 punch in Montgomery and Eovaldi, followed by José Leclerc closing things down, I’m expecting the Rangers’ bats to overpower the D-backs’ arms. Rangers in five.
Kavner: The Diamondbacks have demonstrated they belong here, but I just think this Texas offense is too deep. Rangers in six.
Mintz: The D-backs still have nothing to lose. They know it. They’re the underdogs again and they love it that way. I think their advantage on the mound in the middle games will be the edge. I’ll take Arizona in six.
5b. Who’s your WS MVP?
Shusterman: Corbin Carroll. His performance in Game 7 of the NLCS gave me ample confidence that he’s worked through the mini-cold stretch he endured in the first six games of the last round and I think he’ll continue to make a huge difference both in the box and on the bases against Texas.
Thosar: Adolis García. Meeting the moment in October is tough enough, but being fueled by that postseason atmosphere is something else. García thrives in the big moments, and once he sees the ball well, one mistake by Arizona and that ball is landing in the seats. Just like with his ALCS MVP performance, I think García will come up clutch again for Rangers.
Kavner: I expect Corey Seager — who quietly has an even higher OPS this postseason than October sensation Adolis García and is 7-for-21 in his career against D-backs ace Zac Gallen — to feast on all the right-handed pitching he’ll see in this series and take home his second World Series MVP trophy.
Mintz: I think Corbin Carroll takes that awesome performance in Game 7 of the NLCS and explodes for the WS MVP.
Bonus: What’s been your favorite moment of the postseason thus far?
Kavner: Nothing this postseason has compared to Game 5 of the ALCS between the Rangers and Astros. The Adolis García homer, the benches clearing, the José Altuve blast. It was incredible theater and the catalyst for this in-state rivalry to really heat up.
Shusterman: The Phillies sure delivered some memorable moments before they went ultra-quiet at the end of the NLCS, but I gotta go with Adolis Garcia’s homer in Game 5 off Justin Verlander that blew the roof off Globe Life Field. And even with how they ended up losing that specific game, it was clear that swing — and all the drama that ensued — helped propel García to an even higher level of focus and motivation for the remainder of the series. I’m excited to see what he does next.
Thosar: Call me a drama queen, but that ALCS Game 5 was so memorable. Everything from Adolis García getting drilled by Bryan Abreu, to the benches clearing fracas, to Dusty Baker seeing red, to José Altuve hitting a go-ahead home-run off José Leclerc in the ninth inning was baseball theater at its best.
Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more