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Blue Jays vs. Royals: Toronto looks to build off ALDS thriller
1:16 | MLB
Blue Jays vs. Royals: Toronto looks to build off ALDS thriller
SI Staff
Friday October 16th, 2015

The four teams still remaining in baseball's postseason—the Blue Jays and Royals in the American League and the Cubs and Mets in the National League—each carry a World Series title drought of at least two decades into their respective League Championship Series matchups, the first time that's happened since LCS play began in 1969. Who will win the pennants and take a spot in this year's Fall Classic? Here's who our panel of baseball experts thinks will still have a shot at ending that drought when this round is over.

Tom Verducci

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

New York Mets

Kansas City Royals

NLCS: Mets in 7
A coin flip of a series will come down to Jacob deGrom taking the ball for New York at Citi Field in Game 7. Advantage, Mets.

ALCS: Royals in 7
The best rally team in baseball can win games in more ways than the homer-hitting Blue Jays. That will ensure Kansas City a return trip to the World Series.

Ben Reiter

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

New York Mets

Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS: Mets in 6
The Cubs’ young lineup has notably clicked since Aug. 1, but since that time—postseason included—the Mets have outscored Chicago by 19 runs and done so in one fewer game. Even after being pushed to the limit by the Dodgers in the NLDS, New York’s deep rotation is easily superior (even allowing for the fact that the Cubs' Jake Arrieta may be the best starter in the series and Jon Lester is a worthy Game 1 starter) and Bartolo Colon, Tyler Clippard and closer Jeurys Familia give the Mets the better bullpen too. Chicago might have fate on its side as it attempts to end a 107-year title drought, but only marginally so.

ALCS: Blue Jays in 6
The Blue Jays will benefit from the starting pitching edge in every game of the series, beginning with Marco Estrada over Edinson Volquez in Game 1 and continuing with David Price over Yordano Ventura in Game 2 and Marcus Stroman over Johnny Cueto (despite the latter's ALDS heroics) in Game 3. Toronto also boasts the game’s most powerful offense in half a dozen years. Although the Royals still have an excellent bullpen, a strong defense and an overall resilience, it’s very difficult to imagine that they will win more than a couple of games, let alone four, against what might be a genuine superteam.

Albert Chen

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

New York Mets

Kansas City Royals

NLCS: Mets in 6
Throw out those regular-season numbers (the Cubs were 7–0 against the Mets, outscoring them 27–11), which are as relevant as their 1969 stats. When Chicago last faced the Mets back in July, New York used a lineup that included Darrell Ceciliani in centerfield, Eric Campbell in left and Johnny Monell at catcher. The Cubs looked like the clearly better team in knocking out a 100-win St. Louis club in the NLDS, and it's tempting to pencil them into the World Series every year until 2020, when star slugger Kris Bryant will be the ripe old age of 28. We know that Chicago can mash, but it struck out more than any other team this season, and the Mets' young pitchers, who are every bit as good as advertised, will get plenty of swings and misses.

ALCS: Royals in 6
Start with the most important thing: These teams don't like each other very much. The bad blood between Toronto and Kansas City—clearly the AL's two best clubs during the regular season—will make this showdown even more entertaining. Blue Jays starters aside from David Price are peaking at the right time, but they also don't miss many bats, and against a team that excels at putting the ball in play, that will be a problem.

Of course, Toronto's lineup is frightening, but Kauffman Stadium, home of the largest outfield in baseball as well as the Royals' phenomenal defense, will help take away some of the offense's sizzle. Kansas City's starting staff is not great, but it's just good enough to turn this series into a battle of the bullpens, and that's where the Royals hold the clear edge over any team in the field.

Jay Jaffe

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

New York Mets

Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS: Mets in 7
The depth of the Mets' young, fireballing rotation was enough to overcome the Dodgers' twin terrors of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, and it will be enough to do so against the Cubs' similarly imposing tandem of Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta.

ALCS: Blue Jays in 6
Toronto is stronger both at bat and in the rotation than Kansas City, and the Royals' comeback magic has to run out sooner or later, doesn't it?

Cliff Corcoran

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

Chicago Cubs

Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS: Cubs in 6
I picked the Mets over the Dodgers in the Division Series because I believed the Mets’ starting pitching could keep pace with Los Angeles and that New York had the stronger lineup. I’m now picking the Cubs over the Mets in the NLCS for the same reasons. I like Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta in their matchups with Matt Harvey and Noah Syndergaard in the first two games, and think the Cubs’ lineup will leave New York’s young arms with very little room for error.

ALCS: Blue Jays in 5
Picking against the Royals in the postseason may be foolish, but they don't have the pitching to keep the Blue Jays’ bats at bay, even if Johnny Cueto follows up his ALDS Game 5 gem with another strong outing in Game 3. Toronto not only rakes, but it also does a lot of the things Kansas City does well, and the Royals don't have the market cornered on elite fielding, contact hitting or high-percentage base stealing in this series. Nor will K.C.'s bullpen be the advantage it's made out to be: The top two men in the Jays' 'pen—Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez—combined for 12 strikeouts in 11 innings with just three hits, one walk and one unearned run allowed in the Division Series.

Joe Sheehan

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

Chicago Cubs

Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS: Cubs in 6
Jake Arrieta and the long ball will make the difference for Chicago in the biggest NLCS in ... maybe ever.

ALCS: Blue Jays in 6
The Royals' defense and bullpen are their best traits, which won't be enough against a Blue Jays team that hits the ball where the defense can't get it and takes leads that neutralize the 'pen.

Stephen Cannella

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

Chicago Cubs

Kansas City Royals

NLCS: Cubs in 6
The Mets' young arms blew away the Dodgers, but the Cubs bring a lineup that's deeper, more dangerous and unafraid of heat. If Jake Arrieta is back on top of his game (and he will be) after surrendering four runs in his lone NLDS start—the same number he yielded in his last nine regular-season outings—Chicago will take its third series of the season from New York in three tries. Party on, North Side.

ALCS: Royals in 7
I love the Blue Jays' power bats, but I love the Royals' power relievers that held opponents to the lowest batting average and slugging percentage among AL bullpens even more. Throw in K.C.'s ability to make contact and BABIP teams to death, plus David Price's inability to fool anyone this postseason, and you get a Royals return to the World Series.

Ted Keith

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

New York Mets

Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS: Mets in 6
The Cubs haven’t been to the World Series since 1945, and despite the dreams of TV executives everywhere, that streak will continue. This time it won’t have anything to do with goats or guys with headphones on; it will be because of the Mets’ overpowering starting pitching and a reconstructed lineup that makes Chicago’s 7–0 record against New York in the regular season irrelevant.

ALCS: Blue Jays in 7
The Royals probably shouldn’t even be in this series, but thanks to a combination of their own resilience and the Astros’ underwhelming bullpen, Kansas City still has a chance to defend its American League title. The Blue Jays, however, have a far superior ‘pen to what Houston had, and their offense could provide so many runs that even the Royals won’t have enough late-inning magic to make up the difference.

Emma Span

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

New York Mets

Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS: Mets in 7
The Mets' power arms meet the Cubs' power bats, which should pose a tougher challenge than the Dodgers' struggling lineup did. Still, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, and Noah Syndergaard have looked impressive enough to make you believe they can limit the damage. Jake Arrieta may be just about unbeatable, but there's only one of him.

ALCS: Blue Jays in 6
Expect both teams to hit well in this series, but the slight edge goes to the Jays' offense. Toronto found its groove against the Rangers after falling behind 2–0 in the ALDS, scoring 19 runs in the last three games, all wins, after plating seven in the first two. If David Price isn't right, though, all bets are off.

Jon Tayler

NLCS ALCS
Chicago Cubs
vs.
New York Mets
Toronto Blue Jays
vs.
Kansas City Royals

New York Mets

Toronto Blue Jays

NLCS: Mets in 7
The Cubs have a lineup that can mash with any in baseball and the best pitcher of either team in this series in Jake Arrieta. But the Mets’ fearsome trio of Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard gives New York a strong advantage on the mound, and the lineup is good enough to grind out the close wins or keep pace with Chicago’s rookie thumpers. David Wright and Lucas Duda need to get going offensively for the Mets to have the upper hand; if they do, Queens is going to party like it’s 1986.

ALCS: Blue Jays in 6
It’s weird that we live in a world in which the Royals are the battle-tested playoff veterans, but despite all that experience and a lockdown bullpen, Toronto has the kind of offense that no pitching staff should want to touch right now. A good series from David Price will be key to the Jays’ hopes, but with that lineup and the imposing home crowd at the Rogers Centre, Toronto should have what it needs to win its first pennant since 1993.

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