MLB Playoffs: As the NLDS begins, let's predict the winners of the NLCS

With the NLDS beginning, we're looking into the crystal ball toward the NLCS and making some predictions
Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two
Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game Two / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

Four teams, as of today, are in contention for the National League pennant: the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Arizona Diamondbacks. Though these teams have to get through the divisional round, this year’s possible NLCS matchups range from predictable to "who woulda thunk."

Here are the potential NLCS matchups and their potential outcomes

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Arizona Diamondbacks: This matchup would be similar to last year in the sense that two teams that didn’t win their respective divisions reach the NLCS. The Phillies and the Diamondbacks have never faced each other in the playoffs. In the 2023 regular season, Arizona and Philadelphia played two series against each other, with Philly having a slight edge over Arizona (4-3). Though both teams performed well in the Wild Card round (with the Phillies outscoring the Marlins 11-2), the Phillies offense is what will make them win this potential series. With pitchers like Merrill Kelly and Zac Gallen, however, expect this series to be competitive. 

Prediction: Philadelphia in 6. MVP: Bryce Harper

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Philadelphia Phillies: The last time the Dodgers and the Phillies met in the postseason was, funnily enough, in the 2009 NLCS, when Philadelphia beat L.A. in five games to advance to the World Series. After a slow start to the year, Los Angeles swiftly won the NL West back in September, making their ninth consecutive appearance in the playoffs. Though the Dodgers won both regular-season series, the Phillies have beaten the Dodgers more in the postseason. One concern for this Dodgers team lies in their starting rotation, with Walker Buehler on the IL, and Julio Urias out for an indefinite amount of time. This leaves the starting rotation depth a little lacking. The Dodgers, however, have one of the best offenses in MLB. Expect this series to be an offensive shootout.

Prediction: LA in 7. MVP: Mookie Betts

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Atlanta Braves: Another rematch. Arizona and Atlanta met one another in the playoffs in 2001, where Arizona beat Atlanta 4-1 to take the National League pennant. This year, Arizona battled with their rivals in the West for first place in the division. After a strong start to the year where they finished 52-39 going into the All-Star Break, the Diamondbacks went 8-16 in July and 12-15 in August. This year, Atlanta and Arizona were even when against each other. Arizona’s young core excites, especially Rookie of the Year contender Corbin Carroll. The Diamondbacks playoff hashtag on social media is #EmbraceTheChaos. Will chaotic energy be enough to potentially stop Atlanta’s offense?

Prediction: Atlanta in 5. MVP: Eddie Rosario

Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: One last rematch. Out of all these potential NLCS matches, this one seems the most likely. The Braves and the Dodgers have faced each other in the NLCS two times in the last five years. Both times were exciting; a World Series victory followed both respective teams after winning the NLCS. The Braves usually struggle versus the Dodgers in the regular season; 2023 is the first year where the Braves hold the regular-season series record over the Dodgers since 2013, going 4-3. These teams also have an intense history in the postseason, facing each other in 2013 and 2018 in the divisional series (the Dodgers won both of those). Atlanta is looking to even the score. As mentioned before, the Braves’ offense is unstoppable. L.A.’s is not too far behind, though. It’s difficult to pick between such powerhouses (and World Series favorites), but based on performances in the regular season, this matchup is Atlanta’s to lose. 

Prediction: Atlanta in 6. MVP: Ronald Acuña, Jr.