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Scouts, opposing players weigh in on the 8 LDS clubs

October 3, 2018

How do you beat the remaining eight teams? We asked players, scouts, executives, and coaches from around the league, and granted them anonymity in order to get them to speak candidly.National League Division Series: Rockies-BrewersBREWERSChristian Yelich "He's my NL MVP. Christian Yelich can do it all. He's got a complete

How do you beat the remaining eight teams? We asked players, scouts, executives, and coaches from around the league, and granted them anonymity in order to get them to speak candidly.
National League Division Series: Rockies-Brewers
Christian Yelich
"He's my NL MVP. Christian Yelich can do it all. He's got a complete offensive game; he can hit for average, he can draw a walk, he can hit for power. The power has really blossomed; not just because of Miller Park, but his maturation as a hitter and as a player." -- NL scout
"What that guy is doing this year is MVP-type numbers. I have a lot of respect for him as a hitter and as a defender. Both those guys (Lorenzo Cain and Yelich) have been kind of underrated and haven't gotten the credit they deserve." -- NL Central infielder

Lorenzo Cain
"Athletic player who can really hit a fastball. He's a good defender in center field. When he's hitting, it makes all the difference to their lineup." -- NL scout
:: NLDS schedule and results ::
"I think he's one of the most underrated baseball players. He does it all -- defense, hitting, baserunning, he plays every day. He's a stud." -- NL Central infielder
Jesus Aguilar
"The older he's gotten, the more mature he's gotten. It seems like he has a better understanding of what pitches he can drive. There's not as many holes or as many easy outs. He's kind of a mistake hitter, but he's become more than that, a little more well-rounded than just that. He's not afraid to hit with two strikes." -- NL Central starting pitcher
Jhoulys Chacin
"I feel like he's doing it a little different. It's not like he has 98 and a wipeout slider. He's more of a pitcher, and I think that's worth even more respect. He has three or four really good pitches, but he won't light up the radar gun or make you say, 'Oh, my gosh. Did you see how much that broke?' But he knows how to pitch." -- NL Central infielder
Josh Hader
"It's not comfortable from the left side, for sure. He kind of came on the scene this year with all the success that he's had. He's a dominant backend closer who has good stuff. Tough pitcher." -- NL Central infielder

Nolan Arenado
"For the most part, if you make good pitches to Arenado, you're actually pretty safe. But if you leave anything over the plate, he'll hit it hard and probably pretty far. You have to have a good game plan going in -- where you're going to attack him, how you're going to get ahead, and how you're going to pitch to him with two strikes." -- NL West relief pitcher
Charlie Blackmon
"I'd probably pitch away and go under with him, then maybe later in the at-bat, go up with a fastball. It's mostly staying away and with breaking balls down, he'll chase." -- NL West starting pitcher
"Coors Field is a tough place to play defense; there's so much real estate to cover, sometimes he gets a little exposed playing center." -- American League scout
Trevor Story
"Story's good, because he can foul off pitches and extend at-bats. It's a frustrating at-bat. He chases, but he only chases certain things. He'll spoil good [offspeed] pitches, but he's a pretty good fastball hitter. He's one of those guys that can drag on an at-bat, give himself more life and wait for you to throw him his pitch." -- NL West relief pitcher

DJ LeMahieu
"He's got oppo power. But you can jam him. You have to set it up early with an away pitch or a breaking ball, so he's looking on that outside corner. Then you can jam him up and in." -- NL West starting pitcher
"I hate to use the word 'overachieve,' because that has a negative tone, but he gets everything out of his talent and ability, that's for sure." -- AL scout
Kyle Freeland
"He's figured out how to work both sides of the plate well. He can really throw off your timing with that leg kick. He'll vary that at times, so that plays really well. And he's made righties really respect the inside corner. I don't feel like he ever commanded inside as well as he is now." -- NL West outfielder
German Marquez
"His fastball just plays harder than you think it is. It's firm. And he started throwing his slider this year harder than he ever has. It's good. Those two pitches, fastball and slider, they come out on the same plane." -- NL West infielder 
Wade Davis
"His stuff may be down just a tick, but he still has a quality cutter and curveball. The fastball in Colorado has to be so perfectly located or things just kind of happen. I think he's pitching better than his ERA" -- AL scout
NL Division Series: Braves-Dodgers
Freddie Freeman
"He's the most integral part of their offense, because he's the guy in the middle that can do damage, and he's the veteran leader of that club. He's the guy that most teams will circle and say, 'We can't let Freddie Freeman beat us.'" -- NL scout
Ronald Acuna Jr.
"He's aggressive, which plays in his favor, especially in the leadoff spot, when he leads off. And he hits mistakes. To be a good hitter in this league, you've got to be able to handle mistakes when they're available to you." -- NL East catcher
Ozzie Albies
"He's swinging well, but I'd rather face him than any other hitter [in this lineup], because he's swinging before he really recognizes the pitch. I feel like he's made up his mind whether he's swinging. But at the same time, if you leave a pitch on the plate and he guesses right, he makes you pay for it." -- NL East catcher
Nick Markakis
"Very similar to Freeman. He's more of a patient approach than Freddie, which makes him a hard out, because he swings at strikes. He doesn't chase a whole lot. So you've got to keep him honest by showing him inside." -- NL East catcher

Mike Foltynewicz
"Good stuff. He's throwing better strikes. I'm not sure that I buy into the command long-term, though. He's turned into a solid piece this year, but he feels like a No. 3 or 4 starter to me in the future." -- NL scout
:: NLDS schedule and results ::
Julio Teheran
"His stuff is way down. I wasn't impressed when I saw him. He's become more of a command/control, pitch-to-contact guy now. I don't know how comfortable you can be with him in a playoff series." -- NL scout
A.J. Minter
"He's had my number this year. His ability to throw inside with that cutter, and able to backdoor the cutter -- he speeds you up by going inside, but then he'll backdoor the cutter and just kind of freeze you on the outside corner. It's a funky little arm slot, and he throws hard on top of it." -- NL East catcher
Manny Machado
"He's a really good strike breaking-ball hitter. He does a lot of damage when you throw a breaking ball for a strike. He's just one of those guys where if it's out over the plate, he's not going to miss it. And if it's a breaking ball that's a strike, he's going to hit it." -- NL West relief pitcher
Matt Kemp
"I'd say spin early. You can jam him up and in, but sliders in the dirt, backdoor cutters will work. At any point if you leave an offspeed pitch in the zone, or if you hang one, or if you don't get a fastball to a corner, he's probably going to get the barrel to it. You have to set up your pitches really well against him." -- NL starting pitcher
Player Page for Max Muncy
"If you get it up, you're good. He's a belt-line-to-low-ball hitter. All offspeed is really good, but it can't be a bad offspeed pitch. So offspeed and execute, and up with the fastball." -- NL West catcher
"He's another one of these guys that improved his launch angle and his hard-hit percentage has gone up. He's an adequate defender, and he's also faster than you'd expect." -- AL scout

Cody Bellinger
"He's a great bad-ball hitter. But there are some spots you're safe. If you can locate a fastball, there are some spots you can go to, and you're safe. I won't say where." -- NL West relief pitcher
Justin Turner
"His hitting ability and plate discipline make him tough. He knows the strike zone, can spit on close pitches. His fielding at third is steady; he doesn't make a lot of errors and has an accurate arm." -- AL scout
Clayton Kershaw
"He's got good stuff, even though he's not the Kershaw of three or four years ago, obviously. He's still the best. You've got to sit [fastball]. He doesn't really use his changeup, so you don't really have to worry about anything going away from you. Everything's going to be in to you. Heater's coming in to you, slider's coming in to you, and if he throws a curveball, you just don't chase and hope it's not a strike." -- NL West outfielder
Kenley Jansen
"Just hit him in the strike zone. He lives on people swinging out of the zone on him, swinging up and out or a cutter that's away. You've got to get him middle in, and if it's not there, let it go." -- NL West outfielder
American League Division Series: Indians-Astros
Francisco Lindor
"He knows his strengths, and he picks the right time to try to hit a pitcher's pitch. There's times where I've tried to go in on him and have had success. And then it never fails; the one time I'm trying to go in there, first pitch of the at-bat, he gets ahead to it and cheats to get to it and he hits a homer or double. He matches his baseball IQ with his approach at the plate, and those guys get real tough when they start thinking and start getting on the same page that the pitcher is on." -- AL Central starting pitcher
Jose Ramirez
"His plate discipline is way better now. He's not chasing near as many pitches. I don't know what his swing percentage is, but it just seems like especially against me, he is taking more and more. His two-strike approach is really good. He's willing to hit a fastball the other way to make sure that he can stay on the breaking ball late in counts. When any hitter is willing to do that -- I know we've got this homer craze and launch-angle craze -- but when hitters are willing to sit deep on a heater and let themselves get beat to be on time for an offspeed pitch, it makes it really tough." -- AL Central starting pitcher

Edwin Encarnacion
"He's been seeing the ball deep on heaters and he's hitting the ball the other way. When he's hitting hard line drives to right-center, he's really, really tough. Because now, he's covering that fastball away. When he's not covering that fastball away, you can kind of live out there. But when on that, it makes it pretty tough." -- AL Central starting pitcher
Corey Kluber
"Unflappable tactician on the mound. Manipulates baseballs and dominates good offenses." -- AL Central executive
"The way he commands the strike zone is exceptional. He has multiple weapons. Very poised pitcher." -- AL East outfielder
Trevor Bauer
"Bauer possesses spectacular ability that he has masterfully harnessed this season. He has demonstrated the talent to overpower the best lineups in the game." -- AL Central executive
"He's able to pitch in big moments and never loses trust in his stuff." -- AL East outfielder
Brad Hand
"One of the best sliders in the game. He's similar to Chris Sale; you can tell them it's coming and it doesn't matter, especially if you're a lefty." -- NL scout
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
Jose Altuve
"He hits the ball from literally feet to head. He covers the plate. So you've got to mix every single pitch every single time. From ankles to top of head, he can cover that pitch, so you've just got to mix up, down, in and out all the time." -- AL West starting pitcher
Carlos Correa
"He's had trouble with his back, which has hurt his batting average. His fielding has remained at a high level, though. He may be having trouble with his timing because he's not healthy. He's a big, strong guy who relies on a lot of torque in his swing. If his back is troubling him, that's a problem." -- AL scout
Alex Bregman
"He should be in the MVP conversation. He has an ability to make adjustments throughout the game to all different types of pitching. Some weaknesses he's had in the past, he seems to have covered those up now. Righties, lefties, home, road -- there doesn't seem to be much of a difference for him now. He's a solid defender, too." -- AL scout

George Springer
"He's got a lot of power. I think he thrives on offspeed. I think a lot of guys have been staying hard with him lately. I don't know if [his recent thumb injury] has something to do with the way guys are attacking him. He seems to struggle with hard stuff in close to him. He hurts you when he gets extended." -- AL East starting pitcher
Justin Verlander
"He's going to the Hall of Fame, and he's pitching like it. He's as good as he's ever been." -- NL scout
"Great fastball, really good curveball, great command. I would say try to get to him early before he gets ahead and you fall behind as a hitter. At that point, you're in tough waters, I'd say." -- AL West infielder
Gerrit Cole
"He can be dominant. Big fastball velocity, plus slider, plus curveball, solid control. He's increased his offspeed usage this season, throwing that slider about 20 percent of the time." -- AL scout
Lance McCullers
"He's got that lights-out curveball and an aggressive demeanor, both of which will help him if he's in the bullpen. His changeup has improved, too. He showed last year he can get hot quick and throw multiple innings. He's a big weapon if he's healthy." -- AL scout
Roberto Osuna
"It's funny, he comes in and already has the philosophy of what the Astros do as a staff. Fastballs up, offspeed down. Working at the tops and bottom of the zone. He's a young closer, and he's had a lot of success already." -- AL East outfielder
ALDS: Yankees-Red Sox
Mookie Betts
"The best, because he's 'Mookie the Best.' We changed his last name from two Ts and an S to an S before the T. It's Mookie the Best. I think he's the best player in the game." -- AL East infielder

"I don't know how to pitch to that guy. That guy hits everything. Your best shot is just to mix it up. I think he goes through some periods of time where he struggles with down and away pitches, but they have to be really dotted down and away. I've finished him off with strike-to-ball sliders down and away." -- AL East relief pitcher
J.D. Martinez
"Video game. He's a video game. He's like that create-a-player you create on a game that has like 100 power, 100 contact." -- AL East outfielder
"At the beginning of the year, he was a guy who was really getting exposed inside. He was looking to go right-center and I think he made an adjustment because I think a lot of teams were pounding him in, in, in. Obviously the numbers say everything. He is getting to everything right now. I tried to sneak a 2-0 fastball kind of up and in on him and he turned and burned me for a homer." -- AL East relief pitcher
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
Andrew Benintendi
"He's another really good hitter. I think for Benintendi, you don't want to get beat on the inner half of the plate. Make him try to beat you oppo for damage. He doesn't really go out of the zone very often, but it you can entice him to go out of the zone, it's probably more away than in." -- AL Central starting pitcher
Xander Bogaerts
"I've had some success against him. He has a flat bat swing and it stays in the zone for a while. I try to throw cutters and sliders off the plate. I do remember I tried to get ahead with the heater one time, missed middle-out, and he hit it off the Green Monster. The success I've had with him has just been spinning him." -- AL East relief pitcher
"He's a good high-ball hitter. So get him to chase up and out of the zone a little bit, and then bury breaking balls, bury offspeed stuff in the dirt. If you leave it in the zone, he can do some damage." -- AL Central starting pitcher
Chris Sale
"The slider is the first thing. All his stuff plays, but that's the wipeout pitch. You can tell a hitter it's coming and he's still probably not going to hit it." -- NL scout
David Price
"He's intense out there, so it's at-bats you kind of look forward to. You know it's going to be tough, but the competitor in you enjoys the competition he brings." -- AL East outfielder
Craig Kimbrel
"For me, the toughest closer in the game." -- AL East infielder
"He's the best pitcher in their 'pen. One of the few bright spots out there the past few months. He needs to be good for them to win in October." -- NL scout
Giancarlo Stanton
"Mainly, you try to attack him up and in and then down and away; try to get him to chase something down off the plate. He likes to get his arms extended. He likes to feel comfortable in the box. Up and in, and down and away." -- AL Central starting pitcher
Aaron Judge
"He and Stanton kind of go through a similar phase where they have the same weaknesses. I think you can definitely pound the fastball up and in. You definitely have to get it in. I've always thrown them cutters down and away, off the plate, and they've kind of chased. There are times that Stanton can get to that sinker down and in, and Judge is less prone to that. I think that's a good spot to pitch to him also. But very similar hitters." -- AL East relief pitcher
Gleyber Torres
"Man, I like Gleyber Torres. He's a glue piece in that lineup with all those power bats. He and [Miguel] Andujar are hitting deep in the order, and teams are going to have to pitch to somebody. Gleyber could be the beneficiary of that." -- NL scout

Miguel Andujar
"I love his ability to put the bat on the ball. He's so aggressive. He can hit a fastball or a breaking ball, and because he's so aggressive, you can't just throw it on the corners. You have to be extra careful with him, because he can drive the ball to all fields. He's impressed me." -- NL scout
Gary Sanchez
"The defense has been much maligned, and I think some of it has carried over to the offensive side of the game for him. He's going to be a focal point to how the Yankees perform because of the defensive component behind the plate." -- NL scout
"The bat is what it is. He has some of the best power in the game for his position. The defense could cost them in a close game in the playoffs; that would be one of my main concerns." --NL scout
Masahiro Tanaka
"Tanaka is back. He's pitching the best on the team, he has the experience and he can change speeds in pressure situations." -- NL scout
"Don't try to hit the splitter." -- AL East infielder
Luis Severino
"Severino has some of the best stuff in the game. Whether it's fatigue, exhaustion, whatever, he's just not throwing that well. I just don't understand it, because the stuff is so good. In any particular game, he should give you a chance to win." -- NL scout
Zach Britton
"If you can be as successful as he is in the Major Leagues with one pitch [a sinker] when everyone knows what's coming and guys still have trouble hitting it, it's pretty dominant." -- AL East outfielder
"He's starting to look like his old self. Same M.O. -- he uses his fastball about 94 percent of the time, mixes in a slider here or there. He's throwing better strikes with better command." -- NL scout

Mark Feinsand is an executive reporter for Jordan Bastian, Mandy Bell, Adam Berry, Ian Browne, A.J. Cassavell, Jarrid Denney, Anthony DiComo, Steve Gilbert, Maria Guardado, Greg Johns, Jenifer Langosch, Adam McCalvy and Mark Sheldon contributed reporting to this story.