The first round of the 2023 MLB postseason is complete and it was a quick one. All four best-of-three Wild Card Series were a sweep. It's the first time in baseball history a postseason round with at least four series featured all sweeps.. Here are the matchups:
With all due respect to the other three Division Series, I think we all have Braves vs. Phillies circled on our calendars. Carlos Correa against his former teammates in Houston will be another must watch. Who am I kidding? They're all must watches.
Anyway, MLB hands out two (really three) awards in the postseason: World Series MVP plus one MVP for each of the two Championship Series. There is nothing to recognize the best player in the Wild Card Series or Division Series though, and we're here to right that wrong. Here are our hypothetical Wild Card Series MVPs now that the round is complete.
D-Backs vs. Brewers: Corbin Carroll
Arizona erased a multi-run deficit in both Games 1 and 2, and Carroll, the likely NL Rookie of the Year, was at the center of both comebacks. He got the D-Backs on the board with his two-run homer against Corbin Burnes in Game 1, then he doubled to ignite the go-ahead rally in Game 2. Granted, it was a broken bat double, but it counts just the same.
Carroll went 4 for 7 with the double, the homer, two walks, and three runs scored in the Wild Card Series. He did not strike out and he led all players with plus-0.38 win probability added, nearly double the next best player. Carroll has very quickly emerged as one of the best players in the game and he was certainly the best player in his Wild Card Series matchup with Milwaukee.
Phillies vs. Marlins: Trea Turner
This was very much an "everyone did their job" series. Alec Bohm, Nick Castellanos, and J.T. Realmuto all had multiple extra-base hits in the series. Bryson Stott hit the grand slam to put Game 2 to bed. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola allowed one run in 13 2/3 innings combined. There are plenty of deserving Wild Card Series MVPs here and really no wrong answer.
Since we have to pick someone, we'll pick Turner, who went 4 for 7 with two doubles and two steals in the two games. His RBI single in the third inning of Game 2 was essentially the knockout blow for Marlins starter Braxton Garrett.
Turner of course had a miserable start to the regular season. He was hitting .235/.290/.368 on Aug. 3, the Phillies faithful responded with cheers of encouragement rather than boos, and Turner slashed .337/.389/.668 the rest of the season. That's peak Trea Turner right there, and peak Trea Turner showed up in the Wild Card Series too.
Rangers vs. Rays: Evan Carter
Corey Seager went 4 for 8 with three doubles in the Wild Card Series and Jordan Montgomery tossed seven scoreless innings in Game 1, yet young Mr. Carter is pretty clearly the Wild Card Series MVP. The recently turned 21-year-old went 3 for 4 with two doubles, a homer, three walks, one hit by pitch, and one strikeout in the two games. Eight plate appearances, one out.
At 21 years and 36 days, the rookie is the 11th-youngest player in history to hit a postseason home run, and the third youngest U.S.-born player to go deep in October. Only Bryce Harper (19 years and 362 days) and inner-circle Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle (20 years and 352 days) hit homers in the playoffs at a younger age than Carter among US-born players.
Twins vs. Blue Jays: Royce Lewis
Really, the entire Twins pitching staff is the MVP. They held the Blue Jays to one run on 15 hits and five walks in the two games, and 14 of the 15 hits were singles (the other was a double). Minnesota's pitchers were phenomenal. Shoutout to them. For Wild Card Series MVP purposes, we'll go with Lewis, who swatted two home runs and drove in all three runs in the Game 1 win.
Another rookie on this list, Lewis is the third player in baseball history to go deep in his first two postseason at-bats, joining Evan Longoria (2008) and Gary Gaetti (1987). Gaetti and Lewis are the only two Twins players with a multi-homer game in the postseason. It wasn't even a lock Lewis would be on the Wild Card Series roster, remember. He missed the end of the regular season with a hamstring injury.