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2022 World Series: Whose Performance Will Make or Break the Fall Classic?

The Hardball Roundtable reconvenes for the Fall Classic to determine the most consequential player for each team and the tastiest dark horse World Series MVP candidate at FanDuel Sportsbook.

The Houston Astros are right where a whole lot of folks expected. The Philadelphia Phillies, meanwhile… well, it’s not entirely clear what they’re doing or how they’re doing it. But it’s time for the 2022 World Series, and you either get or get got.

Naturally, Boardroom had to reconvene its Hardball Roundtable — Griffin Adams, Sam Dunn, Anthony Puccio, and Shlomo Sprung — to drill down to the most fundamental, consequential narratives for this final showcase for this season of Major League Baseball.

So, ahead of Friday’s start of the Fall Classic, we set out to produce three big answers:

  1. If ____ has a huge series, the Astros are absolutely winning this thing.
  2. If ____ has a huge series, the Phillies are absolutely winning this thing.
  3. Who’s your spiciest long-shot World Series MVP pick at FanDuel Sportsbook?

Get out the tape measures.

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If ____ has a huge series, the Astros are winning it.

GRIFFIN ADAMS: Jeremy Peña.

This Astros lineup was already stacked before Peña made a name for himself in his rookie season. For guys like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Justin Verlander, this ain’t their first rodeo. You also know what you’re getting from guys like Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, and Framber Valdez, who have all had their postseason moments of shine. But if Peña can stay as hot as he was in the 4-0 sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS — where he slashed .353/.353/.824 and hit two home runs en route to MVP honors — then it would be hard to pick against Houston.

SHLOMO SPRUNG: Jose Altuve. He’s 3-for-35 in the postseason and the Astros haven’t lost a game. If he starts hitting like he did in the last two ALCS games, look out.

ANTHONY PUCCIO: If Kyle Tucker has a huge series, the Astros are absolutely winning this whole damn thing. Altuve, Alvarez, Verlander, and Bregman are the glorified stars here, but Tucker quietly had a great year (30 HRs, 107 RBIs) and should be considered an X-factor against a Phillies rotation filled with right-handers.

SAM DUNN: Peña. Several months ago, I would have told you that none of us ought to be surprised if Carlos Correa comes right back to Houston during the 2022-23 offseason. Now, it’s just about impossible to fathom. If the 25-year-old ALCS MVP goes full phenom mode in the most important set of games of his young career to date, this team will not be stopped.

If ____ has a huge series, the Phillies are winning it.

SS: Rhys Hoskins. When he’s going, the Phillies are so much more well-rounded offensively. During the regular season, Hoskins batted .276 with 24 homers and a .919 OPS in wins and .209 with six home runs and a .635 OPS in losses. To have a chance against Houston, Hoskins has to come up huge.

GA: If the Phillies are going to win this series, they’ll need their two aces to step up, specifically Aaron Nola. At times, he has been as elite as they come, but consistency has sometimes been an issue. However, the pitcher is less than a month removed from a near-perfect outing in Houston against this lineup that helped clinch the team’s postseason berth.

Expecting a perfect start through 6 2/3 innings is ambitious, to say the least, but if Nola can set a similar tone in Game 1 as he did on Oct. 3, the prospect of the Phillies completing their magical run becomes that much more real.

SD: Alec Bohm. He hit .280 in the regular season only to go 7-for-37 so far in the playoffs (and just 3 for his last 30). If that guy is switched-on, imagine the sheer intercontinental ballistic eruption we’re about to witness from this tape-measure team.

AP: Bryce Harper. It’s the simple answer, but his incredible run this postseason has carried the Phillies this far. He and Rhys Hoskins have combined for 10 of the Phillies’ 16 homers (22 of 56 RBIs).

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Who’s your spiciest long-shot World Series MVP pick?

All World Series MVP futures odds are courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook.

AP: I’m shocked Altuve is +1300. Give me that guy. He’s been on this stage before and we all know what he’s capable of.

GA: I’m not sure this should be considered a spicy long-shot take, but considering the current odds, I’m going to go with Nick Castellanos (+3500).

Philadelphia has been riding its stars this postseason — namely Bryce Harper, whose heroics in the NLCS sent the team to its first World Series berth since 2009. Kyle Schwarber, Rhys Hoskins, and JT Realmuto have all lived up to the moment as well, so I expect them to keep riding this momentum. Castellanos, meanwhile, has been a bit up and down. He went hitless in the Wild Card series against St. Louis, though he’s performed slightly better in the ensuing rounds. As previously mentioned, the stars have shown out in Philadelphia up to this point, so I’m thinking Castellanos could be due as a frisky long-shot World Series MVP pick.

SD: Altuve. +1300 as of this writing for a former league MVP is just way too tasty. Some of the Phillies’ odds are appealing, but I can’t bring myself to pick them to win this series. I shall take the small second baseman, thank you.

SS: Give me Yuli Gurriel at +3100. In seven postseason games so far in 2022, he’s 11-for-30 with two homers and a .933 OPS. If he stays hot, we could cash out here.

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