There’s a good chance the best-of-three opening round of the expanded 2020 MLB postseason will make many predictions look foolish, so it’s a stretch to label any team a “surprise” until the division series roll around. That said, here are three teams that could fly under the radar or exceed expectations by going deep into October.
Cincinnati Reds — The Reds were a trendy pick going into the season, but a slow start and a dormant offense sapped the excitement. Then they won 11 of their last 14 games to clinch the no. 7 seed in the National League. The offense has woken up, but it’s the club’s elite starting pitching — led by Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray — that makes them a serious contender despite their low seed.
Cleveland Indians — The other Ohio team has a home series in the Wild Card round, so they shouldn’t be considered a true Cinderella story. Still, there was a sense the Indians’ recent run of success was over going into the season. But their young, homegrown rotation, anchored by ace Shane Bieber, who may have put together the best season of any pitcher in baseball this year, made sure they didn’t miss a beat. The offensive isn’t great, but it’s led by two stars in shortstop Francisco Lindor and third baseman Jose Ramirez, an American League MVP candidate.
Chicago Cubs — The Cubs are a division winner and have a ton of playoff experience. But they aren’t garnering a lot of buzz after a steady, uneventful regular season. That’s because a lot of the stars who carried the club to its first World Series title in 108 years in 2016, like former MVP third baseman Kris Bryant, have struggled at the plate. But the Cubs have a capable rotation, and the bats might be due to break out, which would make them a scary team. Tim O’Donnell