It's never too early to look ahead to October, right? Every season features a handful of surprise teams, and inevitably some will make the postseason, even in today's tank-tastic MLB world.
Last year the Twins, Rays, Nationals and Cardinals made the playoffs despite missing them the year before. So who's crashing the postseason party in 2020?
Tom Verducci: Chicago White Sox
I've felt the White Sox have been too one-dimensional on offense: super aggressive and too easy to pitch to, which happens when you have a bunch of young players. Now they have experience, and more importantly, guys who are going to grind out at-bats in Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación. This team will contend–Minnesota is still the team to beat in the AL Central–but if Nick Madrigal and Luis Robert emerge as instant contributors the way Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. did in Atlanta it has the makings of a playoff team.
The Sox may be a bit short on pitching, but that can change if the new and improved Michael Kopech returns to full health. Bottom line: this team has high-ceiling talent that can push 90 wins.
Stephanie Apstein: Chicago White Sox
The AL Central is tough, with the Twins going all in and the Indians hanging around, but Chicago has so much young talent. If Yoán Moncada, Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert play anywhere close to their potential, this could be one of the most dangerous lineups in the American League. And Nick Madrigal (from Triple A) and Michael Kopech (from Tommy John surgery) have a chance to be the best midseason additions out there.
Emma Baccellieri: Chicago White Sox
They've added Edwin Encarnación, Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, and Steve Cishek (and re-added José Abreu) to a roster full of young talent that should only keep getting better. While the Twins are still in a prime spot to take the division, the White Sox have received further help from the Indians' quiet winter, and a wild card spot looks fully within reach.
Connor Grossman: Los Angeles Angels
Everyone seems to be sipping White Sox Kool-Aid, huh? How'd that work out for the Cleveland Browns this year? I'll believe the White Sox' resurgence when I see it.
Until then, I'll roll with the Angels to raise eyebrows this year and sneak into the postseason. The Astros and A's are both immensely talented, but it seems plausible both will regress slightly this season. Pitching depth remains the Angels' biggest question mark, and new lineup anchor Anthony Rendon can't help much in that department.
Joe Maddon's antics, Shohei Ohtani's return and Mike Trout, of course, already make the Angels worth watching this year. A surprise postseason run does, too.
Matt Martell: Chicago White Sox
I think a lot of 2019 non-playoff teams will be good this season, with possibly more than one of them making the postseason. The White Sox have done the most to improve this offseason. Tim Anderson and Yoán Moncada anchor the top of the lineup and left side of the infield, and they are both on the edge of stardom. Eloy Jiménez hit 31 homers as a rookie, and now he'll have even more protection in the lineup around him. Centerfielder Luis Robert is the most exciting prospective rookie this season. Lucas Giolito finished sixth in the AL Cy Young in 2019, and will be joined in the rotation by veterans Dallas Keuchel and Gio González, as well as young guns Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López and Michael Kopech, who should be ready to go in Spring Training after missing all last season due to Tommy John surgery.
Also, the AL Central will have two of the worst teams in baseball again this season—the Royals and Tigers—and Cleveland looks to be in decline. The Twins are still there atop the division, but with two wild cards, the White Sox are in position to make the postseason for the first time since 2008.
Michael Shapiro: Cincinnati Reds
The easiest answer is likely the Phillies after they pushed their spending spree into 2020, but let’s look to the NL Central for our new postseason squad. The Reds are looking increasingly formidable after six straight losing seasons, creating a lineup that could be the division’s best with Mike Moustakas and Nick Castellanos now in the fold. Trevor Bauer remains a viable ace, and the Sonny Gray breakout was no fluke. The Cubs are re-tooling. The Cardinals and Brewers are solid, not dominant. Don’t be surprised if we see an NL Central title in Cincinnati for the first time since 2012.