The baseball world has been focused on the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox for much of the season, but the Cincinnati Reds are one of the under-the-radar teams with the talent to win the World Series.
Teams like the New York Yankees have received more attention than the Reds and the other teams on this list, and they aren't even in position to make the playoffs.
The Reds recently went 6-1 against the St. Louis Cardinals and the Dodgers, so they know they can compete with the best teams.
For whatever reason, the teams on this list have been overlooked. Once October arrives, anything can happen. Don't count out the Wild Cards even though they will have to play a one-game playoff.
Two tickets to the postseason have already been punched, so let's take a look at extremely early playoff predictions along with an under-the-radar team from each league that can win it all.
|Wild Card||Tampa Bay Rays over Cleveland Indians||Wild Card||Cincinnati Reds over Pittsburgh Pirates|
|ALDS||Boston Red Sox over Tampa Bay Rays, Detroit Tigers over Oakland A's||NLDS||Cincinnati Reds over Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cardinals|
|ALCS||Detroit Tigers over Boston Red Sox||NLCS||Los Angeles Dodgers over Cincinnati Reds|
|World Series||Los Angeles Dodgers over Detroit Tigers|
The Reds are about to play the biggest nine games of their season. They will play six games against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who currently sit one game ahead of them for the top Wild Card spot. Whoever takes the majority of the remaining meetings is likely to be the home team in the Wild Card Game.
Other than the Dodgers, the Pirates have been the most talked-about team in the National League. Cincinnati has been in third place, for the most part, since the end of June. However, it was 7.5 games behind the Pirates in early August and has stormed back to make things interesting.
Let's take a look at why the Reds are a threat to win the World Series.
They play at Great American Ball Park, but they still rank fourth in ERA in all of baseball. The rotation's 3.33 ERA ranks only behind Los Angeles' starters.
Four of the starters have at least 11 wins, and none of their starters has an ERA above 3.56. Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto are all aces. Mike Leake, who entered the year as the team's No. 5 starter, is 14-6 with a 3.21 ERA this season, which is tied for 24th in baseball. That's not a bad back of the rotation.
When the Reds hand a lead over to Aroldis Chapman, opponents have very little chance of coming back. He has caught fire since getting an extended break to end August, and he is throwing 101 mph with ease.
The pitching has kept the team in the race, but the offense is just as dangerous.
Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips rank second and third in the NL in RBI with 103 and 101. Bruce has hit at least 30 home runs in three straight seasons, and no left-handed hitter has more homers (44) off southpaws than Bruce since 2010.
Joey Votto and Shin-Soo Choo rank first and second in the NL in on-base percentage, which helps create scoring chances for the team.
Zack Cozart is hitting .289 with 26 RBI since the beginning of August. He has turned this into a deep lineup that has plenty of power.
It's time to talk about the not-so-secret weapon: Billy Hamilton.
Teams know that the speedster is going to steal, and they still can't throw him out. He stole 75 bases in Triple-A this season, and he has not been thrown out in nine attempts since being called up in September. He will be a dangerous weapon for manager Dusty Baker late in games.
After last year's playoff loss, the Reds are looking for redemption.
Cincinnati has great pitching and big-time sluggers who can produce runs at any moment, so watch out for the Reds in October.
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston has controlled the American League East since August and is poised to clinch the division any day now.
However, the Tampa Bay Rays should not be counted out.
In the past, the Rays have been built on pitching. Their pitching isn't what it once was, but they still have a couple of pitchers that will make it tough for opponents to do anything.
David Price is only 8-8 this season, but he has a very good 3.42 ERA. He has thrown three complete games this year, and he showed the ability to be dominant this season. The southpaw went 7-2 in July and August, so he still has what it takes to carry his team.
Price has pitched in eight postseason games in his career, so he has experience in the spotlight.
Matt Moore is 15-4 this year with a 3.34 ERA. He has three months this season in which his ERA was not above 2.20, and he is on an incredible run right now. The southpaw has allowed only 15 earned runs in his last 60.1 innings since the end of July.
Alex Cobb has been arguably as good as any of Tampa Bay's pitchers. He is 9-3 with a 3.02 ERA this season. He and Moore give the Rays a bright future; both are only in their second seasons.
With Price, Moore and Cobb at the front of the rotation, the Rays have a rotation that can match up with any of the teams in the AL.
Who is more likely to win the 2013 World Series?
Pitching wins championships, but the offense needs to be able to get big runs. Tampa Bay has good hitters throughout its lineup.
Evan Longoria has 29 homers with 77 RBI this season, so he is still a major force in the middle of the lineup.
Veteran James Loney is hitting .297, including .306 with runners in scoring position, with 12 home runs. He can get a big hit.
Ben Zobrist has posted similar numbers. He has a .271 average and 11 home runs, and his 67 RBI trail Loney by only two.
Rookie Wil Myers has been phenomenal in his first season. He is hitting .300/.363/.497 with 13 home runs in 77 games this season.
As a team, the Rays rank fifth in the majors with a .269 average with runners in scoring position. It takes timely hitting to complement great pitching, and this team has the ability to get runners home.
Tampa Bay's lineup has a bunch of hitters who can get on base or provide some pop in key situations.
The Rays took two of four from the Texas Rangers this week as they both battled for their playoff lives. Now they will battle the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees over the next week while trying to wrap up a postseason spot.
If Tampa Bay can survive this week and get into the postseason, it will be a tough out after playing meaningful baseball the entire season.
*All stats are courtesy of MLB.com