The National League and American League Divisional Series may still be up in the air, but it's never too early to break down the most enticing matchups for the ALCS and NLCS.
Thus, I've decided to power rank the eight possibilities, from the matchups I most want to see to those I'll watch but won't be as excited about. From a dream matchup in the American League to a perfect battle of contrasts in the National League, there are some truly compelling potential matchups that remain possibilities.
8. Oakland Athletics vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Solid pitching. Underrated players. The genius of Joe Maddon.
Those are the pluses.
A lack of premier superstars outside of Evan Longoria and David Price. There's your minus, and it's a big one.
7. Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are arguably the National's League's most balanced team, but they have some questions in a young bullpen. The Braves have excellent pitching and some mashers, but their offense is overly reliant on hitting home runs.
Both teams are very good and each side has stars, but nothing about this matchup is truly compelling. Well, unless you are a Braves or Cardinals fan, I suppose.
6. Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers
One one hand, a battle between two playoff-experienced teams seems really appealing. On the other hand, for the Rays to advance to the ALCS they would have had to play through a tiebreaker game to get into the playoffs, a wild-card game after that and survived a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox after going down 2-0 in the series.
You think they might be a bit fatigued?
From top to bottom, the Tigers are the better team. It's hard to see the Rays winning this series, even if they defied the odds and advanced to the ALCS in the first place.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Atlanta Braves
The Pirates win by generating runs and pitching well. The Braves win by hitting home runs and pitching well. Two different offenses, two very solid pitching staffs—this one would likely be a pitcher's duel the whole way.
That would certainly be appealing for lovers of 2-1 games, but the casual fan may not be quite as enthused.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The team that bought and traded its way into the postseason versus the team that always seems to end up there. Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez versus Adam Wainwright, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter.
This one would be a battle, folks.
3. Oakland Athletics vs. Boston Red Sox
Casual fans may not be familiar with this Athletics team, but they're a really good squad. They have players with pop (Brandon Moss, Josh Donaldson, Yoenis Cespedes). They have excellent young pitching and an ageless ace in Bartolo Colon. They're pretty balanced overall.
Of course, the Red Sox would test that young pitching with the best lineup in the American League and a slew of high-profile names. Plus, who doesn't want the Green Monster involved in an ALCS?
2. Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
This would be the perfect series of contrasts.
The upstarts versus the big-budget team. The working-class city versus Hollywood. A team constructed through high-level prospects in the farm system and savvy, veteran free-agent additions versus a team that spent huge money in free agency and pulled off blockbuster trades.
This is the NLCS the sportswriters want, I can tell you that much. The storylines write themselves.
1. Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox
Who doesn't want to see the American League's best rotation take on its best offense? I mean, how awesome would Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander taking on Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz be?
Add in the Tigers' big bashers in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, or the fact that the Red Sox have been one of the stories of the season after many folks wrote them off this winter, and you have all the makings of an epic series.