Latest posts by Ben Wilson (see all)
- 2017 MLB Season Preview - April 1, 2017
- It’s Time To End All Professional All-Star Games For Once - May 3, 2016
- NFL Draft 2016: Way Too Early Reaction to Round 1 - April 29, 2016
Earlier in the week we previewed the National League. Below find the conclusion to my 2016 MLB preview and prediction series, as we take a look at the American League.
* In case you missed the National League preview, you can find it here: https://www.the3pointconversion.com/hot-off-the-press/mlb-2016-season-national-league-preview-and-predictions/
American League East:
1. Toronto Blue Jays: I think this team very well could be the best in the league. I don’t think that should come as any surprise for any true baseball fan. The loss of David Price, to the Red Sox no less, will be felt. A full year of Marcus Stroman should help offset the impact Price had in 2015. They will reap the benefits from a full year from Troy Tulowitzski, assuming he stays healthy. This lineup is loaded, even though they missed out on acquiring Jay Bruce recently. If their rotation produces as expected, it will be tough to see this team fail to make the ALCS. Again, nothing is won on paper though.
2. Boston Red Sox: The school of thought here is that the Red Sox should see marked improvement from their youngsters. With a core of Mookie Betts, Rusney Castillo, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Blake Swihart, this team will sink or swim on youth. They need a bounce back year from Pablo Sandoval, but based on offseason reports of his weight, I’m not sure they should expect anything more than they got from him in 2015. David Price headlined their offseason moves, but I wouldn’t count on him being the savior to that pitching staff. There is a lot of uncertainty beyond Price and Clay Buchholz.
3. Tampa Bay Rays: This is an interesting team. I would not have considered them a 80-win team last year after purging veteran players from their roster through trades such as David Price and Ben Zobrist. Chris Archer headlines a very young and underrated starting rotation that includes Jake Odorizzi and Alex Cobb. Outside of Evan Longoria, this team is devoid of star name value, but this is a reflection of the team’s philosophy since the creation of the franchise. Look for this team to be competitive in 2016, but play more the role of thorn-in-the-side, than division contender.
4. New York Yankees: Fresh off a wild card appearance last year, the Yankees find themselves as a team in a state of flux for the first time in forever. They haven’t been big players in the free agent market over the past few seasons, singing Masahiro Tanaka in 2014, as their last big splash. They are (in)patiently waiting for the contracts of Mark Teixeira (2016), CC Sabathia (2016, with an option for 2017), Carlos Beltran (2016) and, of course, Alex Rodriguez (2017) to expire. Jacoby Ellsbury is signed through 2020, with an option for the 2021 season, so he isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. So as you can see, the Yankees have a lot of money coming off of the payroll going into the 2017 season, so I expect them to make a lot of noise in the years to come (Hello, Bryce Harper?!), but as for the 2016 season, they had a quiet offseason, by design, and I don’t foresee them returning to postseason play.
5. Baltimore Orioles: The 2016 offseason for the Orioles reeks of desperation. They gave up a draft pick to bring in Yovani Gallardo, overpaid dearly to bring back Chris Davis, recently signed Pedro Alvarez, despite having nowhere to play him (1B, Davis; DH, Mark Trumbo; 3B, Manny Machado) and signed free agent OF, Dexter Fowler, just to see it blow up in their face as he returned to the Cubs on a 1-year deal. The Orioles have the potential to hit a lot of home runs, but in doing so, they have a collection of hitters who won’t set the world on fire when it comes to getting on base. This could be a surprise team, however, I just don’t see them being a better team than the Blue Jays or Red Sox and may not even be in the same conversation as the Yankees and Rays.
American League Central:
1. Detroit Tigers: This might surprise some folks, considering how successful the Royals have been the past two seasons. I think the Royals are set for a fall back to Earth. I believe the Tigers 2015 season, finishing with 74 wins and a last place finish, was an aberration. Please don’t sleep on this team heading into the 2016 season. They lost David Price (to the Red Sox, by way of the Blue Jays), but replaced him with Jordan Zimmerman. They added Justin Uption to a lineup that already included Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, JD Martinez and, of course, Miguel Cabrera. A first place finish will be based on the return to form of Justin Verlander and the rest of their rotation performing above expectations. Their bullpen may be their Achilles heal once again.
2. Kansas City Royals: After back-to-back appearances in the World Series, including one championship, how can you bet against the reigning champs? Personally, I believe that this team has been playing a bit above their heads over the past two seasons. I believe that 2016 will see a decline in their overall performance, even though I still think they will be highly competitive and wouldn’t be surprised to see them return to the postseason. Their everyday lineup will remain, mostly intact. They lost Johnny Cueto (Giants) in the offseason and replaced him with Ian Kennedy. This is an obvious downgrade. This team will only go as far as their rotation allows.
3. Chicago White Sox: The White Sox were busy this offseason in an attempt to find a way into a wide-open divisional race. They replaced Jeff Samardzija (Giants) with Mat Latos, which will be an interesting swap to watch. They completely rebuilt their infield, sans Jose Abreu, by trading for Brett Lawrie (A’s) to play second base, signing Jimmy Rollins to play SS and trading for Todd Frazier (Reds) to take the reigns at the hot corner. Their lineup is solid top to bottom, so like most teams I’ve already covered, their rotation will take this team as far as they are destined to go. Although improved going into 2016, I don’t see any better than a 3rd place finish for the pale hose.
4. Minnesota Twins: Let me say this… Outside of the Cubs and maybe the Red Sox, the Twins may have the most exciting roster of youngsters in the entire league. Led by Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario, the Twins outfield might be the best in the league in another year or two. Now, having said that, I wouldn’t break the bank that all three will develop as they are expected, but if I were a Twins fan, I’d feel pretty good about the future of my team. The Twins are an up and coming team and could surprise a few people this season. Last year, they finished with 83 wins and just missed a wild card spot by 3 games. Can they improve on last season’s success? I could make an argument for and against it, but I see too much improvement in this division from the Tigers and White Sox to see another 83 plus win season.
5. Cleveland Indians: Over the past few seasons, the Indians have had their fair share of supporters suggesting that this is their year to break out. For me, I think their window has passed, and now it is time to rebuild and bide their time until the division levels off some. Outside of ace, and 2014 Cy Young award winner, Corey Kluber, I just don’t see any star power. Sure, they have nice pieces like Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana, but their roster doesn’t shout World Series contenders. I’ve always had a soft spot for the Indians, dating back to their appearance in the “Major League” franchise of movies, but they just aren’t prepared to contend in 2016.
American League West:
1. Houston Astros: The Astros came out of nowhere in 2015, 2-3 years ahead of everyone’s predicted schedule, to win 86 games and earn a wild card berth. They capitalized on down years from the Angels and the A’s to surprise most people with their youth and tenacity. So what will the 2016 version hold? They have the reigning Cy Young Award winner (Dallas Keuchel) and Rookie of the Year (Carlos Correa). They brought in a new closer, in Ken Giles (Phillies) and added an under-the-radar pitcher in Doug Fister, at a much lower cost than expected. If their young players continue to develop, as expected, the Astros could be good for a very long time. These aren’t your dad’s Astros, that featured the Killer B’s (Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman), but they are a young and talented roster that should win the AL West in 2016.
2. Texas Rangers: When you lose your ace (Yu Darvish) to season-ending surgery in April, before he’s even had a chance to throw a regular season pitch, you know your season is cursed. Void of a lot of pitching depth, it was easy for most of us to write the Rangers off as dead in the water. Not so fast! They made due with what they had and finished in first place in the AL West, with a record of 88-74. Not so bad without their best player for the entire season. They will have Cole Hamels, acquired at mid-season in 2015, for an entire year. They anticipate the return of Darvish around mid-May. They recently added Ian Desmond (Nationals) to their roster to play LF, in hopes that he will solidify their OF and their lineup. No one should be surprised to see this team return to the postseason, although I do believe their road will be a little more challenging this year.
3. Los Angeles Angels: If you look at their projected 25-man opening day roster, it’s hard not to think that they are wasting the best years of Mike Trout’s career. No one knows that Trout’s future will be, so let’s assume that the next 2-3 seasons could very well be the peak. If that is the case, and even if it’s not, the Angels don’t seem set to contend in the foreseeable future. The Angels have a ton of money invested in Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson and Jered Weaver, not to mention the money that they still owe Josh Hamilton, who is no longer with the team. They have one of the league’s worst farm systems, so no immediate help is on the way. I don’t see this team being anywhere what it could be over the next few seasons.
4. Seattle Mariners: This team seems to be in a perpetual state of rebuilding or adding pieces in hopes to find the last few roster blocks that they seem to think they need. They had the busiest offseason of any team, in Jerry DiPoto’s first season as GM. They added Ryan Cook (A’s), Adam Lind (Brewers), Steve Cishek (Cardinals), Nori Aoki (Giants) and Leonys Martin (Rangers) to their team to go along with their core of Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz. If the Mariners came out this year and won the division, I’m not sure there would be many surprised people, anymore than a last place finish. I, personally, don’t see them finishing any better than 3rd however. I just don’t think they improved enough to pass up the Rangers or the Astros.
5. Oakland A’s: The A’s were one of the more active teams during the offseason, completely rebuilding their bullpen with Ryan Madson (Royals), Liam Hendriks (Blue Jays), John Axford (Rockies) and Marc Rzepczynski (Padres). They also brought in Khris Davis (Brewers), giving up a young catching prospect (Jacob Nottingham) in doing so, to help create stability in LF. Their pitching staff is deep and has a lot of potential, if they can stay healthy. Injuries have been the Achilles heal for the A’s in recent years seeing both Jarrod Parker and AJ Griffin (now with the Rangers) miss significant time over the past two seasons, along with franchise fan-favorite, Coco Crisp. The A’s seem like they will be significantly improved heading into 2016, yet still seem no better than a last place team. I don’t think they are as bad as their 68-94 2015 record suggested, but I can’t see any more than 74-76 wins with marginal improvements.
American League Playoffs:
Wild Card: Boston Red Sox (1), Texas Rangers (0)
ALDS: Houston Astros (3), Detroit Tigers (0)
ALDS: Toronto Blue Jays (3), Boston Red Sox (2)
ALCS: Houston Astros (4), Toronto Blue Jays (2)
Chicago Cubs (4), Houston Astros (2): Because, hey… Why not?
American League Awards:
Manager of the Year: AJ Hinch, Houston Astros
Most Valuable Player: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Cy Young: Sonny Gray, Oakland A’s
Rookie of the Year: Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers