I wrote about my National League predictions here and now we continue with the American League predictions and playoff predictions.
American League East
Boston: 2015 proved to be another down year, as they sandwiched a 2013 title year with 3 very poor years in 2012, 2014 and 2015. 2016 should be a different story as the core of young players started to emerge last season and the ultra aggressive Dave Dombrowski acquired David Price and Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox should mash in 2016, led by veterans David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia and emerging stars Mookie Betts and Xander Boegarts. The aforementioned Price leads a solid if not underwhelming rotation, followed by a collection of mid-back end starters. Add in a very scary back end of the bullpen and a top tier farm system and it’s easy to see why many in Boston are optimistic this year.
New York: The Yankees continue to be somewhat of a revelation in baseball as they have yet to finish below .500 in a season since 1992. The current 2016 team has a very odd mix of talent, boasting the oldest position player group in baseball but a young starting staff with upside and a lethal trio in the bullpen. The offense finished 2nd in baseball in runs last year, showing that their age issue is a bit overblown. There isn’t a real hole in the group and no real star but every player can hit a bit. The starting staff, lead by Masahiro Tanaka, could be a top 5 unit of all things click but health issues loom. Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances form a ridiculous back end of the bullpen. Look for the Bronx Bombers to surprise some people this year with what looks like a solid all around group.
Toronto: The Blue Jays are coming off their most successful year since 1993, a season that saw them make it to Game 6 of the ALCS in an eventual loss vs the Royals. You know the Jays story: They are absolute mashers. 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin form the most feared lineup in baseball and should be near the top among baseball’s best offenses this year. Losing David Price hurts and their biggest key will be contributions from back end starters such as Marco Estrada, Drew Hutchinson and others. At the very least, the Jays will be competing for a Wild Card spot because the offense is that good. Any more success is dependent on how much the rotation and bullpen contribute.
Tampa Bay: The Rays took a step back in 2015 in their first year without Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman running the ship but there are reasons to be optimistic entering 2016. The team boasts a very good and young, albeit risky rotation headed by booming ace Chris Archer. Offensively, the team struggled mightily in 2015 but the team acquired some nice bounce back candidates in Corey Dickerson, Brad Miller and Steven Pearce over the offseason. As they usually do, the Rays will probably surprise many this year with out on nowhere solid performances from utility guys, career minor leaguers and flamed out starters. Never count the Rays out.
Baltimore: Baltimore had a fascinating but strange offseason, one that saw them essentially bid against themselves for Chris Davis and ended up paying him a whopping 161 million dollars over 7 years. The team forfeited a draft pick to sign back end starter Yovanni Gallardo, Matt Wieters and Darren O’Day were brought back and Hyun-Soo Kim was signed to a nice deal but the team still has quite a few holes. Newcomers Pedro Alvarez and Mark Trumbo bring a lot of thump but also defensive deficiencies and low walk totals with it. Baltimore has a poor rotation with a bunch of back end starters and they have a huge strikeout problem offensively but they will hit a boatload of homers. Their shutdown bullpen is their clear strength but the poor minor league system makes things dicey as well. If the team struggles in the first half, they could be big time sellers at the trade deadline.
American League Central
Cleveland: The Indians are a popular choice to win the division in 2016, just like they were last year when they disappointed and missed the playoffs. The team features the 3 headed monster that is Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar and has an intriguing group of talented youngsters headed by stud shortstop Francisco Lindor. There’s no doubt the team will pitch well again in 2016 and the improvements defensively will surely be big but their success hinges on the offense. Bounce backs from Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana could go a long way in where this team ends up. Their biggest weakness is the 2 outfielders to the left of star left fielder Michael Brantley but the team does have 3 legitimate outfield prospects in Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier and Tyler Naquin. If one of those 3 can step up in a big league role, it could be a huge boost to the 2016 team.
Kansas City: After reaching the World Series in back to back years and winning it all in 2015, the projection systems still don’t like Kansas City. While the team will certainly regress in 2016, the team should still compete for the division title once again. Losing Ben Zobrist and Johnny Cueto really hurts but the position player core is still extremely strong. The team will still be very good defensively, on the bases and in the bullpen but you do have to worry about potential holes in right field and second base. The starting rotation looks very shaky right now but there’s a decent chance they can be not terrible and keep the team in ballgames. Don’t expect Kansas City in the World Series again but don’t expect this team to be one of the worst in baseball like the projections say.
Chicago: The Sox essentially completed their offseason that they didn’t finish last offseason, filling some major holes that lead to their bad 2015 year. Bringing in Todd Frazier, Brett Lawrie, Jimmy Rollins, Austin Jackson and Mat Latos for very little will go a long way in boosting the floor of the team. The team already had a solid core of stars such as Chris Sale and Jose Abreu and now the team has brought in the necessary role players to compete. There’s still uncertainty over how much the team will hit and what the back end of the rotation will give them but this could be a sneaky good team that makes the playoffs in 2016.
Detroit: The Tigers had the most Tigers offseason possible. Baseball people are unsure of what direction Detroit would head in but owner Mike Ilitch has made it clear he wants a World Series title before he passes. Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmerman, Cameron Maybin and a few nice bullpen pieces were brought in to boost a roster that really struggled in 2015. The aging roster continues to decline and age but the offense will probably mash in 2016, led by Miguel Cabrera, who continues to rake, even with some declined power. The team completely hinges on the rotation this year, specifically guys like Anibal Sanchez, and will decide the fate of where the Tigers end up. Detroit is one of the more volatile teams in baseball so they could win 75 games, 85 games or 95 games and it probably wouldn’t surprise many.
Minnesota: The Twins surprised in 2015, staying in the Wild Card race until the last week of the season. The offense was surprisingly strong and the rotation did just enough to make for a successful season. Minnesota has quite a few super high upside players in Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler and near MLB ready Jose Berios but the surrounding roster is quite weak. Like the Tigers, the Twins are a very volatile team entering the season that hinges on how well the youngsters perform. If Byron Buxton decides to completely break out in 2016, the team could find itself right in the thick of things. If the youngsters slump, the team could be competing for worst record in the American League.
American League West
Houston: The Astros entered from rebuild to contenders much quicker than everybody expected, making the playoffs in 2015 and nearly advancing to the ALCS. Expectations are big once again entering 2016 even with the team having a pretty quiet offseason, making moves for Ken Giles and Doug Fister. However, the team didn’t really need major upgrades. Carlos Correa and 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel lead a very well rounded roster, one that could make an even bigger leap forward in 2016. Houston may have the best shot of any team in baseball to reach the World Series, due to a subpar division and a more wide open American League.
Anaheim: The Angels had a highly controversial offseason due in part to who was brought in and who wasn’t brought in. The team needed a left fielder desperately but instead acquired Andrelton Simmons and a herd of buy low bounce back candidates. When Simmons was acquired for the Angels 2 top pitching prospects, it seemed like a foretelling sign that the team was going all in and would blow past the luxury tax threshold. Outside of Yunel Escobar, the Angels didn’t really do much of anything else. Mike Trout really masks the fact that this roster isn’t constructed all that well and will be a big reason why the team is competitive. If some of the young starters take step forwards and Daniel Nava provides league average value in left field, the team could find itself in a Wild Card spot.
Texas: Was there a more surprising team in 2015? The Rangers were written off by almost everybody after Yu Darvish went under the knife but the team found itself playing postseason baseball thanks to a torrid 2nd half. Were it not for an abundance of errors in Game 5 of the ALDS, Texas may have been playing in the ALCS. Texas essentially returns the same team as last year but Yu Darvish will return at some point and newcomer Ian Desmond provides some depth. With some very good near MLB ready prospects such as Nomar Mazara, it’s possible Texas gets a midseason boost. The Rangers have some obvious rotation issues but they’ll probably hit a lot again and be in the Wild Card race most of the year.
Seattle: New general manager Jerry Dipoto wasted no time whatsoever to bring in an entirely new team. He boosted the rotation by bringing back Hisashi Iwakuma and acquiring Nate Karns and Wade Miley. The offense got a shake up that saw Adam Lind, Chris Iannetta, Nori Aoki and Leonys Martin come to town. Even the bullpen has a new look, featuring no Carson Smith and Danny Farquhar but newcomers Joaquin Benoit, Steve Cishek and Evan Scribner. It’s hard to gauge how good Seattle will be but the depth improved across the board and the M’s could be in the picture for a Wild Card spot in 2016.
Oakland: The A’s had a disastrous 2015 season that certainly was viewed in a more negative manner as they saw Josh Donaldson tear up the league and win AL MVP honors. The fact is this Oakland team lacks the upside to be a contender and needs a lot to go right to be in the playoff mix. Sonny Gray has turned into a legitimate ace but he represents the only real star on a roster with many low upside players. It’s never smart to count Oakland out with their Moneyball ways but this looks like a roster that may struggle to crack .500.
AL MVP: Mike Trout
AL CY: Chris Sale
AL ROY: Nomar Mazara
San Francisco Giants>St. Louis Cardinals
New York Yankees> Toronto Blue Jays
San Francisco Giants> Chicago Cubs(5 games)
New York Mets> Los Angeles Dodgers(4 games)
New York Yankees> Boston(5 games)
Houston Astros> Cleveland Indians(5 games)
Houston Astros> New York Yankees(6 games)
San Francisco Giants> New York Mets(7 games)
Houston Astros> San Francisco Giants(6 games)
World Series MVP: George Springer