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Rays: Although this team won the highly competitive AL East last season, it will be a tough feat to repeat. They lost some major components from last year’s pennant team including Matt Garza, Carlos Pena, and Carl Crawford. The team did add veterans Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez, and although they will definitely contribute offensively, they are past their prime, and don’t fill the giant shoes left behind by the key departures. The team still has a lot of talent with Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, David Price, and James Shields, but the AL East is that much better this year, and the Rays will have a tough time keeping up with the Yankees and Red Sox.
Yankees: This is a classic Yankees team with All-Stars at every position. The only question on this team is the rotation that is after C.C. Sabathia. Phil Hughes is becoming a nice player, but A.J. Burnett had a rough go last year. After these three pitchers there are a lot of question marks which could make it tough for the Yankees to keep up with the Red Sox, especially in a division so loaded with offensive talent. The Yankees will compete for the division, but will likely take the wild card again this year.
Red Sox: This team is built to win the World Series, and is my favorite to represent the American League this season. They filled all their holes in the off-season, adding Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, to load up their lineup. They also have the best rotation in the AL, their No. 5 starter, Daisuke Matsuzaka, would be a No. 2 on most major league teams. It is nearly impossible to see a letdown in Boston, and this team should be a treat to watch all season long.
Blue Jays: They were surprisingly competitive last year, even after the departure of Roy Halladay, but the average baseball fan can’t name a single player on this young team. Without stars, this division is simply too tough to win, and the Blue Jays will continue to be a second tier team in this division until they can gather, or grow some stars.
Orioles: Buck Showalter got this team fired up last year after taking over this perennial cellar dweller, but it’s going to be awhile before the Orioles are back to competing for championships. The team is headed in the right direction, but a highly competitive 40-man roster is impossible to build overnight, even if they did have the money of the Yankees or Red Sox. The additions of Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero are a good start, but the team still has a young rotation, and it’s tough to win in the AL with subpar pitching.
Twins: Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer continue to drive this team which always seems to be competing for the division and the playoffs. Their rotation is pretty solid, topped by Francisco Liriano, and the team has a legitimate shot to win the division again this year. The Central has gotten better as the White Sox made some moves, but the Twins will be in the hunt all season long.
White Sox: This is a solid team built to make a playoff run this year. When your No. 5 starter is Edwin Jackson, you have a pretty solid starting rotation, and they boast the best in the Central. If Carlos Quentin can stay healthy, the addition of Adam Dunn makes this a power-loaded lineup, with a good combination of veterans and young players. This team will be in the division hunt all season long, and has the staying power to edge out the Twins with their bats and pitching depth.
Tigers: The team has Magglio Ordonez, Victor Martinez, and Justin Verlander, but with questions about Miguel Cabrera, and his legal and alcohol related issues, there could be issues for this team. After Verlander, there is a huge drop-off in the rotation which is not very deep. If Cabrera misses a lot of time, or is suspended, there will be a huge hole in the lineup. They just don’t have enough pitching or depth to keep up with the increasing talent of the Twins and White Sox.
Indians: This is a young team that had a rough season last year. They added a couple of veterans to make them a little more competitive, but they are still a few years of rebuilding away from being a factor in the Central. They were thoroughly decimated as one star player after another left the team, and now they must pick up the pieces and start over, with young players that need a lot of developing.
Royals: Besides Wilson Betemit and Jason Kendall, the Royals are roster full of unknown players. Zack Greinke, their biggest star of the last few years is now a Brewer, and the Royals are in full rebuilding mode. They will continue to play young players, hoping to develop and cultivate some stars from their high draft picks.
Rangers: They shocked many in the baseball world by making it all the way to the World Series, knocking off a pair of AL East teams en route to the Series. They were no fluke last year, but the loss of their ace, Cliff Lee is really going to hurt them. They still have a nice rotation and added Brandon Webb, who before getting hurt was a legitimate ace. There have been issues with Michael Young, and the Rangers could look to deal him to try to round out their rotation and make it more complete. With their firepower, and the bat of Josh Hamilton, the Rangers will stay the favorite in the West.
Athletics: The A’s have some nice pieces, including pitcher Dallas Braden, but overall they just aren’t a complete enough team. They have a nice lineup, but it doesn’t boast the type of power of the Rangers, and with a mostly unproven pitching staff, it will be tough for the A’s to get over the playoff hump. They are still a few pieces away from making the playoffs.
Angels: Although they missed the playoffs last season, the Angels have a very complete team that will fight the Rangers for the division. Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter, and Bobby Abreu give the lineup some nice power, balancing it with speed guys like Howie Kendrick. Their rotation is also very complete with Jered Weaver at the top. If Scott Kazmir, the No.5 starter can get back to form, this rotation could be the best in the West.
Mariners: The Mariners have a couple of nice pieces with Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins, Brendan Ryan, and ace Felix Hernandez. The Mariners will have a much better season than last year and are on the right track to getting back into the playoffs after a ten-year drought. They still lack a complete rotation, and a feared lineup, but if they can get some players to step up, they have a shot at competing for the division. Some additions to the rotation though would go a long way to securing this.