February 19th, 2014
My last blog was dedicated to providing my opinion of the key player on each National League club.
This week, I look at the American League and note the player for each time I think holds a key for the team’s success.
I think the Orioles really need a big season from Nick Markakis. If he is going to be leading off, his importance is even greater. His power has diminished recently but he still has the tools to drive in runs, score runs and make things happen.
There are lots of stars on the Red Sox, but Jackie Bradley may be really important. If he wins the center field job with solid, consistent performance, it will make the transition away from Jacoby Ellsbury so much easier. He can be a catalyst from that position.
The White Sox are counting on Adam Eaton to add some speed and energy to their club. If he is 100% healthy and can get on base, it will set the table for the rest of the lineup.
Hitting at the top of the order, his job will be to jump start the offense. Can he do it?
Michael Bourn will play a similar role for the Indians as Eaton does for the White Sox.
Bourn has to get on base, steal and score runs. That’s his role. He has to make things happen and take some pressure off the rest of the lineup. He needs a big year.
Slated to be the Tigers new cleanup hitter, Victor Martinez has the task of driving in runs. There will be men on base for Martinez and he has a shot to have a monster year. But is the bat the same as it was? Can he go deep or hit the gaps for doubles? We’ll see.
How good will Dexter Fowler be making the transition from the NL to the AL? Can he be a veteran team leader the Astros need? Can he get on base enough to allow their young hitters a chance for some RBIs? It’s the new look Astros. And a new team for Fowler.
What kind of production can the Royals expect from Mike Moustakas? Is he ready to take his place as a consistent run producer with men on base? Can he be effective week in and week out and not fall into prolonged slumps? Has he turned the corner?
Can Albert Pujols return to the form that made him great? Is he fully recovered and able to play without pain and run normally? If he is, the Angels can be a very dangerous team. They need a healthy and productive Pujols (and Hamilton) to contend.
How will the Twins Joe Mauer respond to his transition from catcher to first base? Will his new position give him more energy and life along with fewer aches and pains? If he is totally healthy, he can be productive from the less stressful position. He’s the man.
Can the Yankees Carlos Beltran hold up physically over the course of an entire season? With the loss of Robbie Cano’s bat, Beltran will be among five new offensive players called upon to produce runs. Is he up to the task as a real team leader and go to guy?
Can Yoenis Cespedes be counted upon to produce runs as he did more consistently in his rookie season than the first half of last year? Will he produce as he did late in the season? Can he cut down the strikeouts and break up games with the long ball?
While we might be able to predict production from Cano and Corey Hart in Seattle, what will the team get from Justin Smoak? What happens if Smoak doesn’t hit early in the season? Can he drive in the runs they desperately need from the middle of the order?
Can Wil Myers be the All Star player many people predict? If he produces from the middle of the order, life will be much simpler for the offense hungry Rays. Their pitching will be solid, but Myers has to help the offense score runs to win.
New additions Choo and Fielder really make the offense in Texas even more dangerous. But will Jurickson Profar be healthy enough to play 150 games and help people forget the loss of Ian Kinsler. Can he be an everyday player of impact at age 20? He’s key.
What type of production will the Blue Jays get from Jose Bautista? is he the fence buster of old? Can he set the tone for Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus type hitters? Will Bautista stay healthy all year? Is he an All Star, game changing, impact player?
Of course, every team has more than one key player. But those are mine as we head into the American League season. Questions surround the keys. We get answers soon.
As always, thank you for following me @BerniePleskoff on twitter, and for reading my work at MLBPipeline.com. And thanks for listening to Short Hops with @DerikVanriper on iTunes. It’s free.
That’s it. I’m done.