Yesterday I posted my predictions for the National League. Here are my thoughts about the American League.
Toronto Blue Jays: I had to think long and hard about both the east and the central. I like the Blue Jays because I don’t see a breather in their lineup for the opposing pitcher. How would you like to have to navigate through Donaldson, Tulowitzki, Bautista, and Encarnacion? Seriously, that’s some awesome firepower. I think their pitching is weak and they did themselves a disservice by not shoring up the rotation in the offseason. In short, if one of their Big 4 bombers goes down for any length of time it will add undo pressure to the entire team. I have grown to like what Chris Colabello can do with the bat as well. The pitching staff is led by Marcus Stroman, a 5-foot-8 righty with a repertoire and mound presence much bigger than his frame. He should be able to log some serious innings as long as he is healthy. The Blue Jays could roll.
Baltimore Orioles- I like the Orioles for some of the same reasons I like the Blue Jays. They can rake. I think the addition of Pedro Alvarez was brilliant. Yes, he’ll strike out and he won’t play defense. But think of the damage he will inflict along with Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, and Mark Trumbo in the lineup. There will be a serious number of home runs flying out of Camden Yards. The late Earl Weaver would have loved managing those three run homers. The pitching? Meh at best. Chris Tillman has to pitch better than last year. The rest of the rotation would keep me up at night if I were in the Orioles front office. I do like the back end of the bullpen. Between Totonto’s lack of pitching depth and Baltimore’s lack of pitching depth, I like Toronto a bit more. The Orioles could hang in and fight it out.
Boston Red Sox- There are just too many rotation problems on the Red Sox for me to take their resurgence seriously. I really like David Price as the ace. To be truthful, I have some issues with him pitching 16 games in Fenway with the short left field wall. But then the pitching goes downhill with the health issues of Clay Buccholz a real concern and the inconsistency of Rick Porcello a true problem. I think Henry Owens will find his way into the rotation. Some very bright stars in the offensive galaxy of the Red Sox should keep them competitive. Players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Travis Shaw and Blake Swihart will lead the team through the future. The Panda situation could be a huge distraction. But I like what Hanley Ramirez can bring with the bat if he’s healthy.
New York Yankees- Even though their farm system is producing prospects like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, it is not their time yet. The Yankees will field an increasingly aging lineup and a rotation of injury prone pitchers. It doesn’t add up to a winning combination in my book. While I think Didi Gregorius is a budding star, what type of attitude will Starlin Castro bring to the Bronx? Elsbury, Gardner and Beltran all add another year to their resume’. Healthy Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann should put plenty of home run balls into the right field seats. The pitching? When do Tanaka, Sabathia, and Pineda go on the DL? I do like Severino a bunch. And Chapman.
Tampa Bay Rays- I do like the addition of Corey Dickerson and I think Brad Miller will really help. The Rays can pitch. Archer is the real deal, as are most of the guys in the rotation. And Blake Snell is on the way. This club is the opposite of Toronto and Baltimore. They have the pitching and need the thunder. Pitching wins, right? Not all the time. And not in the AL East. The Rays are on the right track. Now if they can only get out of that stadium things will be looking brighter.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Cleveland Indians- I haven’t picked the Indians for years. I like what I’ve seen. Why?
I think Mike Napoli, Marlon Byrd and Juan Uribe can inject some much needed offense to this club. Doubles count. They can smack doubles. I think Carlos Santana is driven to improve. The pitching staff is probably not as World Class as advertised, but Kluber and Carrasco are really good. My jury remains out on Danny Salazar. He’s way too inconsistent for my tastes. Trevor Bauer to the bullpen took guts. He really has not progressed. He is pouting about the assignment and his attitude could put a cloud in the clubhouse. The veterans have to nip that in the bud. If the Indians lose the pennant it could be due to the pen. i think the arms are going to fall off the set-up men because they work so much. But the Indians should compete and avoid long slumps.
Kansas City Royals- It will be really, really tough to knock them off their perch. They play the game so well and they run the opposition to death. Their core players including Hosmer, Cain, Gordon, Moustakas, and Perez should lead them to victory. I’m not sure Kendrys Morales can repeat his performance from last year. Right field is a bit of an issue-and one they have really not addressed. The pitching is OK, but certainly not great. There is no true ace IMO. No one guy to stop a losing streak. I don’t think Yordano Ventura is at that stage. Ian Kennedy should help eat innings and get the team to that fabulous bullpen. The pitchers need only go five or six. That helps.
Detroit Tigers- Miguel Cabrera is healthy. His lower half is strong. He’s lethal once again. J D Martinez remains the steal of the century. How the Astros ever let him go two years ago and how he slipped to the Tigers is beyond me. Anyway, if Victor Martinez isn’t hamstrung and if newly acquired Justin Upton is more hot than cold in his usual inconsistent patterns, the Tigers will be awesome at the plate. When I saw Ian Kinsler this spring it was the best he has looked in years. And here it comes—the pitching? Justin Verlander is clearly not washed up. He’s a very good, very solid starter. And then? Yikes! I wish Shane Greene well, even though he killed my fantasy team last year. I wish Anibal Sanchez a healthy season. He can be very good if healthy.
Chicago White Sox- I like 3/5 of the pitching rotation. I really like lefties Chris Sale, Jose Quintana (very underrated IMO) and Carlos Rodon. I really don’t like John Danks and Mat Latos. Like the Indians, they have three solid starters. But the offense still seems inconsistent to me. Jose Abreu is a professional surgeon at the plate-he carves up the defense by hitting to all fields. Newly acquired Todd Frazier should rock The Cell with his loud bat. After that-I’m not convinced. Lots of mediocre hitters with good speed.
But they have to get on base. Who is Avisail Garcia? Who is Melky Cabrera? We’ll see.
Minnesota Twins- They could win this division. That’s how close it is. And that’s how good they are—on offense. What if they had concentrated on pitching in the offseason? They can be really scary. Miguel Sano can be a monster at the plate. And Byron Buxton can really play-if he’s healthy. I like Eddie Rosario a great deal. Trevor Plouffe is very underrated IMO. Brian Dozier as well. Both those guys can rake. And I don’t think Joe Mauer is done by any means. The rotation? I’ll pass.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Houston Astros- I really can’t state how great I think this team will become. They are a perfectly balanced club between awesome hitting and very, very good pitching. Carlos Correa is among the most exciting five tool players in the game. Add in Carlos Gomez, George Springer (still underrated) Colby Rasmus, Evan Gattis, and the amazing Jose Altuve and this team will score a bunch of runs. I saw Tyler White play several games when I was in Florida. He’s big and strong and can knock the ball out of the park. But there are some swings and misses in his game, just like Jon Singleton and the now departed Chris Carter. And A J Reed waits in the wings. Pitching? Try on a duo of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh for openers. Then mix in Lance McCullers, Doug Fister, Scott Feldman, Mike Fiers, and more to the equation. I like it. The bullpen got even better with the acquisition of Ken Giles. This is a fun team to watch. They win.
Texas Rangers- Another team that has some nice balance, but they can’t pitch with Houston. Once Yu Darvish returns they have more of a fighting chance. But they are not deep in starters. I don’t know where they would be without Cole Hamels. He’s the real deal and will lead the staff. The outfield will eventually get better when Nomar Mazara and Lewis Brinson take their spots. But they aren’t ready yet. The Rangers have a fence buster in Joey Gallo. Will he play this season? How much? Where?
I do like Odor at 2B. Prince looks even bigger to me this spring. Can he still hit? How about Choo? What will they do with Jurickson Profar? Trade him for pitching?
Adrian Beltre remains the heart and soul of this team IMO. I think the Andrus to LF situation can work. If he hits. But the pitching is the issue. I’ve written that a lot today.
Seattle Mariners- I have to say I don’t think the Felix of now is the Felix of old. I think there is a little slip in his performance. I hope I’m wrong. The pitching is solid. I like Wade Miley in that park. Robbie Cano has something to prove. He was not healthy last year. He is now. We keep waiting for Nelson Cruz to come back to earth. Man, can he blister a fastball. Why not throw him all breaking balls on the outside corner? I don’t know. Ketel Marte will continue to grow as a shortstop and hitter. I am not sold that Leonys Martin can hit big league pitching. Adam Lind is a huge addition for the team. He can change a game with real power. This is a more solid club than last year.
Oakland Athletics- If things break well for Oakland, they could be exciting to watch. If they get the Stephen Vogt of the first half instead of the injured Stephen Vogt of the second half last year that will make a difference. Josh Reddick has to provide some power. I am a believer in Danny Valencia. I don’t think it was a fluke. He can hit.
I also really like the speed of Billy Burns. When he puts the ball on the ground it’s a single. Khris Davis is streaky, but his power is real-very good wrist hitter. The pitching? Not horrible. Sonny Gray stabilizes the rotation. I am concerned about Sean Doolittle’s velocity. All in all, if the team is left in tact and not traded away, they will be spoilers.
Los Angeles Angels- The Angels last in the division? With Trout, Pujols and Calhoun? Yes. Because i don’t see much more. I think the pitching is woeful beyond maybe Garrett Richard and Tyler Skaggs if he returns. My jury is still out on Andrew Heaney. Jered Weaver? C J Wilson is hurt. I’m not a Hector Santiago fan. The bullpen? I just don’t think this team can compete with Houston, Texas and Seattle—and that’s who they will play most of their games against.
Thank you for following my work at TodaysKnuckleball.com. And thanks for following me on twitter @BerniePleskoff.
That’s it. I’m Done. For Now.
Now-beginning Sunday—-lets play some baseball. Good luck to you and your team.