Spring training has begun, and with it comes preseason rankings from sports writers around the nation. Here are our predictions for the AL, with the NL coming next week.
1. New York Yankees
The clear favorite after acquiring NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton to join Aaron Judge. With a healthy starting rotation, a lock-down bullpen and prospects ready to contribute to an excellent core, the Yankees resemble last year’s Astros and 2016’s Cubs, only better.
2. Houston Astros
The world champions should continue to get better with baseball’s best young offense only improving, which is a scary thought. Some depth concerns in the rotation and bullpen persist, but those existed last year, and, well, we all know how that turned out.
3. Cleveland Indians
Undoubtedly the best starting rotation in the AL, the Indians’ dream season was abruptly silenced by a red hot Yankees team in the ALDS. Losing some offense and bullpen production might hurt in the playoffs, but it would be an immense surprise if they are even remotely contested for the AL Central crown.
4. Boston Red Sox
The outfield is the envy of every other team in the league, and adding J.D. Martinez should give them the power boost they sorely need. Pitching depth hurts a bit after Chris Sale, but if he’s starting the Wild Card game, you’d better believe Boston is advancing to the ALDS.
5. Minnesota Twins
Overlooked and underrated, the Twins quietly possessed one of the deepest and most dynamic offenses last season, and that was without Miguel Sano for the latter months. Some patchwork free agent pitching additions deepen a competent staff, though lacking a true ace does hurt. They’re the only AL Central team equipped to push the Indians out of their comfort zone.
6. Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are one year removed from possessing a lethal starting rotation, and there’s a good chance starters like Aaron Sanchez make a comeback after struggling through 2017. The offense isn’t what it once was, but as long as Toronto has Josh Donaldson in that lineup, there’s reason for opponents to worry.
7. Los Angeles Angels
I’ve always been hesistant of buying into teams with a plethora of new free agents forming the foundation of the lineup, and the same is true for the Angels. So much depends on whether pitching/hitting hybrid Shohei Ohtani can prove to be the real deal in the MLB, but even if he succeeds, Los Angeles has little pitching depth behind him.
8. Seattle Mariners
Seattle exists exactly where you don’t want to be: not good enough to truly contend but not bad enough to truly rebuild. Adding Dee Gordon helps solve some outfield problems, but the anemic offense probably won’t improve enough to pass the mediocrity its limped to throughout recent seasons.
9. Chicago White Sox
Whenever people claim a team is a season or two away from contending, there’s a decent possibility that they’ll contend faster than anticipated, a la the Cubs or Yankees. On paper, the White Sox are a couple seasons away, but with one of the best farm systems in baseball, possessing some prospects that already appear MLB ready, they have tremendous potential. The sleeper contender of the AL.
10. Texas Rangers
The Rangers have Cole Hamels and little else on the pitching front, but even he struggled in 2017. An offense with substantial power but little consistency doesn’t help Texas’ case. Essentially, the Orioles with an ace.
11. Oakland A’s
On paper, a last place team, but it’s the A’s. An Oscar-nominated film was made about how they continually defy expectations. The lineup could surprise, and the pitching, while unproven, shows flashes of brilliance on occasion. But expecting a playoff push is blind optimism.
12. Baltimore Orioles
Do you like homeruns? Watch the Orioles. Not only do they hit a ton of them, but they give up even more due to a horrendous pitching staff that’s gone unchecked for years.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
Do you hate runs? Watch the Rays. Not only do they never score, but they also lost their three top offensive players in the offseason. A rebuild seems likely.
14/15. Detroit Tigers/Kansas City Royals
Two teams in complete rebuilding mode after losing or trading away all of their assets. Whichever ends up as the worst team in baseball is basically a toss up at this point.