American League Preview

Steve O Speak

AL East:

1. Boston Red Sox

2. New York Yankees

3. Tampa Bay Rays

4. Baltimore Orioles

5. Toronto Blue Jays

Once again the AL East is the best division in baseball. The Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays all have enough talent to make a World Series run. The Rays may be lacking some major league talent, but make up the ground with their deep farm system. If a few of their young guys really develop this year and/or they trade some of that talent for proven Major Leaguers, they could easily sit atop this division come fall. I like Boston over New York, though I suspect both will make the playoffs. The Red Sox might not have the bats the Yankees do, but are built around excellent pitching and defense. Also their depth at the major and minor league level is superior to New York’s. The Yankees went fairly unscathed last year on the injury front, and I don’t know if they can count on being so lucky again. One or two key injuries will likely knock them out of first place, any others could allow another wild card team or even the Rays pass them by.

AL Central:

1. Minnesota Twins

2. Detroit Tigers

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Cleveland Indians

5. Kansas City Royals

The Twins spent time and resources shoring up their middle infield and pitching rotation, but received a body blow to their playoff hopes when All-star closer Joe Nathan was lost with an injury. While the door opened somewhat for Detroit and Chicago to jump ahead of Minnesota, I still like the Twins chances. They have a great every day lineup from top to bottom and a strong farm system. They do lack a true ‘ace’ pitcher and could be in the market for one at the trade deadline, but Minnesota will still be the team to beat in the Central. The Indians and Royals have done nice jobs of rebuilding, but still lack the Major League ready talent to compete.

AL West:

1. Texas Rangers

2. Seattle Mariners

3. Los Angeles Angels

4. Oakland Athletics

I think the Rangers will be a surprise team this year. They have a very good lineup top to bottom, and that doesn’t include their top minor league prospect Justin Smoak who should be up by mid-year. Their starting pitching isn’t where it needs to be, but they have a few young arms that should join the rotation before years end. They seem poised for a breakout year and given the state of the rest of the teams in the division, this is their year. Seattle and Los Angeles won’t just give the division to the Rangers, but they both seem to have some weaknesses. The Mariners did a great job adding Figgins (which hurt the Angels), Cliff Lee, and Milton Bradley and could have a bonus if Erik Bedard comes back from injury. But I’m not sure its enough for them to win the West. They have a great lineup built around speed and defense, but completely lack power, and that is going to hurt them. Unless they make a trade for a decent bat, I’m not sure that they really have a chance to win the West. The Angels have been pretty dominate in the West for the majority of the decade, but I think the torch has passed. Losing Lackey and Figgins did set the team back some, and they no longer have the strong minor league system which they can trade from. They desperately need their starting rotation to pitch up to their potential, something that has plagued them from time to time in recent years. While they have the talent to finish 1st, I see some declining performances on the horizon, that could drop them to 3rd.

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