American League Predictions for 2015

For the fourth season in a row, I’m making predictions (you should too) as to how I feel each Major League Baseball team will fare throughout the coming season. Although I haven’t come close yet to predicting the exact finishing order of each division (I had the Angels finishing fourth in their division last year and they made it to the postseason), it’s a new year, and with it comes a new chance to luck out and get everything right.

I’ll be posting my predictions for the National League in the next few days, but for now, I’m going to give my predictions for the American League (along with my reasoning), starting with the American League East:

EAST

1. Red Sox

2. Orioles

3. Yankees

4. Blue Jays

5. Rays

It was somewhat difficult to pick the Red Sox to win the division. For a team that went from last to first to last again, it would only make sense that they would once again be a first place team. But that isn’t why I designated them at the top. Although their pitching staff is somewhat of a question mark, their lineup is really good. With veterans David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli, combined with newcomers Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, the Red Sox are stacked top to bottom with talent; and there’s plenty more on the way in the minors that could make impacts at any moment during the season. Their pitching isn’t the best, but it isn’t the worst either. They still have recently dominant closer, Koji Uehara, and despite losing John Lackey and Jon Lester in 2014, they picked up Joe Kelly, Justin Masterson, Wade Miley and Rick Porcello. Everything combined together, it should lead to a lot of wins.

As hard as it was for me to put the Red Sox at number one, it was equally as difficult for me to place the Orioles in second. I was one of the people ranting when they lost Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller that the Orioles would do badly in 2015. But with careful consideration to their roster, and looking at the ball clubs of the other teams in the division, I placed them near the top. With Kevin Gausman, Wei-Yin Chen and Bud Norris, among others, the Orioles rotation is fairly decent. And despite the loss of Miller, their bullpen is pretty good as well, so the run prevention should be there. The question mark is what kind of impact will losing Cruz have on their offense. The subtraction of 40 home runs is sure to have an impact, but they still have Adam Jones, Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado to put together runs. While it won’t lead to a division title, a second place finish isn’t impossible.

The Yankees could wind up being really good or really bad, all depending on the production and health of each player on their team. So I feel confident with placing them in the third place slot. They have the ability to finish higher, with several above average players on their squad, but I’m not confident that it will happen. Still, with a rotation that consists of players such as CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, and a bullpen that ends with Dellin Betances slamming the door in the ninth, their pitchers alone could win them a good amount of games. But pitching isn’t any good if your offense can’t score runs. Brian McCann needs to step things up after a below average season, as do Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Beyond that, the return of Alex Rodriguez should be . . . well . . . interesting. With so much uncertainty, the Yankees’ season will be one of the most intriguing to watch.

I might could see the Blue Jays edging out the Yankees, but I’m placing them at four in the division anyway. With the pickups of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson to help strengthen their overall lineup — a lineup that already had star hitters Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion — the Jays will be good enough to score a lot of runs. But the question is whether or not their pitching staff will be able to prevent them on a consistent basis. Mark Buehrle will likely have another great year, with R.A. Dickey having a mix of good and bad starts throughout the season. What it comes down to for me is Daniel Norris. With Marcus Stroman now out for the season, it’ll take a great year from Norris to overcome Stroman’s loss. He has the potential to do so, but it will take him living up to expectations. That is going to be the difference maker in a fourth place team and a team that makes a few good runs at the second wild card spot.

The Rays won the American League East division as recently as 2009, however, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull out anything over a last place finish in 2015. Like the Blue Jays, the Rays could easily make a jump in the division rankings, but a lot of things can go wrong to keep them from getting there. First off, while their pitching staff still consists of Alex Cobb, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, the loss of David Price last season and having Matt Moore out until midseason while rehabbing his Tommy John surgery will have an impact on their ability to shutout opposing teams. On the flip side, their lineup is merely decent, as with the exception of Evan Longoria, they have no proven big time bats at all. The Rays have James Loney, Asdrubal Cabrera and Kevin Kiermaier, among others, who can help the club out significantly, but no one on the team can carry it by themselves. It will take a team effort for the Rays to have any big success in 2015.

CENTRAL

1. Royals

2. Tigers

3. White Sox

4. Indians

5. Twins

The Royals may or may not actually outplay the Tigers in the upcoming season, but it sure will be fun to watch them go back and forth in the division rankings. The Royals proved to everyone in 2014 that they weren’t messing around anymore, making it to the World Series and putting up a good fight against the Giants. In 2015, expect them to perform close to the same. While I’m not guaranteeing a World Series appearance, they still have a rotation that consists of Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, Jason Vargas, among others. And if their rotation can get to the sixth inning, it’s basically a lock for a win, as their bullpen, with Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and dominant closer, Greg Holland. Their lineup is still strong, despite the loss of All-Star designated hitter, Billy Butler, with Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain to lead the way. They should be a great team this season.

As far as the Tigers are concerned, they could turn out to be the winners of the division when all is said and done, but I’m placing them in second, nonetheless. For me, their pitching will be the key in where they place in the division. Their downfall in the 2014 postseason, their bullpen, isn’t any better than it was back then. In addition, their starting rotation is somewhat of a question mark now with Doug Fister and Max Scherzer both in Washington. But what they lack in pitching they more than make up for in offense. That’s why they’re as high as they are. Consisting of J.D. Martinez, Ian Kinsler, Yoenis Cespedes, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez (once he returns from injury), the Tigers are loaded from top to bottom in their lineup. But if their pitching doesn’t come through, offense can only go so far. Even so, I believe the Tigers will win far more than their far share of games in 2015, making yet another return to the playoffs.

The White Sox did more than their share to get better throughout this offseason. Picking up Jeff Samardzija to go along with an already decent rotation that includes Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, among others, and adding David Robertson to their bullpen, the Sox pitching staff is good enough to compete in 2015. What things will come down to is if their offense can perform. Jose Abreu will likely have another year close to that of his impressive rookie debut in 2015, and that alone will go a long way in making the Whit Sox competitive. But in addition, the White Sox picked up Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera to go along with Alexei Ramirez, Emilio Bonifacio and Adam Eaton. If everything goes as planned, it could turn out to be an exciting season in Chicago. But even so, I don’t think they are a good enough team to win the division. They’ll have to battle it out for a Wild Card spot at best.

Playing in such a strong division, I don’t feel the Indians can finish any better than fourth, despite being a good team. Their lineup is strong, with Yan Gomes set to have a breakout year, along with Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley as well as established veterans Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. With players like that set to take the field each and every day, the Indians should be able to score their fair share of runs. However, while they can score runs, they may not be able to consistently prevent the opposition from scoring them. Beyond Corey Kluber, who is undeniably their ace after he won the Cy Young award in 2014, the Indians have Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar and Gavin Floyd, but none of them have been able to prove they can be good in the majority of their outings. Whether or not their pitching can come through will tell the tale for how their season turns out.

Unfortunately, the Twins are likely facing a last place finish, yet again. Minnesota has tons of pitchers who have shown flashes of greatness at times over the course of their career, but they currently rest as a huge question mark. Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco all have great potential to have a good 2015, but none are a slam dunk by any means. On the flip side of the coin, their lineup could be either good or bad this season, all depending on numerous factors. With guys like Joe Mauer to lead the way, along with Torii Hunter, Brian Dozier and Aaron Hicks, there is always the chance that the Twins make some sort of run during the season and wind up doing better than I am expecting. However, it would take nearly everything going right for them, and with so much unpredictability, I just don’t see that happening for them — at least in 2015.

WEST

1. Mariners

2. Angels

3. Athletics

4. Rangers

5. Astros

When all is said and done, the Mariners could turn out to be the best team in all of the American League. From top to bottom, they are an extremely solid team, and will win a ton of games in 2015. For starters, their rotation is terrific. With Felix Hernandez leading the pack, and Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton also in the mix from one night to the next, any team facing the Mariners will inevitably have a battle on their hands to score runs each and every night. But Seattle should have no problem with that. Just missing the playoffs last season, the Mariners proceeded to get better in the offseason, picking up Nelson Cruz to go along with fellow slugger, Robinson Cano. Also possessing Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, etc., the Mariners have very few holes in their entire roster. For me, if they fail to win the division in 2015 they didn’t live up to their full potential.

But with all of that said for the Mariners, the Angels will certainly do their part in giving them a run for their money in the American League West. After posting a near 100 win season in 2014, the Angels are looking to have another postseason push this time around. I think C.J. Cron is going to have a breakout season, with David Freese having a bounce back year. In addition, the Angels got a bit stronger by adding long time Ray, Matt Joyce, to go along with Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, both of which will have another star year. It’s their pitching, though, that controls how they do in 2015. Last season, Garrett Richards truly made a name for himself, and he should have another good season this year. But after that, things are truly unpredictable. C.J. Wilson, Matt Shoemaker and Jered Weaver all have a lot of potential to be good, but whether or not they actually do will determine how the Angels finish 2015.

A lot of people — myself included — gave the Athletics a hard time this offseason when they made several moves that seemed to weaken their team. However, now that the dust has settled, and people have been given the chance to look at those moves, they truly didn’t hurt them that bad. Even so, a finish any better than third in 2015 would truly stun me. The Angels and Mariners are simply too good. Nonetheless, with Sonny Gray, Jesse Chavez and Jarrod Parker leading the pitching staff, the A’s will still be able to find a way to hang in the mix. I liked the offseason pick up of Josh Phegley to go behind the plate, as well as the acquisitions of Brett Lawrie, Billy Butler, and Marcus Semien. All are good players, and each will give a little something to the club. But despite the amazing ability of the A’s in recent years to have an average team on paper that blew away the competition, I don’t think that will happen this season.

The Rangers are somewhat of a disappointing team. A recent powerhouse team in the division, the Rangers aren’t likely to do much better this season than they did in 2014. But they could end up surprising a lot of people if everything happens just right. After all, they have several players looking to redeem themselves from a down 2014 season. Prince Fielder being the biggest example of that, as he came over from the Tigers to the Rangers only to play in 42 games all year. I look for him to have a much needed bounce back season, however. But while Fielder may have another star caliber year, the Rangers took a true hit this past week, with Yu Darvish undergoing Tommy John surgery, meaning he will miss the entire 2015 season. That is a true blow to the Rangers, even with Derek Holland and Yovani Gallardo to fall back on. I don’t think things will turn out well enough for them to finish very high in the standings.

Year after year, the Astros have been promising to have a great team that can compete with all of the other teams in the division. But despite visible improvement in 2014, I don’t feel that they stand a chance at taking on the Mariners, Angels or Athletics. If anything, they may compete for fourth place with the Rangers, but that’s as good as I could possibly see them doing. But it’s not for a lack of talent. The Astros have a good lineup, with sluggers Chris Carter and George Springer, along with Jon Singleton, Jose Altuve and pickup Evan Gattis, but their pitching will likely be too below average for them to post any big win numbers. Beyond Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh, the Astros truly don’t have much pitching to speak of. The Astros as a whole will likely have their moments, with some great games coming here and there, but the Astros postseason bound season will have to wait at least one more year.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

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