2017 MLB American League Preview
AL East: Winner: Red Sox
Arguably the biggest move of the offseason came from the returning division champs, the Boston Red Sox, who acquired veteran left-handed pitcher Chris Sale to go along with returning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and David Price. Even after losing legendary designated hitter David Ortiz, the Red Sox still boast an explosive lineup led by the outfield of Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Andrew Benintendi.
Also contending for a title is the Baltimore Orioles, a team with a lot of power on offense but question marks in the starting rotation. Manny Machado and Adam Jones will lead the way, making highlight reel plays on defense, as well as putting up consistent offensive numbers. Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo may lead the league in K’s but will make up for that with a multitude of home runs.
The New York Yankees will employ a similar strategy with young bats Gary Sanchez and Aaron Judge blasting homers, but C.C. Sabathia is not the pitcher he once was and Masahiro Tanaka cannot pitch every game. They won’t get leads to their outstanding bullpen tandem of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman enough to compete this year.
I believe the Toronto Blue Jays will finish third once again this year. Their only dominant starting pitcher is Marcus Stroman and, similar to the other teams in this division, the bats can’t do enough. Josh Donaldson is still a spectacular player but may be one tier down at third from Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, and Nolan Arenado. Dominican Republic star Jose Bautista will hit his fair share of bombs but they will miss Edwin Encarnacion’s bat in the middle of the lineup.
Lastly will be the abysmal Tampa Bay Rays. Chris Archer will have a fantastic year but I expect him to be traded to a contender at the trade deadline. It is time to completely rebuild that team.
AL Central: Winner: Cleveland Indians
The Indians return much of the same lineup that was one game away from winning the World Series last fall and then they added slugger Edwin Encarnacion. This is a talented roster lead by the slick shortstop with developing power at the plate in Francisco Lindor. If the starting pitching can stay healthy (a big if), this is the best top-to-bottom rotation in the American League. They should easily win the Central.
The Detroit Tigers are truly the only team that can give the Indians any trouble in the division this year. They will need an MVP-caliber year from Miguel Cabrera and All-Star campaigns from Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, and possibly even J.D. Martinez. Justin Verlander was improved last year but he has even more potential as we saw early in his career.
Next is a team that is rapidly losing its core in the Kansas City Royals. The position players are still there but many just haven’t been the same since their World Series run. Not to mention the starting pitching staff who will really hurt this team. They are still going to be one of the best in the majors defensively, but you can’t stop walks and homeruns.
The Minnesota Twins are going to just edge out the Chicago White Sox for fourth place in the Central. Byron Buxton is a good young prospect as is Miguel Sano but the Twins are still a year or two away from competing.
A team that may have made the most moves in the offseason, the White Sox are in full rebuild mode. Trading Chris Sale for prospects was smart and I think the next move may to rid themselves of Todd Frazier. He is a strong defender with some pop in his bat who could really help a contending club.
AL West: Winner: Seattle Mariners
Yes, you read that correctly, the Seattle Mariners will win the division crown. I have picked them to break through the past couple years but it just hasn’t worked out. I love the move of picking up Jarrod Dyson, who will be a great table-setter for Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz. Felix Hernandez will need to be spectacular, but he has proven he can be the best pitcher in the big leagues. They will battle with the Astros for the title, but I think they can come out on top.
The Astros will finish second in the division and win a wild card sport for the 2017 playoffs. Jose Altuve may have a slight drop off from his amazing 2016 performance but Carlos Correa will bounce back from his slight sophomore slump. Alex Bregman is a star in the making and Carlos Beltran is a great veteran influence on this club. The question remains, however: Can the starting pitching do the job. This could be a team that would look to trade for Chris Archer at the deadline to go along with Dallas Keuchel at the front of the rotation.
The Texas Rangers are still a good team but in a tough division this year. They have a strong outfield but Carlos Gomez is so streaky it is hard to predict. While Adrian Beltre is a Hall of Fame player, I think he may struggle at times this year. Secretly, I am hoping to see another right-handed hook from Rougned Odor as this was one of the highlights from last year.
Next is Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels. I understand Trout’s love for LA but he has to be getting sick of losing. He will the best player in baseball, but his team’s poor performance will keep him from winning another MVP.
The Oakland Athletics may be the worst team in baseball next year. It will be interesting to see if Sonny Gray can bounce back from some injuries as Billy Beane may deal his ace pitcher at some point.
MVP: Manny Machado
Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
AL Champ: Boston Red Sox
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.