A few weeks ago, I gave my predictions for the American League West division. This week, I will finish my projections for the rest of the American League.
First Place: Detroit Tigers
After going to the World Series last year, the Tigers brought back almost everyone from their team. On the offensive side, their only real loss was Delmon Young which is pretty inconsequential considering his -0.7 WAR last year. Young was replaced by Torii Hunter; a significant upgrade. Victor Martinez, who missed all of 2012 with an injury, will be back for the 2013 season. On the pitching side, Detroit is bringing back every pitcher that threw at least 20 innings in 2012 with the lone exception of Jose Valverde. The bullpen may still be in trouble considering that their projected closer has never thrown a pitch in the major leagues, but the Tigers should win a lot of games anyways.
Second Place: Cleveland Indians
The Indian’s offense is pretty intriguing to me. They have some speed, some power, some on-base ability, and some depth in the batting order. Their real problem will be the pitching staff. None of their projected starters posted a FIP of below 4.00 last season. In reality, even if Cleveland did have a competitive pitching staff, their offense wouldn’t be able to compete with Detroit’s anyways. The success of this team will hinge on their rotation, but if Cleveland can get a decent year out of some of their starters, they could accumulate around 85 wins; still not enough to break the monopoly Detroit has on the division.
Third Place: Chicago White Sox
This could have gone to either Chicago or Kansas City, but Chicago pulled it out in the end. I really don’t feel convinced by either team. The Sox’ run production depends on some aging and unreliable players. Paul Konerko is 37, Adam Dunn will display light tower power but will also strikeout 200 times this year, Dayan Viciedo has only played one full season in the MLB and also has lots of questions surrounding him, and Alex Rios hasn’t strung two good years together since 2007 and 2008. On the other hand, I like their pitching staff. In my opinion, Chris Sale is one of the most underrated players in baseball. His numbers have been comparable to, and oftentimes better than, great southpaws like C.C. Sabathia, Cole Hamels, Clayton Kershaw, and Gio Gonzalez. It will be close, but I expect the White Sox to squeak into third in the division.
Fourth Place: Kansas City Royals
Before researching these teams, I expected to place the Royals in third or even second place in the division, but the more I saw of them, the more disappointed I was. The Royals acquired James Shields this offseason, but the two through five spots in the rotation are disasters. Wade Davis, their projected fourth starter, has been a good reliever, but has never had much success as a starter. Their other three starters posted FIPs of 5.10, 5.63, and 4.73 in 2012. Only one of those pitchers even had a WAR above 1.0. It could be an ugly year for the Royals’ rotation. Assuming that guys like Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur, and Mike Moustakas have rebound years at the plate, the offense will score a fair amount of runs, but certainly not enough to support the abysmal pitching staff.
Fifth Place: Minnesota Twins
Not much to say here. The offense has a bit of pop, but not enough to compete with the rest of the division. To make matters worse, the pitching staff may be even worse than Kansas City’s. The Twins have plenty of help on the way in guys like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, Alex Myer, and Brandon Gibson, but until they arrive in Minneapolis, the Twins won’t be winning many games.
First Place: Toronto Blue Jays
The east will be an extremely competitive division. I almost never buy into teams that get really good really fast like the Blue Jays did this past offseason. I didn’t think that either the Angels or Marlins would have much success last season, but for some reason, this Toronto team is different. The biggest difference is that this is a very multi-dimensional team; they do everything well. This team has guys who can hit for average, guys who can hit for power, and guys with good speed. They have the pieces to both play small ball and hit the ball out of the ballpark. The pitching staff has great depth. In addition, the roster has a nice combination of youth and leadership. This is a very well constructed roster, and I think they will win a very good AL East.
Second Place: Boston Red Sox
I think that the Bosox have been overlooked a bit in east. The three players they added to the lineup this offseason, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, and Mike Napoli, each have wRC+ of 109 or better over the last three seasons. These names are added to an already solid offense with guys like Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and David Ortiz. And don’t forget Will Middlebrooks, who emerged as an offensive threat last year by posting a .835 OPS in 75 games last year. If they stay healthy, the Sox will score a lot of runs this year. Add that to a solid pitching staff, and the Red Sox could contend in the East.
Third Place: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. The reigning Cy Young winner, David Price, is followed by Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann. Both their fourth and fifth starters posted a FIP below 3.70 last year. The offense is highlighted by Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and rising star Desmond Jennings. The offense won’t be great, but their pitching staff should be able to pull them to 85 wins.
Fourth Place: New York Yankees
The 2012 Yankee offense that scored the second most runs in baseball last year has been torn apart by injuries and free agency this offseason. Nick Swisher signed with Cleveland, Russell Martin signed with the Pirates, Raul Ibanez
signed with Seattle, Eric Chavez signed with Arizona, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira will be out until May, Alex Rodriguez will miss most of the season, and Derek Jeter, although likely to be healthy for opening day, may not be the same player he was due to age and injury. On the pitching side of things, C.C. Sabathia could be slowed by an injury of his own, and Michael Pineda will likely miss a large portion of the season. A healthy Yankee team would be good enough to win the division, but the skeleton of the 2012 team being thrown on the field will not make the cut. Expect a relatively disappointing year from the Bronx Bombers in 2012.
Fifth Place: Baltimore Orioles
The last place team in the East could easily go .500 this year. The Orioles are a bit of a mystery team to me, mainly due to their pitching staff. Their current rotation is made up of Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, and Brian Matusz. Like the Athletics, there isn’t much experience there, and of the experience they do have, none of those names have ever strung together two good seasons in a row. Even last year, only one of those pitchers exceeded 120 innings pitched. Every pitcher in this rotation is the equivalent of a typical 3-5 starter in the MLB. My main concern for the Baltimore offense is their ability to get on base. They were 23rd in baseball in OBP last year, and that was before losing Mark Reynolds who led the team in BB% and was second in OBP. The offensive output will greatly depend on Adam Jones and Chris Davis. Jones has only had one season with a WAR above 4.0 in his career and Davis has only had one 2.0 WAR. For me, there are too many question marks in Baltimore for them to compete for the AL East crown.