2017 is now gone. The Houston Astros are now defending World Series champions, Spring Training is now in session, and it’s time to see who the next hero will be in 2018. The American League has many familiar faces: the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Indians, Twins, and yes, the defending world champions. These teams are the ones that seem to be in the most contention to make a run at the World Series this year, but are there any surprise teams out there this year? Here are predictions for the American League in the 2018 campaign.
The American League West
- Houston Astros- 103-59
- Los Angeles Angels- 94-68
- Seattle Mariners 80-82
- Oakland Athletics 75-87
- Texas Rangers 69-93
The Astros won 101 games, acquired Justin Verlander literally minutes before the deadline, won the World Series, and somehow got better. The acquisition of Gerrit Cole arguably makes Houston have the best rotation in baseball. Their bullpen could still use improvement but with how deep their farm system is, they can make a move at the deadline for a reliever. This team is the best in the American League, maybe even in baseball.
The Angels' offseason acquisitions certainly have them in the mix yet again. If Mike Trout stays healthy and Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, and Shohei Ohtani can bring a spark to that lineup, this team could make a pennant run and potentially be dangerous come postseason time. I still think they need to add to their pitching depth. They should trade for a starter and maybe a bullpen arm or two. This team fell short of a wild card spot last season, but they will find their way into the postseason come October.
The Mariners fell short on landing Ohtani. This team had a quiet offseason. They added Dee Gordon and Ichiro is returning to where he started his career. Felix Hernandez and James Paxton are quality pitchers atop the rotation, along with the aging Hisashi Iwakuma and unpredictable Mike Leake. This team has a great offense but if they don’t get another solidified starting pitcher in that rotation, I see the same result for this team. They try to make it to .500 and their playoff drought continues.
The Athletics made some under the radar moves this offseason. The addition of Stephen Piscotty brings depth to their outfield. Matt Olson will get a full season in the big leagues after mashing the ball with Triple-A Nashville. The starting rotation raises questions as does the bullpen. If this team had a decent stadium to play in and they wanted to spend some money, they could make noise in the American League, but that’s a different story. Oakland is well on their way, but some work needs to be done.
Finally, the Rangers. They didn’t make a splash in free agency this season or make a big trade acquisition. They pursued Yu Darvish for a possible return, but he signed a six-year deal with the Cubs. If he were to come back, I see them doing better because this rotation just doesn’t look up to snuff. Their offense will put up the numbers, but they will have problems with their pitching. Unless they go out and sign Alex Cobb, it will be a long season for the Rangers.
The American League Central
- Cleveland Indians- 95-67
- Minnesota Twins- 90-72
- Chicago White Sox- 76-86
- Kansas City Royals- 72-90
- Detroit Tigers- 65-97
This division still is a runaway for the Cleveland Indians. Aside from losing Carlos Santana and Jay Bruce, the Indians offense still can be lethal. Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, the list goes on. Their starting rotation is also a no-brainer, along with a strong bullpen. If the Indians want to end their World Series drought, this is the year to do it. Their time is running out.
I like the Twins, but I don’t think they did enough. Even with trading for Jake Odorizzi, that rotation still needs work. The team's offense and defense are solid, but if they want to be in talks with the Indians, signing one of the top remaining pitchers on the market is a must. For right now, I still think they are a 90-win team, but they will fall short of the Angels for that second Wild Card spot.
The White Sox are on the rise. This team’s record will improve from last year, but they aren’t ready to contend in the postseason. They have seven prospects in the Top 100. Notable prospects are outfielder Eloy Jimenez and hard-throwing right-hander Michael Kopech. Maybe this team can make noise this season, but I don’t see it happening. In two years, I see this team being just like the Houston Astros.
The Royals look like they are in full rebuild mode. Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer both left in free agency, though Mike Moustakas just signed a one-year deal to remain in KC. Alex Gordon, Danny Duffy, Jorge Soler, and Kelvin Herrera are valuable assets that could be used at the trade deadline. I expect them to make some moves to clean house, but Gordon is one of them that will stay there past the deadline.
The Tigers are in the same boat as the Royals. Ian Kinsler and Justin Upton were traded off to the Angels, and Justin Verlander went to the Astros. They still have players that could be used to make key acquisitions at the trade deadline. Michael Fulmer was rumored to be a potential trade target by the Yankees, but nothing ever came of those talks. Guys like Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann I imagine staying put due to the size of their contracts. Guys like Nick Castellanos, Jose Iglesias, and even Victor Martinez can bring a veteran presence to a team trying to push for October, though Detroit won't even sniff the playoffs this year.
The American League East:
- Boston Red Sox- 98-64
- New York Yankees- 96-66
- Toronto Blue Jays- 79-83
- Baltimore Orioles- 74-88
- Tampa Bay Rays- 66-96
The Red Sox will win the division. That may sound crazy, but Boston have been overshadowed with the Yankees acquiring Giancarlo Stanton. This team needed to sign JD Martinez or Eric Hosmer to have a shot at finishing above the Yankees and compete with the Astros. People can talk about how many home runs the Yankees will hit, but Boston's starting pitching will put the team over the Yankees and the Red Sox bats can hit just as good as them.
The Yankees will host the AL Wild Card Game again, and they will play the Angels. They won't finish above the Red Sox in the standings because they didn’t get another starting pitcher. They let Gerrit Cole go to the Astros. Masahiro Tanaka has had health issues, CC Sabathia is aging too. Luis Severino will do great things, but they need some more help. Sure, their offense will hit a lot of home runs but like we saw in the ALCS last year, their offense can get shut down quick. They also strike out a lot. They look like they want to stay below the luxury tax threshold too, so spending could be out of the question.
The Blue Jays have gone downhill ever since Edwin Encarnacion left in free agency. This team is getting older. They signed Curtis Granderson and acquired Randal Grichuk from the St. Louis Cardinals, but made no big additions to the pitching. This team looks like they are one piece away from competing, maybe a starting pitcher. The window of opportunity looks like is closing for this team, but expect them to be fighting for .500
The Orioles look like they are preparing for the worst in losing superstar Manny Machado. The team tried to trade him in the offseason, but nothing came about. The team has guys that can mash the cover off the baseball, but they need a lot of help. Losing Zach Britton to a torn Achilles hurt their bullpen. This team needs help in the rotation and the outfield too. If this team is not in the race at the deadline, I expect them to try to move Machado.
The Rays are entering full rebuild mode. Parting ways with the franchise’s most iconic player, Evan Longoria shows it. They also traded Jake Odorizzi to the Twins. This franchise is just like the Athletics in that they need a new stadium. Some talks have heated up over the team leaving St. Petersburg, but nothing major has come out of it. Expect Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier to be traded at some point.
AL Wild Card Game: Angels win in an upset.
This game will be one of the most exciting that we’ve seen in recent postseason memory. However, Mike Trout is the X-factor. If we want to talk power, Stanton and Judge can be shut down, as well as Upton, Calhoun, Kinsler, etc. One player who will still be dangerous is Trout. There’s a reason why he is the best player in the league. His family is from Millville, NJ, and they will be in attendance to watch him hit an extra-inning home run to complete the upset. Final score: Angels 10-8.
The ALDS: Astros win in 4 games; Indians win in 5.
If this was a one-game playoff for the Astros and Angels, it could go either way, but the Angels' starters are not on Houston's level. Garrett Richards is the ace and is probably the only one that could shut down the Astros. Saying Houston will win in four games is generous, because a sweep is also possible.
The Indians and Red Sox will go at each other and they won’t stop until the very last moments of Game 5. Whatever 2-3 seed matchup there is in the playoffs, it will be a great series. The Indians-Astros ALCS that was destined for last year, until the Yankees spoiled that, will happen in 2018.
The ALCS: Astros win in a thriller
This series will go 7 games. Just like last year’s ALCS, the same result will happen. Dominant starting pitching and dominant hitting will be prominent and if it comes down to the bullpen, the advantage goes to the Indians, but expect the Astros to add one more piece, preferably a left-handed specialist. Gerrit Cole will prove why the Astros got him, pitch six solid innings in Game 7, and Lance McCullers Jr. will have yet another long relief save.