LOS ANGELES, April 6, 2015 — There are a lot of changes in the American League this year. No more Derek Jeter, but A-Rod returns. The A’s and Red Sox look drastically different. Which team’s moves will pay off the most and win the American League pennant?
American League West
Seattle Mariners This is the year for which Seattle fans have been waiting. Provided Nelson Cruz has another year of power in him, this team has everything you want in a contender: power on offense, a solid rotation anchored by one of the best pitchers in the game, and a solid bullpen. Highly touted prospect Taijuan Walker is a player that pitching fans should watch this year.
Oakland Athletics Another busy offseason for the Oakland A’s, who started dumping players last year while in the midst of a pennant race. GM Billy Beene completely overhauled the 25-man roster for this season. Only one player, Sonny Gray, was actually drafted by the A’s. Kendall Graveman, the A’s fifth ranked prospect, will make his MLB debut in Oakland’s rotation this year.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Obviously Mike Trout is a great player, and the Angels do have some offense, but a lot will hinge on what a 35-year-old Albert Pujols can do and if he can stay healthy. Josh Hamilton avoided a suspension for doing something wrong, unfortunately for the Angels. Garrett Richards will spend the first half of April on the DL. It will be interesting to see how Matt Shoemaker does now that teams have had a chance to dissect him.
Texas Rangers Losing Yu Darvish was a crushing blow to a team that could have been a possible Wild Card contender. As it is, their rotation will be asking a lot of their offense to get wins in Arlington. They have a lot of speed at the top of their order, but Adrian Beltre is 36 and Prince Fielder seems to be a completely different, less talented, player than the guy who mashed in Detroit. If the offense sputters at all, this team could end up in last place.
Houston Astros The Astros are just chugging along completely out of sight and mind from most baseball fans. National League fans don’t care anymore and half of the American League fans are unaware Houston is even in the American League. This team has some pop and some speed, but their pitching will take them out of many games. Next year, the Astros will start making waves.
American League Central
Chicago White Sox Jose Abreu will lead this offense, but look for major contributions from Adam Eaton and Adam LaRoche as well. Chris Sale will start the year on the DL. Jeff Samardzija joins what should be one of the better rotations in the American League with Jose Quintana and John Danks.
Cleveland Indians Last year’s AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco head what should be a very effective rotation that will keep this team in most games. Carlos Santana moves from catcher to first, a move the Indians hope will boost Santana’s offensive output. Michael Brantley broke out last year and should be fun to watch again this year in Cleveland. The Indians should be in the mix with Detroit for the AL Wild Card.
Detroit Tigers Former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander with his decreased velocity and effectiveness pitches more like a four or five starter these days. They still have David Price and Anibal Sanchez in their rotation and Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler on offense. They added Yoenis Cespedes in the outfield as well. Can Victor Martinez pump out another miracle year at 36 years old?
Kansas City Royals Unfortunately for KC fans, their team will not be back to the postseason this year. Don’t expect much from new offensive additions of Kendrys Morales and Alex Rios. Outside of Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy, the Royals will be struggling to find quality starts. James Shields left via free agency and the Royals replaced him with Edinson Volquez.
Minnesota Twins Kennys Vargas can hit 30 homeruns this year, but that’s about all you’re going to see from the Twins’ offense this year. When Phil Hughes is your number one starter, you are pretty much telling people you are planning on finishing in last place. Kyle Gibson and Tommy Milone could put up pretty solid seasons for the Twins.
American League East
Boston Red Sox If everyone stays healthy, this team will put up a ton of runs all year with the additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval. Mookie Betts should provide an exciting spark at the top of the lineup. It should be noted, however, that David Ortiz is 39 years old. Clay Buchholz returns, but that is the only familiar face in the rotation as Boston brought in Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, and Justin Masterson.
New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez returns for the first time since 2013. He will not be the A-Rod of the past, but he will contribute. The bigger story is the return Masahiro Tanaka to the rotation. He takes over as the ace. Also, Michael Pineda is finally healthy and could put up a huge season if he can remain healthy. Eight of the nine starters on offense are over the age of 30.
Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones need to pick up the slack if Baltimore wants to challenge for a Wild Card spot. Their rotation is serviceable, but there are no dominant guys that stand out as an ace. Is this the year of Chris Tillman? Kevin Gausman starts the year in the bullpen, but will be a solid contributor to the rotation by season’s end.
Toronto Blue Jays They have solid one through five batters after the acquisitions of Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson. Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion need to stay productive for the Blue Jays to threaten the Orioles for third. Toronto’s starting rotation is a mess and that will prevent them from being actual contenders in the East. Rookies Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez should be interesting pitchers to watch.
Tampa Bay Rays There was a major overhaul in the front office and Joe Madden is now in Chicago. Evan Longoria should be the only bright spot on offense. The Rays have decent pitching still that should make their games interesting. Unfortunately, the Rays will end up on the wrong side of too many close games to finish anywhere, but last this year.
Wild Cards: Cleveland and Oakland
ALCS: Boston vs. Seattle
AL Champion: Seattle
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Kevin also writes for New Noise Magazine and plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer and Violent Self. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball