Saturday, April 8, 2017

Signor Baseball's 2017 AL Preview

The thing about Spring Training is, that while it might tell us a few things about the season ahead, it is completely unreliable about most things.

For instance, based on Spring Training 2017, you might think that the New York Yankees are going to win 120 games.

Ha ha ha.

AL East: For the aforementioned Yankees, too many unlikely things have to happen for them to really compete. No injuries to the pitching staff and big, full seasons from some young guys who have never played full seasons at this level. Of course, this could happen. But it's a long shot. Better to stick with the Red Sox and Blue Jays. Boston loses David Ortiz, and you never know how missing a dominant player and clubhouse personality will play out. However, their pitching should be improved and they have a lot of good hitters left. Toronto lost two big bats, but they'll still score plenty of runs and their pitching is strong enough to keep close to the Red Sox and in the running for a Wild Card. Down in Baltimore, the Orioles have a very good bullpen (when Buck Showalter remembers how to use them), which is good because their starters aren't impressive. They have a solid everyday lineup that can score runs in bunches. With those starters, they'll need them. One big question for the Orioles is whether or not Mark Trumbo can repeat his somewhat surprising homer barrage from last year. Unless everything miraculously falls into place, injury and young player wise, the Yankees look like a 4th place team and despite good starting pitching, the light hitting Tampa Rays once again pull up the rear.

AL Central: Looks like the Indians are a safe bet to repeat. Their pitching is superior and they've added a big bat in Edwin Encarnacion. Barring injury, Cleveland shouldn't have too much trouble winning the Central. Detroit is old and getting older, but premier players on the down slope are still often better than run of the mill players in their prime.  Verlander, Cabrera, Kinsler and Martinez are still potentially all-stars, and if the Indians slip a little the Tigers could sneak past them. Kansas City's pitching isn't nearly as dominant as it was a couple of years ago, and I can't see the Royals being anything more than competent. The Twins were awful last year. Minnesota should be better (they can't get much worse), and with the White Sox rebuilding, and liable to trade anyone of any value during the course of the season, the Twins could slip past Chicago and avoid last place. Little victories...

AL West: This has all the makings of a 3 team race to the bitter end, with the also-rans having a shot at a Wild Card slot. Houston, Seattle, and Texas seem very evenly matched.  None looks like a completely solid team. The Astros, with the addition of Brian McCann behind the plate, are incredibly strong up the middle. They are loaded with an excellent core of good, young, everyday talent. Their starters, however, once you get past Dallas Keuchel, are a big question mark.  The Mariners have better pitching than the Astros, but their everyday lineup is not as strong. Hamels and Darvish give the Rangers the best 1-2 starter punch in the division, but there's not much starting pitching beyond them. Their infield is solid, including Rougned "One Punch" Odor, and they will score a lot of runs, but their bullpen is just OK and their outfield is average at best. California, on the other hand, has the best all around player in the league, Mike Trout, and Albert Pujols, who even in the twilight of his career is still a potent hitter. But inferior pitching will doom the Angels to also ran status. And in Oakland, Billy Beane will eventually paste together another bargain basement contender with the A's. But not this year, alas.

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