Major League Preview

American League Preview

Our take on how the AL will shake out




Predictions by BA staff, written by Jim Callis

AL EAST

1. BOSTON RED SOX

QUICK TAKE: They didn't have the splashiest offseason, but the Red Sox still have the most balanced and best overall team in baseball.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: David Ortiz. Coming back from a wrist injury and without Manny Ramirez to lean on, can he regain the form that made him baseball's most feared slugger over his first five seasons in Boston?

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Jon Lester. Not only did he beat cancer, but he also outpitched Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka to become Boston's ace in his first full big league season.

2. NEW YORK YANKEES

QUICK TAKE: Spending $423.5 million on Mark Teixeira, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett should make sure the Yankees return to the postseason after they missed out for the first time in 14 seasons.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Alex Rodriguez. Enough said.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Joba Chamberlain. The Yankees insist he'll be a full-time starter, and he has been dominant in any role they've used him in.

3. TAMPA BAY RAYS

QUICK TAKE: The AL East features the game's three strongest teams, but one of them will have to miss the playoffs.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: David Price. He has seemingly unlimited potential, and if he delivers on it as a rookie, the Rays could win another division title.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: B.J. Upton. His seven homers in 16 postseason games (after hitting nine in 145 regular-season games) were his springboard to superstardom.

4. TORONTO BLUE JAYS

QUICK TAKE: They'd be a serious contender in any other division, but not this one.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Vernon Wells. Since his $126 million contract extension kicked in, he has had one disappointing season and one injury-plagued one. The Blue Jays need more if they're going to make a playoff push.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Travis Snider. He might even earn that distinction as a 21-year-old rookie if he can maintain his .301/.338/.466 averages from his '08 debut.

5. BALTIMORE ORIOLES

QUICK TAKE: They're making progress in their rebuilding efforts, but that won't be enough to get them out of last place this season.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Koji Uehara. The Orioles need better pitching to become respectable again, leading them to sign the eight-time Japanese all-star righthander.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Matt Wieters. Think Mark Teixeira production—from a catcher.

AL CENTRAL

1. MINNESOTA TWINS

QUICK TAKE: They just keep chugging along, the most consistent team in perhaps baseball's most unpredictable division.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Francisco Liriano. He looked like his old self after coming back last year from Tommy John surgery, and his old self looked a lot like the second coming of Johan Santana.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Scott Baker. Very quietly, he ranked among the AL leaders in winning percentage (.733), ERA (3.45), baserunners per nine innings (10.8) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.4) last season.

2. CLEVELAND INDIANS

QUICK TAKE: Even after trading C.C. Sabathia, they had the sixth-best record (40-28) in the majors after the all-star break.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Travis Hafner. After going from terrific to mediocre to terrible over the last three years, is he finished?

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Jhonny Peralta. A shortstop who routinely cranks out 20-homer seasons is bound to be noticed.

3. CHICAGO WHITE SOX

QUICK TAKE: After his team won a surprising division title, GM Kenny Williams changed his modus operandi and started trading veterans for prospects.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Alexei Ramirez. Alfonso Soriano Lite is taking on added responsibility in his second season, moving from second base to shortstop.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: John Danks. Last year, he finally showed why he was the ninth overall pick in the 2003 draft.

4. DETROIT TIGERS

QUICK TAKE: $136.2 million bought the Tigers just 74 wins in 2008, and they still have one of the oldest rosters in baseball.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Rick Porcello. Detroit needs arms after its pitching staff imploded last year, and its 2007 first-rounder has looked good in spring training. He's only 20 and he could be in the rotation by the all-star break.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Curtis Granderson. He's recognized as one of the game's best all-around players, but he has yet to be selected for the Midsummer Classic.

5. KANSAS CITY ROYALS

QUICK TAKE: They're taking baby steps forward, but they're still a long way from contention.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Alex Gordon. The second overall pick in 2005 and BA's Minor League Player of the Year in 2006, he was supposed to be the best Royals hitter since George Brett. Gordon has developed slower than expected, but showed signs in the second half that he's ready to live up to expectations.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Zack Greinke. He capped a breakout 2008 by posting a 2.32 ERA over the final two months, finally giving the Royals a starting pitcher they can build around.

AL WEST

1. LOS ANGELES ANGELS

QUICK TAKE: The Angels remain the favorites in the West, though they'll come back to the pack after losing Jon Garland, Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira this offseason.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Vladimir Guerrero. Los Angeles needs him at his best to win another division title, and hopes offseason surgery to clean up his right knee will do the trick.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Howie Kendrick. A career .306 hitter, he has a batting title in his near future.

2. OAKLAND ATHLETICS

QUICK TAKE: Trading for Matt Holliday and signing Orlando Cabrera signals that they're done rebuilding and planning on contending.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Eric Chavez. He has been fully healthy and fully productive in just one of the past five seasons.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Brett Anderson. He has yet to make his major league debut, but he has all the ingredients to become one of the game's top lefthanders within a couple of years.

3. TEXAS RANGERS

QUICK TAKE: They have the game's best farm system but are still a year away from having enough pitching in place.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Elvis Andrus. The latest top prospect to graduate from the minors, he forced Michael Young to move to third base.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Chris Davis. He slammed 23 doubles and 17 homers in half a season as a rookie, and his power is for real.

4. SEATTLE MARINERS

QUICK TAKE: The new regime won't overrate its team like the previous administration did last year, but the Mariners face another last-place finish.

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Brandon Morrow. He's coming off two successful seasons as a reliever and has the stuff to fill Seattle's void at closer, but the club hopes to get even more out of him as a starter.

NEXT NEW ALL-STAR: Felix Hernandez. He already has 39 career wins under his belt, and he has yet to turn 23.