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MLB AL Preview: Who are the teams to beat in the AL?
The top two teams in the division and perhaps in all of MLB are the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. Both teams reach 100 wins during the regular season last year. Which team will come on top this season?
Boston will be the favorites, but there are questions that need to be answered. Will the back end of the bullpen be solid with Craig Kimbrel very likely to sign elsewhere? Matt Barnes is scheduled to be the closer. He has dominant strikeout stuff, but lack of experience could be an issue. The rotation should be very good, lead by All-Star Chris Sale. Offensively, the starting unit is intact and it’s a scary good group. Mookie Betts and JD Martinez combined to hit 75 home runs, while Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi are capable of each hitting 20 home runs and knocking in 100.
The Yankees should be right on the heels of the Red Sox the entire season. They return an offense that hammered 267 home runs last season and could be even higher this season. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Gaby Sanchez and Didi Gregorious hall have the potential to eclipse 30 home runs. An improved pitching staff with the additions of James Paxton and Adam Ottavino should keep the Yankees in the mix.
In what was likely the weakest division in the Major Leagues last season, the Cleveland Indians won by 13 games. The beast of the division over the last three seasons, little indicates that will change this season. The Twins should finish second and have the potential to fight for a wild card spot.
The Indians could have the best starting rotation in the American League. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger are all power pitchers who surpassed the 200 strikeout mark last season. There are questions concerning the bullpen, however closer Brad Hand should be solid.
Offensively, they lost Yonder Alonso and Edwin Encarnacion, who combined to hit 55 home runs last seasons, which means they will have to rely even more heavily on Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, who belted a combined 77 home runs last season. The combination of pitching and hitting is solid enough in this poor division.
Minnesota was a playoff team in 2017, but finished below .500 last season. They added two 30-plus home run bats in Nelson Cruz and C.J. Cron, who will added with Eddie Rosario should be a very good trio in the middle of the order.
Jose Berrios could be in line to be the eventual ace of the staff. He, along with Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi form the top three of the rotation. In the bullpen, Addision Reed is the new closer and although had no saves last season, has 125 for his career. The Twins should contend for a wild card berth.
Houston has been the class of the division the last couple seasons. The biggest question heading into this season is the starting rotation. Justin Verlander and Gerit Cole are strong in the front, however the team lost Charlie Morton via free agency, with Dallas Keuchel also waiting for offers from other teams. How well will the likes of Collin McHugh, Josh James and Wade Miley step up ?
The Astros should remain powerful at the plate, lead by Jose Altuve and Alex Bergman. A solid lineup throughout, ten players reach double digits in home runs. All told, the Astros scored almost 800 runs and a repeat of that total should be enough to capture another AL West title.
Very few people saw the A’s winning nearly 100 games last season, but that is likely not a fluke. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, they will be in the playoff hunt again in 2019.
Hitting is the forte for the A’s, scoring 813 runs last season. Khris Davis flirted with 50 home runs, while four others surpassed the 20 home run plateau. On the mound, the team will be without 15-game winner Sean Manaea due to a shoulder injury. Therefore, Paul Blackburn and Daniel Mengden will need to step up and join Marco Estrada and Mike Fiers to form a solid rotation. If they come through, the A’s could again surprise in 2019.
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