It is hard to believe that baseball season is almost upon us already. But ready or not, on Thursday, March 31st, the first pitch of the season will be thrown. Some crazy moves have been made this offseason. As winter kept us in its icy grip, the hot stove sizzled with high profile changes in the moves of Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez, among others. The flurry of moves this offseason left the American League with several solid teams vying for the right to represent the AL in the World Series. Below is a quick glance at each American League Division, along with picks to win.
AL East: The toughest division in baseball just got tougher. The Blue Jays and Orioles are rebuilding, Tampa is stocked with young talent, and the Yankees' lineup remains as potent as ever. But, the favorite to win the east has to be Boston. Coming off an injury-plagued season in which they still won 89 games, the Sox went out and added Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, two of the most exciting hitters in the game. With an already formidable lineup, this team has the chance to be special. The thing that may derail the Sox's fortunes may be a somewhat shaky looking bullpen. Beckett and Lackey must also stay healthy. The team closest to the Sox is the Yankees. The lineup is great, but aging and prone to injury. The starting pitching, besides CC, leaves something to be desired. Look for the Yankees to try to trade for a starter at midseason, but it won't be enough to catch Boston, or make the playoffs for that matter.
Division winner: Boston: 97-65.
Runner up: New York: 91-71
AL Central: The AL central looks to be nearly as tough as the AL East. The Royals and Indians are stocked with talent, but not quite ready to compete. The other three teams teams, however, are looking to win the division this year. The Tigers bring a retooled roster into the new season and are hungry to get back on top. The Twins will be as good as ever, getting Morneau and Nathan back to try and repeat as division champs. It is the Chicago White Sox, however, who will win the division this year. The bullpen is solid from front to back, and their rotation will continue to be a strength of the team, with or without Jake Peavy. The question with the Sox has always been scoring runs. They brought in Adam Dunn this offseason, which will provide plenty of pop. The key to the lineup, though, lies in a resurgent Gordon Beckham. He tore it up as a rookie two years ago, but had a down year last year. If Beckham can get on base and move over lightning-fast Juan Pierre, look for the RBI's to pile up for one of the most fearsome 3-4-5 combos in the majors in Konerko, Dunn, and Rios. The Twins don't have many weaknesses either, as they have a solid back end of the pen, decent starting pitching, and the ability to score a lot of runs. Their organizational depth is unparalled. The Tigers have a lot of talent, but may be a bit distracted after the Miguel Cabrera saga this offseason.
Division Winner: Chicago: 94-68
Runner up: Minnesota: 93-69 (Wild Card)
AL West: The West is up for grabs. Besides the Mariners, any team in the divison has a legitimate chance to win the division. Although Texas lost Cliff Lee, they still have decent starting pitching and a good bullpen with Feliz as the closer. The lineup will surely score runs, especially with the addition of Adrian Beltre. Oakland is being picked as a possible division winner as well. With great young pitching and the addition of a few veteran hitters, many people think Oakland has the firepower to take the west. The team that many are not talking about, though, is the Angels. Los Angeles faded down the stretch last year, as they did not hit or pitch especially well. Many people wrote them off after failing to acquire Carl Crawford. But this team is better than people think. The pitching will for sure be better this year, with Dan Haren leading the rotation back to respectability. Kendry Morales is a monster, and there are many other solid hitters in a lineup that is speedy as well. The Angels will go back to playing Mike Scioscia style baseball, and win a weakened west.
Division Winner: Los Angeles: 90-72
Runner Up: Texas: 88-74
AL Champion: Boston
Runner Up: Chicago