Friday, April 1, 2016

I Still Don't Know (2016 American League Preview)

As is usually the case, I have a tendency to go all out in my team capsules for the National League. I feel I sort of have to, because, in general, I just don't give a crap about the A.L. Nowhere was this more evident than last season, where unless one of their teams was playing the Mets, I paid them little to no mind. But nonetheless, they continue to exist, in their own little bubble, with their DH and lack of strategy and 4-hour games.

My lack of attentiveness to the A.L. is nothing new; last season, not only did none of the teams I picked to go to the Postseason actually make it, but of the 5 teams that did play in October, I picked none of them to finish higher than 3rd place, and with no more than 86 wins. I picked the Baltimore Orioles to win the AL Pennant, which I guess is a slight step up from 2014 when I picked the Rays to win the Pennant and they finished 77-85.

I did, however, correctly predict that Dallas Keuchel would win the Cy Young Award. So that's something.

1) Toronto Blue Jays (95-77)
All the wheeling and dealing that Toronto has done over the years finally paid off last year as they finally made the Postseason after 22 seasons and rode the wave all the way to the ALCS. I don't see much of a dropoff from them; in fact, they could be better, particularly since they have Marcus Stroman helming the starting rotation for a full season, and Troy Tulowitzki will be around all year too, health permitting. Add that into a lineup that already has three monsters in Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and this is a team that's going to be tough to beat.

2) Boston Red Sox (86-76)
Sure, why not? Once again, the Red Sox have thrown around some money, reeling in David Price as a Free Agent and Craig Kimbrel to hopefully shore up a terrible bullpen. They also have a myriad assortment of exciting young players, among them Mookie Betts and Brock Holt that bring a lot of flash. Then again, I seem to pick them to rebound every time they've had a lousy season and I'm usually wrong so maybe this won't work and we'll be subjected to a summer's worth of "What's Up with the Red Sox?" articles on ESPN.

3) New York Yankees (85-77)
The Yankees have turned into some weird, off-putting microcosm of the Republican Party. Everyone in upper management of their organization acts strangely, says weird things and pisses a lot of people off. Of course, if you say that to a Yankees fan, they immediately start drooling and snorting their usual "27 to 2" retorts because that's basically all the Yankee fans have to fall back on anymore. They're so butthurt over the Mets getting to the World Series and starting to win back the City after 20-odd years of dominance that they don't know what to do anymore. But at least they have a 2-year Alex Rodriguez Farewell Tour to look forward to.

4) Baltimore Orioles (79-83)
The Orioles were kind of close to making The Leap a couple of years ago, but they had a difficult season last year, lost some key pieces in the offseason, and made no discernible additions other than re-signing Chris Davis. Although Yovani Gallardo should help their rotation, Gallardo is kind of a microcosm of the team: A talented player who's mostly unspectacular and ends up getting lost in the second tier of any discussion of top players.

5) Tampa Bay Rays (77-85)
Another team that's competitive but not a contender. They're still the same team that can annoy you without being a real threat, generally because they have some awesome pitching, led by Chris Archer, who is just a joy to watch on and off the field, and Jake Odorizzi, but outside of Evan Longoria they have no offensive punch to speak of and this once again will be their downfall. 

1) Kansas City Royals (93-69)
Believe it or not, the Royals, not the Cubs, won the World Series in 2015. I know it sounds strange. I really want to pick against the Royals, and it's not so much because they beat the Mets in the World Series last year, but mostly it's because their fans have behaved like a bunch of little pink piggies all Winter. I thought Cubs fans were getting obnoxious, but I've never seen a bigger bunch of sore winners. I've said on multiple occasions that a team's fans can color my perspective of a team just as much as the team itself, and for a team that was so bad for so long, I don't begrudge them enjoying their team's success, but worry about your own team, don't junk the teams you beat. This is still a good, dangerous team that's returning just about everyone so I don't see this success as fleeting.

2) Detroit Tigers (87-75)
The Tigers were one of those "Let's Go For It" teams in the offseason. They brought in Justin Upton to shore up their Outfield and made possibly the most underrated signing of the offseason when they signed Jordan Zimmermann away from the Nationals. They're still banking a lot on the health of Justin Verlander but I wouldn't sleep on these guys. 

3) Chicago White Sox (82-80)
I wouldn't sleep on the White Sox too much either. They have the potential to be better than I give them credit for, particularly when you consider they have 3 really good starting Pitchers in Chris Sale, Carlos Rodon and Jose Quintana and they made a masterful trade to bring in Todd Frazier, but they do still have their holes. I think they're a year away.

4) Minnesota Twins (76-86)
The Twins are probably a year away from being a major headache too. The fruits of their loaded farm system are just beginning to hit the Majors. Miguel Sano, who's just a monster, hit first last season and now Byron Buxton, who tops just about everyone's prospect list, will take the reins in Center Field this year. Still, there's an awful lot of dead weight on this roster so this year will probably be another slog in Minnesoter. 

5) Cleveland Indians (74-88)
Mostly an unexciting group. They have one really good Pitcher, Corey Kluber, one great prospect, Francisco Lindor, and...not much else. However, they do have Juan Uribe, whatever that's worth.

1) Houston Astros (89-73)
Like the Cubs, like the Mets, the Astros found some success perhaps a year or two before everyone expected them to, and right now they're in a position to be even better this season. Dallas Keuchel made The Leap last season from pretty good to Great, and now they'll have guys like Mike Fiers, Doug Fister and Lance McCullers around for a full season. Offensively, everyone stands a chance to be dwarfed by Carlos Correa, whose star might launch into the area of guys named "Trout" or "Harper" if he holds to projections.

2) Texas Rangers (88-74)
Texas is also a pretty dangerous team too when push comes to shove, and they also snuck up on a lot of people last season, and like the Astros, they too could be better this coming season. Though they made no consequential additions on either side, what they will have is a full season of Cole Hamels, and they'll get Yu Darvish back after being out all year last season with the Big Boy Surgery. 

3) Anaheim Angels (80-82)
Changing leagues won't make Andrelton Simmons a better hitter and with that in mind, the Angels will continue to be Mike Trout, aging Albert Pujols and not much else exciting. 

4) Oakland Athletics (78-84)
Oakland is the American League team that I have no feel for, other than I don't think they're going to be especially good. This means that they'll probably go on a run in the second half of the season and make the Wildcard game. 

5) Seattle Mariners (72-90)
OK, enough. Every year, I think the Mariners are going to turn the corner and have a good season, and every year they go 8-19 in April and bury themselves before they have a chance to get going. They aren't exciting, they don't play as a coherent unit, they don't back up their pitching and I don't see any signs of them being any better than they've been for any season in the last dozen. Currently sitting on MLB's longest Postseason Drought and I don't see that changing anytime soon. 

AL MVP: Mike Trout, Angels
AL Cy Young: Marcus Stroman, Blue Jays
AL ROY: Byron Buxton, Twins

AL Wildcard Game: Rangers over Tigers
ALDS: Blue Jays over Rangers; Astros over Royals
ALCS: Blue Jays over Astros

You can tell I have no sense of the AL simply based on the fact that I've only picked one team to lose 90 games and most teams are within 77-85 wins. I just don't have any idea who's good or not.

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