2019 MLB Season Preview – AL

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2019 MLB Season Preview – AL

Kevin Friedman

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It’s back! The best time of the year is here again (at least in this biased writer’s eyes) and in the interest of making sure everyone is caught up to speed, I invite you to follow along as I attempt to peer into my crystal ball and break down all 30 teams by division in order of where I predict they’ll land. Starting with the league that does it right in regards to the designated hitter: the American League.   

New York Yankees

All signs point to the Death Star being fully operational this summer. This team mashed their way to 100 wins last season and they’ve only improved their roster since. They’ve added veterans DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki to fortify an infield full of young talent (Torres and Andujar), as well as front end starter James Paxton and aging but effective reliever Zach Britton.

On paper this team doesn’t seem to have a weakness. The Bronx Bombers should live up to their name again this year with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge providing top of the line thump in a lineup that has power from top to bottom. When you add solid starting pitching to a bullpen that’s anchored by flamethrower Aroldis Chapman, one might find it hard to bet against the pinstripes.

Prediction: 104 wins

Boston Red Sox

Wow, did the Boston Red Sox have a magical season last year. 108 wins and all it took was career years out of MVP Mookie Betts and certified tater masher J.D. Martinez. The Sox also for what feels like the first time got consistent ace production out of pitcher Chris Sale, who had previously been known to fall off around the all star break. All of this culminated into the team’s fourth world title in 15 years.

But that was last year, now it’s time for the Sox to prepare for a grindhouse of a division that they’ll be tasked with winning again. They come into the 2019 season boasting one of baseball’s top rotations with guys like Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi. There’s also no shortage of young talent in their lineup with players like Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogarts to complement Betts and Martinez. The only question mark would be their bullpen since it does not look like veteran closer Craig Kimbrel is coming back. I can’t imagine they’ll match last seasons win total, but they still look like a playoff team

Prediction: 99 wins

Tampa Bay Rays

Manager Kevin Cash turned heads last year as he had his guys ahead of schedule. Without a whole lot of star power the Rays put together 90 wins behind some good pitching and that trademarked Rays small-ball style. The rotation is a good mix of young and old while being lead by 2018 CY Young winner Blake Snell. Their lineup however leaves something to be desired which will make it hard to compete with gaugernuts New York and Boston. Look for the Rays to be good but not great this year.

Prediction: 86 wins

Toronto Blue Jays

Expectations in Toronto shouldn’t be too high this season considering they won only 73 games last year and their already tough division is only getting tougher. The front end of their rotation, with Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, has some power, but lacks consistency against the creme of the AL East. The most exciting storyline for the Jays this year will be the eminent call up of baseball’s top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.  Vlad is the son of hall of famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr. Vlad Jr. has what those in the business call “the stuff” so you can expect to see him hitting bombs north of the border come summer time.

Prediction: 70 wins

Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles are sadly stuck in a rebuilding purgatory that climaxed last October when they fired manager Buck Showalter and VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette. Those firings followed a 47-win season where the O’s were dead last in both team batting average and team ERA. I wish I had a nice thing to say about the situation in Baltimore, but this can be a cruel game. Here’s to a better tomorrow O’s fans.

Prediction: 51 wins   

Cleveland Indians

2019 will be the third year in a row that the AL central is wide open for the Indians. While the rest of the division sits in various different parts of the rebuilding process, the Indians should enjoy another year in the driver’s seat. But that’s not to say the don’t deserve it. Cleveland has one of the league’s best starting rotations including two time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Last season, four Tribe pitchers notched 200 strikeouts, including Trevor Bauer who broke out last season with a 2.21 ERA.

The offseason might have left something to be desired with the departures of outfielder Michael Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes. So, look for younger guys like Tyler Naquin and Greg Allen to step into full time outfield rolls. Despite the transitions, Cleveland still has two of the most feared hitters in the game: Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. All signs point to the Tribe rolling to another division title.

Prediction: 93 wins

Minnesota Twins

The Twins are a hard team to place. They had winning records in 2015 and 2017, and losing records in 2016 and 2018. They’re like a poor man’s San Francisco Giants.

The Twins will look to 24 year old Jose Berrios to be their ace. Berrios threw multiple complete games last season and logged over 190 innings. The rest of the rotation, however, is on the thin side; don’t expect the bullpen to be lights out either. This team will have to hit. The offseason addition of Nelson Cruz and his “boomstick” should help emerging star Eddie Rosario lead a decent enough offense. The twins should have an exciting season, but they’ll ultimately miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 82 wins

Chicago White Sox

Coming off the back of a 100 loss season, the Chicago White Sox are smack dab in the middle of what looks like a promising rebuild. The southsiders will patiently wait as their farm system continues to develop guys like Eloy Jimenez, who is considered baseball’s number two prospect. Pair him with the 23-year-old slugging second basemen Yoan Moncada and they’re only a few moves away from a run.

Don’t expect much from the Sox in 2019 though. Jose Abreu should mash, but their rotation isn’t there yet.

Prediction: 75 wins

Kansas City Royals

The Royals look to improve on last season where they lost 104 games and finish dead last in the leagues weakest division. But it’s easy to find good news when the bar is set that low. All eyes will be on the Royal’s middle infield as they’ll get their first full season out of promising young shortstop Adalberto Mondesi. He’ll play adjacent to second basemen Whit Merrifield, who had the longest hit streak of 2018 at 20 games. Pitching should be the downfall of this team. Kansas City should finish second to last in team ERA last season, and haven’t really made any vast improvements.  

Prediction: 62 wins

Detroit Tigers

Hang in there Tiger’s fans, this might be a rough one. Miguel Cabrera and Nicholas Castellanos will be the two guys this lineup will be able to count on, but that looks like it. Their rotation will be fronted by the likes of Jordan Zimmerman and Michael Fulmer, who’s shown promise but seems to find his way to the DL all to often to rely on. I fully expect Detroit to be a welcomed sight on Cleveland and Minnesota’s 2019 calendar.

Prediction: 55 wins

Houston Astros

The Astros look like the only other team who can hang with the likes of New York and Boston this season. There about as complete as one team can get. Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa are all top of the line hitters, not to mention Alex Bregman who looks ready to challenge for an AL MVP. Houston also has pitching help from the likes of Garrett Cole and future hall of famer Justin Verlander. Anything short of a World Series title will be disappointing for Astros fans.

Prediction: 101 wins

Oakland Athletics

The Athletics could be a very fun team to follow this year. Corner infielders Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are both young and have proven their rake-ability. Oakland should also get another 40+ homer season out of Kris Davis. Their rotation will have to make some big strides however if they want to compete for a wild card spot. Mike Fiers will attempt to be this teams ace, in front of guys like Marco Estrada and Frankie Montas.

Prediction: 84 wins

Los Angeles Angels

The Angels just can’t seem to get ahold of a good pitcher. Which is a shame considering the talent they have in their lineup. Justin Upton proved his worth last year hitting 30 homers hitting behind outfielder/demigod Mike Trout, who mark my words will never slow down. They’ve also won the sweepstakes for international superstar and two-way player Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani sadly isn’t expected to pitch this season due to injury but will fall into a full-time DH role. The lack of pitching still to glaring however, look for the Angels to struggle to stay around .500.

Predictions: 80 wins

Seattle Mariners

Seattle had a considerably large fire sale this offseason, trading Robinson Cano and high end closer Edwin Diaz to the Mets for a package of prospects, as well as starter James Paxton to the Yankees for prospects. Their only key addition this offseason has been the signing of DH Edwin Encarnacion. So, while you may expect the Mariners to compete in two to three years, I wouldn’t expect much from them now.

Prediction: 73 wins

Texas Rangers

Texas has a lot of left handed power, guys like Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, and Rougned Odor will provide a good amount of pop. But that’s where their superlatives run out. Their rotation consists of guys who are on the back half, if not the twilight of their careers. Reliever Jose Leclerc showed promise last year and looks to fill in the closer role as a result of a lack of competition. Texas should spend the season looking up in the standings at their AL West peers.

Prediction: 67 wins