American League Preview: Red Sox return to relevance

Saúl Berríos-Thomas | Layout Editor

AL East: Boston Red Sox

Not only do the Red Sox have an excellent starting rotation, they also have a deep roster filled with guys who can hit at almost every position. Mookie Betts provides depth because he is quickly becoming an above average fielder in center, and when the inevitable Dustin Pedroia injury happens he can fill in at second. Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval were both key offseason acquisitions that will help the team in the chase for the playoffs. Shortstop Xander Bogaerts is a young stud as well at just 22 years old.

The rest of the division is mediocre. The Orioles will be pretty good, but will have to make a move to get a wild card. They have a young core and a decent rotation, but I don’t think that Manny Machado and Matt Weiters are enough to take them far into the playoffs. The Blue Jays will continue to hang out in baseball purgatory. The Yankees and Rays might be hard to watch at times this year.

AL Central: Detroit Tigers

The Tigers are still strong enough to win this, mostly, weak division, but their clock is ticking and in a year or two they could be in trouble. Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera is another year older, and the loss of starter Max Scherzer won’t help the rotation either. But behind ace David Price, who was acquired before the trade deadline last year, the Tigers should have enough star power to take the division, especially after acquiring Cuban slugger and outfielder Yoenis Cespedes from the Red Sox in a trade in mid-December.

The Royals will be fun to watch and could have a shot at a Wild Card at the end of the year. Their core is still mostly in tact from last year, although they got a little lucky last year and peaked at exactly the right time. The White Sox, Twins and Indians will be mostly unwatchable although the White Sox are approaching their next window to compete, but that will not open until next year at the earliest.

AL West: Texas Rangers

The Rangers have been very unlucky in the last few years. Injuries and the most competitive division in the AL have cost them years of their strong core. This year the division, while still one of the strongest, will be down just enough to give the Rangers a chance. The Rangers have continued to retool even after their failures the last few years. Acquiring Prince Fielder at the deadline last year bolstered their offense. They have young stars like Leonys Martin, Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor, with Jurickson Profar not far behind. They have veteran leadership like Fielder and Adrian Beltre and they have a developing rotation that is due for a healthy season.

The Angels will have a strong campaign and will grab a wild card spot. The Hamilton situation has been odd and complicated for the Angels, but with him absent they have a very good defensive outfield. Of course Mike Trout is one of the best players in all of baseball. If they can get just enough from Albert Pujols and David Freese they will be a strong contender. Their rotation is a good one, but their bullpen is a question mark.

The Seattle Mariners have been trying to reach the next tier of playoff teams, but they are in a deadly division. They have built a strong team that could be there at the end of the year, but they are running out of healthy years form Felix Hernandez.

The Athletics are in full-on tank mode and probably will not be that strong, although Sonny Gray is a legit ace.

Wild Cards: Orioles, Angels

AL MVP: Mike Trout

Cy Young: David Price

AL Pennant: Boston Red Sox