SantoSports American League Baseball Preview
By Peter Santo
We’re back with part two of SantoSports extensive 2016 baseball preview. Jackson did an excellent job previewing the National League yesterday, and I will be doing the same with the AL today.
Winner: Boston Red Sox
After finishing in last place the past two seasons, the Red Sox have filled the holes they needed to and are ready to return to the postseason in 2016. I said they needed arms in the offseason, particularly an ace, and Dave Dombrowski delivered. By signing David Price the Red Sox got the ace they’ve needed since the departure of Jon Lester. There are certainly question marks behind Price, particularly the health of Clay Buchholz, but the development of the Sox’ young arms should be enough. The addition of flamethrower Craig Kimbrel changes the complexion of the Sox bullpen and will help the Sox late in games. As far as the lineup goes, expect David Ortiz to have another excellent season during his farewell tour. The Red Sox will struggle a bit to score enough runs, but expect them to score just enough runs to take the AL East crown.
Runner Up: New York Yankees
I very nearly picked the Evil Empire to win the division this season. Expect the Yankees to be just like the Denver Broncos in football. They will keep the other team off the scoreboard and score just enough runs to win games. They have an otherworldly bullpen featuring Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances. If the Yankees have the lead in the 7th inning, you might as well just call the game right there. The question marks are the rotation and the lineup. I expect Alex Rodriguez and company to score just enough runs to allow their bullpen to carry them. The Yankees achilles heel, and the reason I didn’t pick them to win the division, is their starting rotation. They will need Masahiro Tanaka to prove that he can be the ace of the staff. A bounce back season from CC Sabathia as well as the continued development of Luis Severino will be of the utmost importance. Starting pitching will make or break the Yankees this season.
The Rest: The Baltimore Orioles will score runs once again especially with the addition of Mark Trumbo, but a starting rotation led by Yovani Gallardo is a recipe for disaster. In my surprise pick of the 2016 season, I expect the Toronto Blue Jays to come crashing back to earth this season. They are similar to the 2015 Red Sox in that they have no ace, and their lineup (outside of Josh Donaldson) is full of aging superstars. They will score lots of runs, but will not pitch well enough to be successful in 2016. With another season of development from Chris Archer, the Rays may have found their ace of the future. But there aren’t many positives outside of Archer. Expect the Rays to struggle again in 2016.
Winner: Kansas City Royals
Not much I can say about the Royals that hasn’t been said already. Simply put, they are the model that other teams should follow. Expect another huge season from the defending champs in 2016.
Runner Up: Detroit Tigers
Justin Verlander is finally healthy and ready to lead the staff in 2016, Miguel Cabrera is also healthy. Those two should help the Tigers stick around in the Central, but they are not enough to overtake the Royals.
The Rest: Byron Buxton may be one of the best players in the MLB someday, but someday is not today. The Twins will struggle this season largely thanks to a starting rotation led by Phil Hughes. The White Sox are much improved offensively with the addition of Todd Frazier, and Chris Sale will be a Cy Young candidate once again. The South Siders could turn some heads this season, but I don’t think their rotation will hold up enough. The Cleveland Indians might be the toughest team in the AL to predict. Their rotation may feature three aces in Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar, but those guys are as inconsistent as they come. I also don’t expect an offense led by Carlos Santana to score too many runs. The Indians, like the White Sox, could also surprise some folks, but I don’t think 2016 is their year.
Winner: Texas Rangers
A 1-2 punch of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish (once he returns from Tommy John) is going to be tough to beat. An offense led by Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre should be able to score enough runs to lead the Rangers to a division title. If Joey Gallo continues to develop, the rest of the league better watch out.
Runner Up: Houston Astros
I expect the Astros to come back to earth in 2016, their offense, led by Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve, should be solid. But Dallas Keuchel should struggle to reproduce his 2015, and the pitching will be what keeps the Astros from winning the division. The addition of Ken Giles in the bullpen gives the Astros the flamethrower they needed to lock up late in games.
I came awfully close to picking the Angels to winning the division. But I just don’t trust them anymore. Outside of Mike Trout the offense doesn’t pack much of a punch and the pitching staff is middle of the pack at best. The Mariners could turn heads in 2016, but don’t have much outside of Felix Hernandez, so expect them to just be average once again. The Athletics will be a disaster. Billy Beane traded away every good player the A’s ever had because he refused to pay them what they deserved, including 2015 AL MVP Josh Donaldson. He will pay the price this season.