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Why Your Favorite Baseball Team Can And Cannot Be a Contender This Year: American League Edition

I'm very, very excited for this baseball season to start. Some people love the NFL, some love hockey or the NBA, and then there's idiots like me who truly don't wanna do anything else but watch baseball all day. For a little while I didn't know if we were going to get an Opening Day in April. Shit looked doom and gloom, but it's time to rock. I figured let's do a little primer to start the year and give you my thoughts on why your team will or will not contend this year. 

American League East

Blue Jays (o/u 92.5) 

Everyone and their mothers are picking the Jays to win the AL East this year and to be honest you're going to have a hard time convincing yourself otherwise. The Jays gave everyone a scare last year with their late surge, coming up just a game short of the Wild Card. Baseball is a game filled with luck and Toronto found themselves on the wrong side of the coin last year, losing games they shouldn't have. They finished 4th in the division despite posting the third best run differential in the AL (+183). The nerds will tell you they should have won somewhere around eight more games based on the numbers.  

I don't expect them to be as unlucky this year, especially with a bolstered starting rotation that will not only add Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kekuchi, but have Jose Berrios for an entire season. Losing the Cy Young hurts, but I also could see Ray coming back to Earth in Seattle. Yes, they also lost Marcus Semien who led the team in WAR last year, but this offense has plenty of firepower and then some to compensate. To put it in simplest terms, runs won't be an issue for this bunch. 

Contend: It's Toronto's year. Spinger, Vladdy Jr, Bichette, Matt Chapman, Teoscar. This lineup is unforgiving and relentless. Vladdy came out with a quote saying last year was the trailer and this year is the movie. I haven't stopped thinking about that since it came out of his mouth. Unreal line. Toronto is terrifying and also gain an advantage on teams like Boston and New York who will be without their unvaccinated players in Canada for those crucial head to head matchups. That's a bigger deal than you think once you find out the names who will coincidentally have some "tweaks" in their muscles right before the trip. Toronto is the favorite in the AL East and rightfully so. 

Fail: Covid ramps up again in Canada and the country decides to lock them inside for the whole season, refusing to let them travel. That or the bullpen dooms them again. 

The Jays are making the playoffs and you do not want to be a team lined up with them I'll tell ya that much. 

Red Sox (o/u 84.5) 

I'm very confused by what Boston did this offseason. It felt like they had legitimate momentum coming into 2022 after taking down the Yankees in the wild card game followed by the Rays in the ALDS. They were only a few games away from the World Series and what did they do? Inexplicably traded Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and some prospects. Maybe they were attempting to sell high on their right fielder who was coming off a career year, but everyone else in the AL East is happy to see him leave. They also lost out on the bidding war for Kyle Schwarber, letting him slip away to the Phillies. The Sox seemingly bid against themselves for Trevor Story who appeared to have no market once the lockout came to a close. Story has some of the worst home/road splits you'll ever see from Coors Field and will be playing a brand new position. That all being said he still feels like a guy who mashes in Boston and helps lessen the blow of losing the two big names I mentioned earlier. 

Contend: Pretty simple, Boston's 1-6 in their order is a gauntlet. If they can piece together the pitching they should be plenty fine for the Wild Card. 

Fail: Chris Sale got hit by a gust of wind this offseason and suffered a stress fracture to his rib cage. He's on the 60 day IL and will miss a large chunk of time as he's yet to be cleared for a throwing program. Even then it remains to be seen what version of himself he can still elevate to. Eovaldi is rock solid and Pivetta showed signs of promise in October. That's all fine, but Michael Wacha is your 4 and Rich Hill is your 5. 42 year old Rich Hill is in the starting rotation. The bullpen was barely addressed as well. Similar to 2020, the Sox pitching could very well be their down fall. 

Yankees (o/u 91.5)

Hey I know these guys! One day I wake up and think this team can exceed expectations. The next morning I remember how lack luster and stale this offseason was for New York. They are a better team in 2022 no question, but did they improve enough? It seems the answer will rely upon DJ, Gleyber, and Gallo having big bounce back seasons. This offense somehow ranked 19th in baseball last year in runs scored. Completely unacceptable from top to bottom. Josh Donaldson's veteran bat and get-under-your skin voice was brought in to give this team some "fuck you." Despite the lack of big moves, I do like how they put an emphasis on defense. No more Gary Sanchez forgetting how to tag someone or Gleyber deciding to wait back on a ball and fuck up a routine play. IKF at short, Higgy behind the dish with Trevino/Rortvedt backing up, and Rizzo at first. That's a large difference than what this looked like at the start of last season. 

Contend: The lineup bounces back behind new hitting coach Dillon Lawson's voice. Gallo in year 2 gets more comfortable in the pinstripes and hits 40 bombs. Luis Severino forms a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation with Cole. Fangraphs actually has the Yankees starting rotation ranked number 1 in their power rankings by the way. Their words, not mine, I'm just a messenger. 

Fail: Relying on too many guys to bounce back rather than being aggressive via free agency or trade comes back to bite them. Severino crumbles under the pressure of them needing him to be the team's number 2 in his first full year back from TJ surgery. Cole and Donaldson have a fight to the death in the dog days of August.

This team can win anywhere from 84-95 games and that terrifies me.

Rays (o/u 90.5)

Fuck these guys man. Trading Austin Meadows the other day to Detroit for a bucket of balls. Now they're just getting cocky, knowing whatever trade they make will work out for them in the end. By all accounts that was an odd move, but just watch it flip on its end. Tampa has long coveted Isaac Paredes even though he hasn't done much yet at all really. I'm sure he'll become a star because that's what happens with this moves. It's the devil's work I tell ya. Hell, the Yankees acquired a bum pitcher named David McKay from Tampa for cash a few days ago and I'm convinced that cash will turn into some amazing player they find in a haystack. The Rays just find a way man. Their lineup is plain old solid, led by the unstoppable force in Wander Franco. Their young arms have broken through and plan on wreaking havoc this season. 

Contend: Wander Franco wins the MVP (+2000) and the Rays young starting pitching dominates from start to finish. The org's #2 prospect Josh Lowe becomes a terror from the jump and makes us all hate ourselves for doubting them.  

Fail: Maybe one time they actually aren't the smartest guys in the room? The young starting pitching takes a step back and leads them to a so-so season for a change. Who am I kidding, you know they're going to be contending until the very end.

Orioles (o/u 61.5)

Hey Adley Rutschman is coming at some point once he gets healthy. Cedric Mullins is still on the team along with Trey Mancini. Those are three guys you're going to see in an everyday lineup around sometime in May I'd guess. That's exciting and about all the hope I can provide you with. 

American League Central

White Sox (o/u 93.5)

Alright let's cut the bullshit, this offense is loaded…

I don't care what pitcher is facing them, it's not going to be a fun time. Really good to see Eloy in there considering the team held a funeral for him last year. Just had the one year anniversary this past weekend. Really emotional stuff. 

Nah what can you say about the White Sox, they're going to win the Central. Can a few teams in there give them a tiny bit of a scare? Maybe, but they should once again coast to a division title. What they do after that is the question. 

Contend: Chicago puts together one of the best offensive seasons in their franchise's history. They murder everyone in their division and lock up the overall number 1 seed in the AL. Kopech and Cease are the key. They can survive Lance Lynn's knee injury for a few months no problem, but Kopech and Cease need to take that extra jump and really make this rotation elite. 

FailThe White Sox do that thing again where they beat up on the trash (albeit improved trash) of the AL Central, post a fake record, and get rolled in the postseason once they come across a real team. It's going to be the same narrative until they break it. I could see the bullpen having some issues. With Kopech in the rotation, Kimbrel on the Dodgers, and Crochet out for the year there's going to be some pressure on other guys to get some really big outs. Kendall Graveman's arrival helps aid that, but we'll see if that's enough. 

Twins (o/u 81.5) 

Is this the year Minnesota wins a fucking playoff game? I mean for the love of Christ how is this drought still a thing? Well, Minnesota attacked this offseason and sought out to drastically shake up their roster. Enter Carlos Correa. Maybe the last team I ever expected Correa to end up with was Minnesota, but they got creative with the contract and essentially gave him a one year prove it deal with opt ins so he can control his destiny. Holy fuck is it weird seeing Gary Sanchez and Gio Urshela in this lineup. 

At first glance, I think that lineup can put up some serious runs this season. The biggest mystery will be what does Gary Sanchez production look like outside of New York? Going from the tumultuous days of playing in the Bronx regularly where every little thing you do is put under a microscope to Minnesota nice. Could very well be the best thing for his career. The defense will never be good, but I won't be shocked if he posts an above .800 OPS season with the pressure off. 

Contend: By contend I mean a wild card sneak-in with the expanded entries now. Sonny Gray transforms into an ace and the offense mashes. Maybe they can make some kind of noise, especially with all the incentive on Correa's plate to have a monster season and get paid for 2023 and beyond. 

Fail: Dylan Bundy and Chris Archer are in the starting rotation. 

Tigers (o/u 77.5)

In the second half of 2021 the Detroit Tigers played two games over .500 baseball, including a seven game win streak mixed in there. You're adding Javy Baez, Austin Meadows, Tucker Barnhart, and the number 4 overall prospect in baseball Spencer Torkelson to that equation. I like what the Tigers did here a lot and I get the feeling Mr. Castellani is gonna have himself a surprisingly fun year. 

Contend: Honest to God, why can't the Tigers be that team who hangs around the wild card race all year long? AJ Hinch knows how to manage his ass off and this roster is for sure improved. E-Rod and Casey Mize can form a good 1-2 punch near the top, even if they don't compare to what the contenders' horses look like. I LOVE the over of 77.5 wins for the Tigers if you're looking for that kind of bet. 

FailGod hates Detroit and wants their teams to suffer.  Sorry Chris. 

Royals (o/u 75.5) 

All eyes turn to the number one prospect in baseball, Bobby Witt Jr. Everywhere the kid went in 2021 he raked. Kansas City has themselves a budding superstar on their hands and it's finally time to let him loose. Your 1-2-3 of Merrifield, Witt Jr., and Salvador Perez is a lot of fun. Listen, Zack Greinke is your ace, let's be realistic here. Just be excited about the new young star on your roster, eat some really good BBQ, and try to enjoy the season.

Guardians (o/u 75.5)

I'm not gonna waste too much time here on Cleveland. They didn't put enough thought into their name change and went with something stupid so why give their chances of doing anything successful any further pondering. Their win total is where it's at for a reason. This lineup is not very good, but I do beg for one thing to happen. Please Christ give Jo-Ram his extension. Please, God do not trade that guy to the Blue Jays like you're rumored to be interested in. No one wants that. Jose has said he wants to remain in Cleveland. Give him his wish. 

Update:

they got it done, phew 

For Guardians fans out there looking for some hope. At least you get to watch Emmanuel Clase throw 98+ mph cutters all year long. What an alien.

Contend: The starting rotation blacks out all year and posts one of the best season long pitching performances ever

Fail: All goes to plan

American League West

Astros (o/u 92.5)

The post-Carlos Correa era will begin in Houston this week. The good news for Astros fans? The organization has been prepared for this and are promoting their top prospect Jeremy Peña to start the season at short. The kid has a monster spring and has a highly touted glove. Houston didn't really add much else other than bringing back Verlander, but in their eyes they'll win the West and can go toe-to-toe with anyone who stands in their way in October. 

Contend: Verlander returns to his old self and gives this rotation a much needed boost. Kyle Tucker has a top 10 MVP season. The Stros take advantage of the West as they normally do and position themselves perfectly for a deep run in October. 

Fail: Without Correa's bat, glove, and leadership Houston takes a step back. Verlander never regains his form and gets shelled from the jump. We all laugh and sing songs of their demise. 

Mariners (o/u 84.5) 

Seattle might be too trendy right now, but I don't care. Adding Adam Frazier, Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, and now top prospect Julio Rodriguez makes this offense very fun and worth monitoring. I was already a fan of taking a stab on the M's as a small dog at home as I get ready for bed, but now that might be an auto bet for me. 

Contend: Why can't this be the year? They should score plenty of runs and the addition of the Cy Young winner in Robbie Ray should in theory give their rotation some kind of jolt. J-Rod erupts and win the ROY as the Mariners get rewarded for not manipulating his service time. Also the Seahawks success run will be coming to an end with Russ in Denver so why can't the Mariners seize that magic potion? 

Pretend: Robbie Ray comes crashing back down to Earth. The tight pants magic runs out and the Mariners ace becomes a frog. Jesse Winker misses half the year and Pirates Adam Frazier refuses to return. God hates Seattle and nothing good can happen to their baseball team. 

Angels (o/u 84.5)

Is this the year the Halos actually put it all together and get into the postseason? I mean based on recent history I'd say probably not, but for the sake of the blog let's give them the benefit of the doubt. Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Jared Walsh, hell why can't this offense be a juggernaut? Hey Mike Trout, let's try and not break down this season and instead give us a wild summer where you and Shohei go bonkers night in and night out. Maybe Anthony Rendon wants to play in some games too. They made a special rule for Ohtani so he could continue to be awesome. Extremely unfair to practically every other organization. Maybe take advantage of it Angels? 

Contend: Everyone stays healthy, even you Noah Syndergaard. If Ohtani-Sandoval-Noah-Detmers-Suarez can form a good, consistent rotation that'll do this team wonders.

Pretend: They're the Angels. 

Rangers (o/u 74.5)

The Rangers aren't going to win a whole lot of baseball games in 2022, but they'll score a fuck ton of runs trying that's for sure. Adding Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, and Mitch Garver will make their heart of the order terrifying. Jack Leiter is at least a year away from breaking into this rotation, but just be happy you have yourself a fun offense to watch night in and night out. This will be a strong overs team on a nightly basis. 

A's (o/u 68.5)

If you're still an A's fan today then god rest your soul. You don't deserve any of this nor do you deserve John Fisher as your owner. I'm sorry.

And that just about wraps it up for the American League as we approach 3,000 words. If you made it this far I commend you for your bravery. Here's a little reward for your hard work.