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Why Your Favorite Baseball Team Can And Cannot Be a Contender: 2024 American League Edition

Congratulations to all of us, we've done it. We have lived to see the start of another baseball season, unless you happen to die from now until first on first pitch on Thursday which would be tough. 

 While you may say that the season began last week in South Korea, are we really counting that if no one knew? The year's biggest storyline may have transpired from those two games, but Opening Day in the United States is the one we celebrate. 

We're a sick bunch, don't kid yourself. We endure 162 games of pure agony, blood, sweat, and tears just for the chance of playing for something in October. Once you get there? Well your dream season of bashing every pitching staff in sight might come to a screeching halt because well... Bryce Harper and a red hot pitching staff happens. And how does Bryce Harper's team of destiny die? How about an 84 win club that just snuck into the postseason by the skin of their teeth all of a sudden going unconscious? It's a fucking cruel sport full of improbability, and yet we come back every March/April for Opening Day like the suckers that we are. 

With that I've prepared for you one of my favorite annual blogs to write. Below you'll see 4,000+ words detailing how your favorite team can and cannot contend this year. This blog takes me quite a bit of time and will produce probably a third of the clicks I'll collect on Sydney Sweeney stepping outside for some fresh air. I do it for the people and for the most part this is the only blog where you guys don't ask for me to die, at least not immediately. Maybe that'll change this year, but for now we must begin. Everyone get cozy, let's begin with the American League. 

Quick offseason recap: Juan Soto was traded to the Yankees. Scott Boras refused to let any of his big name guys sign and got burned for it. Fanatics and Nike unveiled new uniforms that included see through pants, we saw a guy's balls during his picture day, and last but not least Shohei Ohtani's beloved interpreter/best friiend was fired after being involved in a big gambling scandal that we're nowhere close to seeing the end of. 

Alright, let's go...

*number next to team is their current season wins total over/under via Draft Kings #DK Partner. Please bet responsibly. 

AL EAST

New York Yankees (91.5) 

For the first time in years the Yankees actually addressed their weaknesses and actually tried to get better. Juan Soto was obviously the headline add, but don't sleep on Alex Verdugo, Marcus Stroman, and Trent Grisham playing impact roles this season. I'm also counting a non-concussed Anthony Rizzo as an add as well, since last year the doctors failed to figure out he couldn't see for a few months before shutting him down. That was sweet wasn't it? 

Listen, are the Yankees a fully operational death star? Nope. They have plenty of question marks, but they are for sure better than they were last season, by a wide margin. Yes Gerrit Cole's health hangs in the balance, but as of now it seems they caught a huge break with the injury. A lot can obviously still go wrong there though, but the doctors are quite optimistic, which they never are. There are three guys who cannot go down for the Yankee: Cole, Judge, and Soto. So far in spring two have come up with injuries, although Judge's appears to have been handled already. On paper the Yankees are a true contender, but they have obvious, glaring red flags that can boom them. 

Contend: Cole returns in June and is his normal self. Juan Soto's contract year sets the world on fire and gives New York the power lefty they've dreamt about since 2009. Judge stays off the mend and puts up monster MVP numbers forming the best 1-2 punch in the sport. The big x factor though, health aside, will be Carlos Rodon. 2023 was a fucking disaster for him. Short of simply not pitching at all, it couldn't have been much worse. He knows it and we know it. He came through spring training with a clean bill of health, something he was unable to accomplish last season. If he can establish himself as a strong number 2 for this team, maybe even a 1b to Cole, then that takes the Yankees to "team to beat territory" in the AL, all assuming Cole returns. That allows Stroman to settle in as your 3 and excel with less pressure. And how about Anthony Volpe? The kid had a disappointing first year at the plate by his standards, but a noticeable swing adjustment could end up unlocking him. You have Volpe online as a threat and this lineup becomes a pinstripe diehard's wet dream. 

Did I mention Juan Soto is a New York Yankee yet? Oh I did? Silly me. 

Fail: Cole's elbow explodes while trying to ramp up in May. Age and injuries derail the Yankees once again whether it be Judge, Rizzo, DJ or any of the starting pitchers besides Cole. The Marcus Stroman experiment ends up in the flames many feared. Volpe's defense regresses after a gold glove year and the bat once again fails to come along. Soto gets shipped of at the deadline for prospects. Eric becomes very, very sad. 

When it comes to projection systems I typically just trust the ones that have my team doing the best. That being said baseball reference predicting a dead last finish for the Yankees, possibly going 61-101 made my heart stop. 

Turns out this model only cares about your final 100 games of the previous season which seems absolutely preposterous. If the Yankee go 61-101 I will likely opt to live as a homeless person and reside by the river. 

Baltimore Orioles (90.5)

The Orioles are infuriating. How can you be this good already without calling up your best player? While Jackson Holliday did not make the Opening Day roster, he will for sure be up here soon. They claim he needs more ABs against lefties in AAA and some added experience at second base, but we know that's all GM speak for "we want to manipulate this guy's service time once more and gain another year of control because we're assholes." Even with baseball's new incentives to call up guys early, the O's chose to make everyone wait a little longer. Until that time arrives you'll just have to settle for Adley, Gunnar, Mountcastle, Hays, Westburg, Santander, Mullins, and more. Last, but not least? The O's traded for bonafide ace Corbin Burnes this offseason to bolster their staff. Rude if I may say so myself. Oh and the O's new ownership goes in effect this week so they'll likely lock up a bunch of these guys and begin to spend real money. I don't like this at all. 

Contend: The Orioles won 101 games last year and they got better this offseason by adding Burnes to the equation. Jackson Holliday will likely join the team this summer, if not before. They're loaded with talent across the board, have prospects to trade if they want, and a new wallet to dive into. They are terrifying. They'd have to really mess this up to not be one of the top contenders in the AL. 

Fail: Eye test wise the O's pass with flying colors. The metrics do think their 2023 campaign was a bit flukey, hence their win total being only 90.5. If the Orioles falter in 2024 it'll be because of the pitching though. After Burnes the rotation doesn't blow you away by any means

I do like Wells and Grayson is a top prospect for a reason, but it wouldn't be crazy if this staff crumbles a little. Kyle Bradish's elbow could be the key as he tries to navigate a dreaded UCL sprain. At the moment the news is hopeful and an early 1st half return was announced by GM Mike Elias, but we shall see. Another aspect that could lead to some regression? A full season without Felix Bautista. That guy was a rock for Baltimore. If they needed anywhere from 3-6 outs he was there to shut the door. His replacement? Craig Kimbrel. Woof. 9th innings are going to be a whole lot different experience in Baltimore this season. You didn't have to worry for a second with the big man out there. With Kimbrel? You won't have nails to bite. 

Toronto Blue Jays (86.5) 

The most noise the Jays made this offseason was during their hunt for Shohei Ohtani and the fake flight info that had him heading to the Six to sign the bottom line. It never happened. Shohei signed with the Dodgers and the Jays were left stuck out in the rain with no umbrella thinking about what could have been. 

Quick aside: If we're to believe Ippei Mizuhara is this crazy pathological liar who controlled Ohtani's whole life, could you imagine he lied about all the negotiations and interest from the Blue Jays side? Shohei kept telling him he was down to go to Toronto, but Ippei refused to let the talks get that far. Just a funny, cruel scenario that I've been thinking about. 

After whiffing on the big fish of the offseason, Toronto pivoted with some smaller moves like Yariel Rodriguez, Justin Turner, IKF, and Joey Votto. We are dangerously nearing the end of the window where you continuously run out this core, right? Vladdy needs a bounce back season desperately. Alek Manoah is still not a factor and is nursing a bum shoulder to begin the season. 27 year old Bowden Francis parlayed a really good 2023 in the minors and a solid spring campaign into a starting rotation spot. Rodriguez is an interesting addition, but I'm curious how they'll limit his innings in his first season with the team.  

Contend: Vladdy returns to his elite form and fights for the MVP award all season. The 1-2-3-4 of Springer, Bo, Vladdy, and Justin Turner carries Toronto the playoffs. Their rotation dominates while Rodriguez becomes an elite option out of the pen. 

FailOnce again the idea of the Blue Jays becomes far deadlier than the actual product. This offense was in need of a boost like an Ohtani or Bellinger, but all they really did was bring in 39 year old Justin Turner. I like Turner, but it's tough to hang your hat on addressing issues when him and 40 year old Joey Votto are the big adds of an offense that needed a a jolt. 

On paper this should be a really fun team, but how many times have we said that in the past. Vladdy and Bo each have two years of control left. Are they planning on extending both of them? If this season is more of what we've witnessed in the recent past then they've got some tough questions to address. 

Tampa Bay Rays (84.5) 

I've had it up to here with the Rays and their tomfoolery. How the fuck did this team win 99 games last year? Starting the year 13-0 and then 20-3 was such bullshit. Enough. Shane McClanahan and Drew Rasmussen will likely miss the whole year recovering from Tommy John. They traded Tyler Glasnow to the Dodgers. THIS IS THEIR ROTATION

We didn't even mention that Wander Franco is likely spending the season in jail. I simply will not allow this team to be elite again. 

Contend: If the Rays are actual good then all other 29 owners need to demand an investigation. We're talking legitimate magic and sorcery. You think that Oz guy is special? He's got nothing if the Rays truly contend this year. How is their win total even 84.5 games and not something in the 70s? If they're good that means top prospect Junior Caminero came up and immediately made them forget Wander ever was a thing. Realistically that happens because it's the Rays. I'm sure they'll win 95 games and drive me to a furious rage. 

Fail: Their lineup is fine at best and their rotation is not good by any stretch. They traded Tyler Glasnow. When you do that it should mean a reset year is coming. We need a year where the Rays suck. 

Boston Red Sox (77.5) 

The Red Sox front office has no interest in winning baseball games or pleasing fans. John Henry is more concerned about the Penguins, Liverpool, and now the PGA. He hasn't spoken to the media in over a year now. It got to a point this spring training where Devers, who doesn't say much, spoke out about the front office's lack of movement. Boston has made it abundantly clear they're working under a strict budget and don't care about 2024. Fresh off back to back last place finishes, that's exactly what the fans want to hear. If you ask most people who cover the team I'd be willing to bet they believe this is Cora's final season. 

Contend: I'll say this, there is a scenario where the Red Sox offense is a lot of fun and slugs the team to a 3rd wild card spot. It's not a likely scenario, but it wouldn't completely stun me. A healthy Story (he's looked very good in spring), Devers, Casas, Yoshida, and a few of the young guys like Rafaela and Grissom could combine for some solid run production. Pitching will be the team's achilles heel along with the front office not wanting to add in anyway, but the offense could catch lightning in a bottle. There's a lot of talk about new pitching coach Andrew Bailey working with the arms and unlocking some guys. One pitcher they need to level up is Garrett Whitlock as a starting pitcher. We know he's elite as a reliever, but the organization seems hellbent on seeing him through as a starter. This is a very important year for him. 

Fail: It's really hard to win as a team when your owner and front office make it their mission to show the fans they don't care. Seems most fans are looking forward to 2025, especially with the Giolito injury and passing on Jordan Montgomery, who practically begged them to offer him something of value. Truly remarkable stuff going on up there these days. Their number is 77.5 for a reason. 

AL CENTRAL

Minnesota Twins (86.5) 

The Twins are the favorite to win the AL Central almost by default. Once again someone will represent this division in the playoffs simply because that's how the rules work. Whoever comes out on top will have virtually zero chance to win the World Series. That being said, the Twins actually won a playoff series last year thanks to the hapless Blue Jays. That's serious progress compared to the results we've seen from them over the last two decades. They had a hefty departure by the name of Sonny Gray, who took his talents to St. Louis. In comes Anthony DeSclafani to try and add some depth to their now suspect rotation, but he's already starting the year on the IL with a forearm strain. 

Contend: What is contend for the Twins? Is it winning the central? Certainly can happen. Is it striking fear in the eyes of any true American League World Series hopeful? I don't see how that happens unless we're talking complete and full health from Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis. On top of that Carlos Correa will need the juiced balls to return so he can see his OPS soar back over .900. The rotation will need to pitch out of their fucking minds and shock people. Pablo Lopez impressed me big time down the stretch, but after that it gets thin. Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober, and Chris Paddack? Chris Paddack?!?

Fail: Well, it's the Twins. They're not really a serious bunch. At times when Royce Lewis and Buxton are on the field they look legit, but that doesn't happen too often. Buxton has played more than 100 games one time in his career and it came in 2017. I'll probably convince myself to take them a few times when they have a stand alone day game during the week, but that's about it. 

Detroit Tigers (80.5) 

The Tigers seem to be the consensus "fun young team that makes some noise" preseason pick. They went out this offseason and decided to get some actual MLB players like Mark Canha, Jack Flaherty, Kenta Maeda, Gio Urshela and Andrew Chafin. Parlay them with their young talent and you've got yourself a team that can be frisky. There at least appears to be a plan in place and signs of a productive rebuild. Can't say that for some other teams in their position. 

Contend: Riley Greene, Spencer Torkelson, Kerry Carpenter, and new face Colt Keith fuck around and play with their heads on fire. Max Clark and Jackson Jobe are probably a year or two away, but there are young studs all over the place here. Hell, even the rotation is sneaky decent.

Jack Flaherty was back to throwing 97 mph in spring training starts. 

Skubal continuing his rise and dominance would be music to Detroit's ears. Is it crazy to think they can sneak in as a 3rd wild card? Maybe steal the division if Minnesota has a down year? +350 to win the Central isn't too bad. 

Fail: Just too early for them. While the rotation is talented and potentially fun, there's also reason to believe it can get hit hard, especially if Mize and Flaherty don't bounce back. It's fine with the potential to be a strong weakness. 2025 feels like a year where Detroit actually starts to make some noise with the rest of their prospects coming into the fold. 

Cleveland Guardians (79.5)

The Guardians are coming off a 76 win season and didn't really bother to do much in the offseason. They don't hit at all or really have a pitching staff that offers you a whole lot. They're as bland as a team can get. 

Contend: How about a positive? Shane Bieber looks good! His velo is humming again and he appears back to full strength. If he gets back into Cy Young mode and Jose Ramirez becomes Barry Bonds then Cleveland might have something. It's also the AL Central. It can very much be up for grabs if you play your cards right. Chase DeLauter is a guy Cleveland fans can think about for the future. He's probably a 2025 guy, but if the season goes to shit just follow him raking in the minors and you'll ease your mind. 

Fail: If Bieber is on this team past the trade deadline I'll be stunned. Honestly it's time to trade Jose Ramirez as well, considering how team friendly his contract is. This team isn't gonna win a lot of games and should be strictly aiming for the future. They can really help build their farm by dealing their two big vets who deserve to be on contenders. 

Kansas City Royals (74.5) 

The Royals are at the very least trying, so you have to appreciate that. Unlike the Guardians (listed above) they actually got better this offseason and appear to have some kind of plan. Michael Wacha, Seth Lugo, Hunter Renfroe, and Adam Frazier are real MLB players! No one who is going to set the world on fire, but they make you better than what you had previously. Factor that in with locking up Bobby Witt Jr. forever and I call that a great offseason for a team like Kansas City. Good for them and good for Bobby getting his money, he's a star. 

Contend: Well, it is the AL Central! Could the Royals find themselves in a dog fight with the Twins and Tigers for the division? I suppose crazier things have happened. If Witt Jr. goes insane, some of the vets they brought over have a little left in the tank, and they decide to add more at the deadline, why not? Admittedly this is a big stretch. 

Fail: Still not nearly enough talent here, but I do like that they're at least being aggressive and not just being a sad, miserable team that tricks themselves into thinking they're a real player and tells everyone to "pray for the league." 

Chicago White Sox (61.5) 

White Sox Dave should have to actually chain himself to that statue for being so stupid. I swear it was five years going where he told everyone "pray for the league" and that Rick Hahn was the chosen one. They didn't a win a single postseason series in that window. They totaled 90+ wins ONCE! What a joke of a franchise. They finally recognized their failures and pulled the plug. Dylan Cease, Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Liam Hendriks, and Yasmani Grandal are all gone. Who remains? Robert, Eloy, Moncada, and Benintendi. Maybe the most intriguing storyline for this team, besides who else gets traded, is what does Michael Kopech look like as a closer? His nightmare 2nd half and continued inconsistencies have caused an audible to be called in his development. Kopech out of the pen has worked wonders in the past, but what good does that do on a team projected to win 60ish games? Could very well just be a way to boost his trade value and ship him off at the mid way point. Either way, this team is gonna be depressing to watch for a full season and I expect some jarring visuals with the lack of filled seats come August. 

Contend: If the White Sox beat out the A's for the worst record in the AL it should be viewed as a win. Contending? This is their projected starting rotation. 

I know the Central is a joke, but they'd all have to collude to get the White Sox in the mix. 

Fail: The real question will be do they bite the bullet and go full rebuild by trading any or all of Robert, Eloy, Moncada or Kopech. They gave it a good run. I wish they had Ozzie Guillen still managing so at the bare minimum we could be entertained by his antics. 

AL WEST

Houston Astros (93.5) 

I'm confident I won't live long enough to see the Astros be a bad team ever again. They are inevitable and my forever boogeyman. They didn't have a ton of movement in the offseason outside of the arrival of Josh Hader, which of course was a big name add. They lose Michael Brantley, but he was over the hill anyways and couldn't stay healthy. Jose Altuve got extended so he's here to terrorize me for another half decade. Sick. Old man Verlander starts the year on the IL, but they won't need him until the 2nd half anyways, the same as last year when they ripped the division title out of the Rangers' hands. Texas got them back with some sweet revenge not only knocking them out of October but going onto win the World Series altogether. So now Houston enters 2024 with revenge on their minds. It's quite possibly Alex Bregman's last dance with the team as he did not receive an extension and is up at the end of the season. 

Contend: It's the Astros. They fall out of bed and contend. Even if they appear like they're on one leg in July, they find a way. Why's that? Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Jose Altuve, and Alex Bregman. If they're in the lineup, I'll always fear them. They've gone out of their way to assemble a super bullpen with Josh Hader, Ryan Pressly, Bryan Abreu, and Rafael Montero. Crane has poured a lot of money into their bullpen, which is not always wise considering the easiest thing to figure out and unlock is a random reliever's arm. Still, it'd be dumb to not recognize how short they can make games with those names. Don't care for it. I'm asking nicely but can Hunter Brown please not take a leap this year and become a top tier arm? Please just continue to mid, I can't have him be JV 2.0 

Fail: Yordan gets wrapped into a scandal that finds him banned from baseball for life. Are there any pictures of him and a controversial figure together anywhere? Verlander finally reaches the point where he's too old and completely breaks down. Bregman becomes furious that the Astros didn't offer to pay him and demands a trade at the deadline. Altuve admits that he did wear buzzers and retires from the sport altogether. World peace blossoms. 

Texas Rangers (88.5) 

Your reigning, defending, undisputed champions of the world, your Texas Rangers, ladies and gentlemen. While the Rangers didn't do a whole lot in the offseason, their fans will be greeted with the sight of a young stallion in Wyatt Langford on Opening Day. 

We saw the kind of impact Evan Carter provided all year long, and now they get another slugger with this Wyatt. Add him to this juggernaut of a lineup and you're gonna have pitchers faking covid so they get skipped a start. 

Yeah, good luck facing that. 

Contend: I'd say the plan is to mash their way back to the Fall Classic. Losing none of their offense and gaining Langford seems to be a good step in that direction. With Jordan Montgomery's departure, Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom are gonna need to get healthy at some point this season. If they can get Jake and Max back for the 2nd half they'll be in fine shape to contend for the World Series once again. 

Fail: For me it's clearly the pitching that will doom this team, if they are to falter. Right now Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning, and Cody Bradford are slotted in their rotation. If you don't get back the injured All-Stars then it's tough to see them getting enough outs unless a trade is in the works down the line. Ideally Jack Leiter would be ready by now to help out based on what they thought they were getting when they drafted him, but his control issues have fucked him big time in his development. I don't know what his deal is and when we ever see him. 

Seattle Mariners (87.5) 

Julio Rodriguez needs a sidekick, but so far the Mariners' front office hasn't felt compelled to get him one. I thought Seattle was a dark horse for Shohei Ohtani, especially since he spends his offseasons there. Not even sure they knew he was a free agent. They did bring in Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco, who will help things, but is it enough? The pitching is elite and will always keep them competitive, but it does seem like there's more than can be done with the finished product regarding the roster. I’m talking like I don’t like the Mariners here, but I actually do. They should be a playoff team.

Contend: J-Rod elevates his game to another level and wins the AL MVP. Seattle's supporting cast does enough to form a consistent, formidable lineup that scores enough runs to let this ridiculous staff do their thing. Andres Muñoz is one of my favorite relievers to watch unless I have a bet against Seattle and it's the later innings with him on the mound. I typically lose those wagers. 

Fail: Offense. Offense. Offense. Get J-Rod some help. 88 wins wasn't enough to crack the wild card last year. Did they do enough to improve the lineup and get back there this time? I'm not sure. It's time for Seattle to open up the check book and get another star to pair with Rodriguez. Jose Ramirez would be a great fit and wouldn't cost much in terms of dollars and cents. Just a thought…

Los Angeles Angels (72.5) 

No Shohei. No prospects. No hope. 

Contend: Shohei is found to be guilty in Ippei's gambling scandal and as punishment is sent back to the Angels. Once he arrives he demands the trade of Mike Trout so the Angels curse can finally be lifted and success can be had. His UCL heals quicker and better than any human in history as he goes on to pitch in every game for the team in the 2nd half, willing them to the playoffs. Ben Verlander spontaneously combusts. Anthony Rendon gets tricked into seeing a hypnotist who convinces him into loving baseball and subsequently posting MVP esque numbers. 

Fail: This team is the definition of mid. Aaron Hicks is slotted in as their 2 hitter? Trout hasn't played 120 games in a season since 2019. At some point you have to trade that guy who the sake of all parties involved. Their rotation is dreadful and the bullpen isn't a whole lot better. 72.5 wins feels high. 

Oakland A's (57.5) 

It's astonishing that we're making the A's play in Oakland for another season. We're just gonna do this all again? What a depressing sight that's gonna be. You won't believe it, but the A's did nothing this offseason. Their estimated payroll for 2024 is $61 million. Exciting stuff. 

Contend: Every team in the AL minus the White Sox decides to fold their franchise for really no reason at all other than a classic prank on Manfred. From there we get to witness a dog fight for the pennant in what would surely be the final year of baseball as we know it. 

Fail: If they play baseball games then they will fail. All season long the players and fans should just try to find dirt on owner John Fisher and force him out of power. There’s gotta be something you can find on this guy.

Well that's 4,800 plus words of nonsense. I'm sorry for that, it got out of hand again. The worst part about committing to this blog is the exact moment I'm arriving at right now —I still have to do the National League. Dammit. 

As a token of my gratitude to those who read this whole thing, here's Kelly Rohrbach

Good luck to all your teams unless of course you live in Boston. And as always, please bet responsibly. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER #DKPartner