american league-preview-standings

Believe it or not, regular-season Major League Baseball is only two weeks away, meaning it’s time to pay down some predictions. After hitting the National League last week, we head to the American League this week. We asked our writers for NL division champions, wild-card winners and players to watch. Here is what they came up with.

Ian Casselberry: Unlike in the National League, we may actually have some division races here. In the AL East, the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry should live up to the hype and draw attention for reasons beyond mere tradition. And following up on a strong offseason, maybe the Twins can give the Indians a challenge in the AL Central. But Cleveland looks like the better team and the standings should ultimately reflect that. Hopefully, the Angels and Mariners can provide some suspense in the wild card races. Otherwise, the postseason field will be the same as it was last year.

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
WC1: Yankees
WC2: Twins

Player to watch: J.D. Martinez

I was going to say Willie Calhoun, but NO, the Texas Rangers had to send him to Triple-A. And Shohei Ohtani becomes less intriguing if he doesn’t hit, which appears to be a real concern. So I’m most curious about the other big slugger besides Giancarlo Stanton who’s new to the AL East this season.

In Article TCB:

Even though Martinez took so long to sign, most had Martinez connected to the Red Sox because he was the best hitter on the market and Boston needed an impact bat. He hit nearly twice as many home runs last season as anyone in Boston’s lineup and should thrive hitting in Fenway Park. But how will he adjust to being a DH most of the time? How will he handle the pressure of expectations and the Boston media crush? That has affected other free agents who signed with Boston considerably.

shohei ohtani

Joe Lucia: To me, the only real question in the American League is which team of the Red Sox and Yankees will be forced into the wild-card game. I chose the Yankees, if only because I am not 100 percent confident in Giancarlo Stanton staying healthy, Aaron Judge replicating his obscene 2017 season, and the team’s starting rotation staying healthy and effective. The Astros and Indians are clearly the best teams in their respective divisions, and I think the Angels are pretty far ahead of the rest of the crop for the second Wild Card spot.

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
WC1: Yankees
WC2: Angels

Player to watch: Shohei Ohtani

There are plenty of players I will be watching in the AL next year, but Shohei Ohtani is clearly at the top of the list. I’m not even that interested in whether or not he can be the first true two-way player in years, and I’m more interested in whether or not he can even be the dominant starting pitcher that many have projected him to be. If Ohtani can’t even give the Angels 150 innings of 4.00 ERA ball, things could get mighty dicey in Orange County.

Alex Putterman: I’ve got the Yankees over the Red Sox on the basis of their depth. After signing Brandon Drury and Neil Walker and holding onto Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury, this team has multiple quality players at just about any position and can survive almost any injury. The starting rotation has question marks, but the bullpen is good enough to cover up some slip-ups from the starting staff.

I can’t quite say the same about the Angels, however, which is why I’m mixing things up and taking Toronto to steal the second wild-card spot. The Halos have assembled an impressive core of position players, but the team’s rotation is full of injury risks (Ohtani included). Although Blue Jays have plenty of holes, Marcus Stroman, Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez and Jaime Garcia form a pretty impressive rotation.

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
WC1: Red Sox
WC2: Blue Jays

Player to watch: Byron Buxton

If Buxton plays all year the way he did in the second half of 2017, coupling a potent bat with all-world defensive skill, he will be not only an All-Star but also a potential MVP candidate, and the Twins will be right in the playoff hunt. And if he doesn’t? Minnesota might not have the star-power to replicate its surprising season.

Jay Rigdon: I could see either Boston or New York winning in the AL East. As for the Angels, I don’t necessarily think they’re better than, say, Toronto, but I do think they’ll play a slightly easier schedule overall.

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
WC1: Red Sox
WC2: Angels

Player to watch: Mike Trout

It’s Mike Trout. It should always be Mike Trout because he’s a historically great player, but this year it’s especially Mike Trout; he might be asked to carry an average team to the playoffs, and with the addition of Shohei Ohtani, more attention will be on Trout’s Angels than any time since Albert Pujols first arrived.

Matt Clapp: I viewed the AL East as a full-on coin flip between the Yankees and Red Sox up until the last few days, but I think the Yankees added a couple of wins with the Neil Walker signing to give them a slight edge on paper. Their upside is probably a bit higher as well, especially if Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton come anywhere remotely close to repeating their 2017 seasons. But I do think the Red Sox will be in the 90-95 win range and feel some people are sleeping on them with all of the current hype around the Yankees. The Blue Jays are really interesting as well and seem capable of threatening 90 wins. The should at least compete for a Wild Card slot.

And while the Twins have made some shrewd bargain buys (Addison Reed, Lance Lynn, Logan Morrison, the Jake Odorizzi trade) and should be competitive again, it’s still hard to see them truly challenging the Indians in the AL Central. In the West, the Angels have the talent on paper to make a push, but it would likely take everything to go right and for the Astros to not meet expectations. In all likelihood, the Astros win the division comfortably.

It seems like a near lock that at least one of the Wild Card slots will come from the AL East, but the second one is up for grabs and should be an entertaining race. The Angels are the most talented roster of the next tier, but they have performance and durability question marks up and down the rotation (even if Shohei Ohtani is awesome and healthy, they may still limit him to 150 innings). The Blue Jays and Twins should be competitive, but it’s hard to project either for even 85 wins right now. And even teams like the A’s (who have a great shot to be the surprise team this year), Mariners, and Rangers could be in the mix.

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Astros
WC1: Red Sox
WC2: Angels

AL Player to Watch: Shohei Ohtani

I feel like any choice but Ohtani is a lie.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.