With the 2018 regular season finally upon us, the Redbird Daily staff gathers around to provide their predictions on how the divisions and individual awards will shake out in the American League. We hope you are all as excited for the coming season as we are!
Rusty Groppel – New York Yankees
Well, the whole “underdog” Yankees thing is over and we can go back to hating them again. The lineup is really good, the bullpen is ridiculous, and the rotation should hold it’s own. I don’t think the Stanton/Judge combo will quite live up to the ridiculous hype, but they will be very good. I see the Red Sox being right there all season, as their lineup is equally imposing, but I just can’t trust their rotation (after Sale) at this point. Health and performance for the Sox starters could alter this conversation greatly. The Jays and O’s are both pretenders, but may see themselves creep into the Wild Card mix. The Rays have accepted a rebuild.
Graham Jacobi – New York Yankees
The Yankees have two very dominant areas of their team, the offense and the bullpen. Their 5th best reliever (Robertson) could be a closer. Yet the bullpen is filled with lights out talent. The offense finished 2nd in all of baseball with runs scored (858). They only became greater this offseason with the addition of NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. While the rotation lacks more front line talent than the Red Sox, they do have much more serviceable depth. The race will be close between the two teams, considering the Sox finished first and added slugging monster JD Martinez but the Yankees finish ahead.
Colin Garner – Boston Red Sox
For some reason, I always have trouble jumping with both feet on the “consensus favorite”. This year, it’s the Yankees. The Red Sox are projected to finish two games behind the Yanks by Fangraphs, and that’s with both Judge and Stanton projected to play a full season’s worth of games. The Red Sox still have Chris Sale, Rafael Devers is an elite prospect at third, and if Porcello can be a little more like his 2016 self and less like the 2017 version, the rotation could be formidable. Oh, and they added J.D. Martinez, who according to wRC+, was better than Stanton last season.
Allen Medlock – Boston Red Sox
Last year I pick the Yankees for the same reason that I’m currently picking the Red Sox. The Yankees are the heavy favorite and that generally plays into the favor of the rivals. The Yankee lineup is perfect for their ballpark, but Boston still has Chris Sale. Both teams make the playoffs.
Sean Mintert – New York Yankees
The Yankees have turned back into the Evil Empire that we all loved to hate. The addition of Giancarlo Stanton made the most noise, but signing Neil Walker was another nice pickup. It looks like Luis Severino is poised to become the ace of that staff, and Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray provide plenty of reinforcement. Even if the pitching is a bit shaky, the Yankee offense is going to be historically good. There aren’t any clear weak spots for New York, and they’ll have enough to hold off the Red Sox, who should end up in the first wild card spot. I really liked the addition of J.D. Martinez, but the image of Stanton and Judge in the same lineup is too powerful to pick against the Yankees.
Adam Butler – New York Yankees
The Yankees are stacked. Even with the recent injury to Greg Bird, their lineup is one of the best in the game. Stanton, Judge and Sanchez are probably the most powerful trio in any lineup in the game. On top of that, they have a completely lethal bullpen. Chapman, Betances, Robertson, Kahnle and Green is just completely filthy. The bullpen can take over and shut a game down at any time. To go along with a great offense and bullpen, their starting rotation is above average as well. Severino turned himself into an ace last season and Tanaka and Gray are nice rotation pieces as well.
Austin Lamb – New York Yankees
The Yankees were within one game of the World Series last year and then went out and improved this off-season. The addition of Stanton to go along with Judge and Sanchez should make for one the most exciting offenses we’ve seen in quite some time. Their rotation should be pretty good especially if Severino turns in another fantastic season while Tanaka, Gray and Sabathia are solid. The bullpen is one of the best in baseball and should slam the door if they get the ball with the lead. The Red Sox should give the Yankees quite a run with a team that is also great, but they won’t be enough to take them down.
Rusty Groppel – Cleveland Indians
This division is interesting. The Tigers, Royals and White Sox aren’t likely to do much. The Twins are pretty good, but I don’t think they will be able to take down the reigning champs. I’m a bit curious to see how the Indians look without Carlos Santana, but I still see a very good lineup team with what is far and away the best pitching staff in the division.
Graham Jacobi – Cleveland Indians
This one isn’t even close. Not many possible additions this offseason would’ve put the Twins ahead of Cleveland this year. They sure did try though, by adding Odorizzi, Lynn, Morrison, and Reed. There are very few teams that could match the talent Cleveland can put on the field day in and day out. Kluber, Carrasco, Lindor, Ramirez. That is FOUR MVP and CY Young candidates at least. As long as Cleveland’s rotation stays healthy this season they have the division in the bag. Royals, White Sox, and Tigers are non competitors this year.
Allen Medlock – Cleveland Indians
I just don’t see a true contender in the central. Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer make up the front-end of a very tough rotation with Andrew Miller as the hybrid arm in the bullpen. The lineup will lose a little bit of punch with the loss of Carlos Santana, but should not take too big large of a step backward. The Twins may find themselves in the wild-card hunt but both teams will be looking over their shoulder in 2019 with the White Sox in clear view.
Sean Mintert – Cleveland Indians
The Indians are going to win the division almost by default. The Tigers and Royals definitely aren’t good enough to make some noise and while the White Sox might be better than people think, they’re still a few years away from actually putting together a run at the division title. The Twins are OK, and they’ll be in contention for the wild card, but they don’t have enough to take down Cleveland. The Indians have one of the best pitchers in the AL in Corey Kluber, and you can’t go wrong with someone like Francisco Lindor powering the offense. I like Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, but I think relying on Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin at the back end of the rotation could be the only weakness this team really has. They’ll be good enough to get through the regular season, but I’m not sold on that rotation in the playoffs.
Adam Butler – Cleveland Indians
I worry about the Indians lineup a little bit. Lindor and Ramirez are studs but beyond that I think they lack some depth. Especially with Encarnacion continuing to age and Brantley unable to stay healthy. What will win them the division is their rotation. Everyone knows how good Corey Kluber is but the rest of the rotation gets underrated. Carlos Carrasco is a legit top of the rotation arm. I’m a big believer in Trevor Bauer and I believe he’ll form a three headed monster in this rotation along with Kluber and Carrasco. He has refined two of his pitches this offseason and looks primed to take the league by storm.
Austin Lamb – Cleveland Indians
I’ll complete the perfect sweep for Cleveland. The Twins are a good team and made some moves to further improve this off-season. However, Cleveland’s rotation and bullpen should be good enough to lead them to another division crown.
Colin Garner – Cleveland Indians
As much as Twins fans have told themselves that getting Lynn and Morrison is the same as adding Darvish, it’s not. The Indians are the clear favorite in a top-heavy division.
Rusty Groppel – Houston Astros
I mean, you can’t pick against them, right? The World Champs return with the starting lineup intact and Justin Verlander for the full season. If there is a weakness on the team, it might be the bullpen. That is only when you consider the postseason struggles of Ken Giles. This team will be fine. The Angels did alot to put some hitters around Mike Trout this year, but I don’t trust their pitching staff or Ohtani (on either side of the ball). The Mariners are decent, the Rangers are decent, the Angels are decent, and the A’s are the A’s.
Graham Jacobi – Houston Astros
The Astros have so much depth on hand in every area of their team it’s not even fair. They have Kyle Tucker and Derek Fisher for their outfield. There is McHugh and Peacock covering for McCullers. They have a lethal bullpen even with the subtraction of Luke Gregerson. Pair this depth with their all-star filled roster and literally everything would have to go wrong in order to lose the division. While the Angels did nearly everything they could this offseason to compete (Cozart, Ohtani, Kinsler, Upton) their pitching staff still isn’t good enough. For them the wild card is the hope. Jerry Dipoto made moves for the Mariners but that’s just it, moves. Texas and Oakland are out.
Allen Medlock – Houston Astros
They are the best team in baseball, returning champs and quite possibly better than last year. Acquiring GArreyt Cole to be the team’s number three starter will be a steal this season. They will have multiple pitchers in the high minors that would make current big league rotations. They are stupid loaded with talent.
Sean Mintert – Houston Astros
This one wasn’t too difficult. The defending champions returned all their core players, and picked up Gerrit Cole to bolster the pitching staff. The Astros’ offense will be incredible yet again this season, and Jose Altuve will be in the MVP conversation again. The bullpen might be somewhat of a concern, but the offense and starting rotation should be more than enough to carry them to 100+ wins. The Angels got a lot better with the signings of Cozart, Ohtani, etc., but I don’t think they have the talent to keep up with the Astros. The Mariners offense will be solid, but the rotation behind James Paxton is little shaky, and that could hold them back a lot.
Adam Butler – Houston Astros
The Astros are ridiculous. They’re stacked everywhere on the diamond. There’s not much else to say about them. I’ll be shocked if they don’t top 100 wins.
Austin Lamb – Houston Astros
Another clean sweep. The Astros just won the World Series and got even better in adding Cole to the rotation. They have a lineup full of superstars and their rotation should be great again with Verlander and Keuchell at the top. Lance McCullers was fantastic also in the post-season and could develop into a top-tier starter himself. This team will be fun to watch!
Colin Garner – Houston Astros
I’d be shocked if they don’t run away with the division. The Angels have the best chance of topping them, and they’re projected to finish 16 games behind them in the division.
AL WILD CARD
Rusty Groppel – Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Angels
I’m very confident in the Red Sox or Yankees being here (whichever doesn’t win the East), but not so much with the Angels. Trout is just so good and having Upton, Kinsler, and Cozart in the lineup will make them much better. The Twins will be in the running, as will the Mariners and Blue Jays.
Graham Jacobi – Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins
Its either the Red Sox or Yankees with the first wild card spot. I chose the Twins over the Angels simply because their pitching staff is so uncertain. The Angels offense will be top tier this year though.
Allen Medlock – New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles really improved this offseason and had a decent base to build upon when they started. A good team starts up the middle for me and they have two of the best in centerfield and shortstop. If they find some pitching they will be very dangerous.
Sean Mintert – Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins
The Red Sox are going to make a serious run at the NL East, and will end up running away with the first wild card spot in the process. The addition of J.D. Martinez makes their offense incredibly dangerous, while the one-two punch of Chris Sale and David Price at the top of the rotation should be really effective. The Twins are going to duke it out with the Angels until the very end of the regular season, but I think they’ll pull it out in the end. I’m sold on Jose Berrios becoming an ace, and the signing of Lance Lynn really solidifies their rotation. Logan Morrison can add some extra pop behind Miguel Sano, and Byron Buxton could be poised for an offensive explosion this year.
Adam Butler – Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays
The Red Sox were an easy choice here as I think they’re clearly the 4th best team in the American League. The addition of JD Martinez will work in a similar way that the Ozuna addition is expected to for the Cardinals. They had a deep lineup but needed that one bat in the middle to bring it all together. Getting a healthy David Price back to pair with Chris Sale will be all they need to take the first wild card spot easily. The second wild card spot was tougher to pick. I think Toronto will just edge out the Angels and Twins as I’m not a fan of either of those teams rotations. This is dependent on a healthy Josh Donaldson but I think the Blue Jays are being overlooked. They’re getting Aaron Sanchez back which is a big boost. Stroman, Sanchez and the underrated J.A. Happ are a nice 1-3 with Marco Estrada and Jaime Garcia to round it out. I think this is a pretty solid team all around.
Austin Lamb – Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins
The Red Sox may very well win the East, but if they don’t they should run away with the first Wildcard spot. The Twins were extremely impressive last year and should beat up on the down teams in the Central to secure the second Wildcard spot.
Colin Garner – New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins
Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge will hit the Yankees into October even if their pitching isn’t good enough to win the division. The Twins players who broke out last year will regress, but their rotation is better and they have one of the most electric defenders in baseball in Byron Buxton and a revamped bullpen that will lock down close games.
AL AWARDS / AL CHAMP
Cy Young – James Paxton, SEA
MVP – Mike Trout, LAA
Rookie of the Year – Willie Calhoun, TEX
AL Champion – Houston Astros
Cy Young – Chris Sale
MVP – Mike Trout
Rookie of the Year – Miguel Andujar
AL Champion – Houston Astros
Cy Young – Justin Verlander
MVP – Mike Trout
Rookie of the Year – Micheal Kopech
AL Champion – New York Yankees