Hockey and basketball are both done and now baseball has the spotlight all to itself. The 2016 season has been somewhat of a wild one as it nears the midway point. Many teams have defied exepctations (Boston, Washington), some teams have underwhelmed (Houston) and some have been just downright abysmal (Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego). It’s very tough to talk about postseason predictions before the All-Star break, but that’s exactly what we’re going to try here. You’ve seen Dan’s piece on his picks for the NL, now I’ll try to do my best for the Junior Circuit.
AL East Winner: Boston Red Sox
Wild Card Teams: Baltimore Orioles
Am I biased because I’m a Red Sox fan? Absolutely. I know that may seem like the only reason I’m picking them in the East, especially when they are one game back of Baltimore as of today, 6/21. But, with that having been said, I truly believe the Red Sox have the better line up for a pennant race than their foes in Charm City. Boston has a deeper line-up 1-9 than Baltimore, guided by Big Papi David Ortiz, who is putting together what may end up being the greatest final season in MLB history. Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr are also righting the ship in Beantown after an abominable 2015.
Baltimore does boast the extremely talented Manny Machado, and we all know how lethal Crush Davis is when (not if) he heats up. But that is truly all the Birds have. Alongside their lack of depth at pitching when compared to Boston’s David Price, Rick Porcello and Stephen Wright, the Red Sox look like the more likely team to take the AL East crown (there has also been scuttlebutt that Boston has made inquires into Jose Fernandez and Gerrit Cole). The O’s will take the Wild Card, but based on their penchant for “folditis”, I don’t see Baltimore doing much. Toronto does not have the depth at pitching to keep them in it, and the hapless Tampa Bay Rays aren’t in the picture at all. Look for the Sox and the Orioles.
AL Central Winner: Cleveland Indians
Wild Card Teams: Kansas City Royals
Dave (@YagaBomb24) could probably explain much better than I what the Tribe is doing differently this year. But, whatever that may be, it has paid off ten-fold and the Cleveland Indians are atop the AL Central. Led by an infusion of upstart youth like Francisco Lindor and Danny Salazar, as well as resurgences from Mike Napoli, Josh Tomlin and Rajai Davis, Cleveland at this point in time looks like a very, very good team and I do not see them giving up their lead any time soon. You can bet your horses that the Tribe will be looking for a World Championship this fall now that the Cavaliers are NBA Champions.
Kansas City has struggled at points this season but have righted the ship recently and are looking more like the team that was atop the AL all last season. Salvador Perez and Eric Hosmer have shouldered the weight of a team that hasn’t been as lethal offensively as it has in the past, but the Royals are a gritty and resilient team that have turned heads and made many people who counted them out look stupid (a la the past two seasons). The White Sox were white-hot at one point, but have stumbled and fell since and do not look threatening. Detroit isn’t much more of a threat than Minnesota is, as much as the MLB Network panel tries to convince you otherwise.
AL West Winner: Texas Rangers
It blows my mind that the Rangers are performing as well as they are because, when you look at their roster, this team really isn’t anything super stacked. Ian Desmond, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Elvis Andrus are all the team boasts offensively, and some of those guys aren’t performing well at all. But, much like the 2013 World Champion Red Sox, this team is well rounded and is full of characters that support each other and fill their roles. Colby Lewis and Cole Hamels have been stellar on the mound and the incredible story of Matt Bush is just beginning. Led by its pitching, Texas may be beginning a run-away with the AL West. Seattle was hot for a while but have cooled off and are falling out of contention. Houston had lots of expectations in 2016 but have underwhelmed massively, despite Jose Altuve’s best efforts. The Angels and Atheletics are down and out and don’t appear to be getting up either. The West is all Texas this year. Their lead over the second place Mariners is currently 9.5 games and that number may grow even larger. The crown is the Rangers’ for the taking.
Agree, disagree? All of these could end up not coming true, that’s the beauty of baseball. Be sure to tell me how much of a genius/idiot I am on Twitter.