Time for my AL picks. Warning: this should look familiar.
West: Houston Astros
A full season of Justin Verlander will give them an even deeper rotation, led by Dallas “we’re not the Cubs” Keuchel. The question isn’t whether or not the Astros will win the west, it’s just a question of how early they can clinch. I think they’ll have a postseason berth secured by Labor Day (September 3rd).
Player to Watch: Gerrit Cole
I still think that Cole is the biggest acquisition of the offseason. He’s won a total of 19 games since he went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA in 2015, but Houston hopes to get his prime years (he’s just 27). Will having Justin Verlander around make an impact?
Central: Cleveland Indians
It would be so much fun if the Twins winning the Worst Offseason Ever actually paid off, but how could they top this Cleveland tribe? Nothing about the Indians is the best in the AL (including their logo), but they do everything well and are led by a great manager.
Player to Watch: Edwin Encarnacion
I’m curious to see how Encarnacion regresses over the next few years. He’s good friends with David Ortiz, who found a way to rejuvenate his career at the end. Encarnacion is 35, and his numbers are strong, but trending in the wrong direction. The Indians have a tremendous lineup, but EE is the only hitter who can really put fear into the the opposing pitcher.
East: Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox didn’t win the offseason in the AL East, but they still have a strong core of players who all decided to have career low years in 2017. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts will return to form, and it doesn’t hurt to add J.D Martinez to this deep lineup. Their starting rotation is primarily left-handed, led by Chris Sale.
Player to Watch: Andrew Benintendi
The buzz at the start of the spring was the size of Benintendi, who has bulked up. If it weren’t for Aaron Judge’s historic year, Benintendi would have received much more national attention for his 22 home runs and sweet swing. Speaking of, when was the last time a left-handed hitter didn’t have a sweet swing?
Yup…same teams again! All six 2017 division winners will repeat in 2018. Next week I’ll wrap up predictions with wild card winners, playoff picks, and award winners.