The Abridged 2007 American League Preview
by James Deaux(MLB)
Posted on March 29, 2007, 2:45 PM
This isn't going to be a huge preview like the ones I have done in years past. But, it wouldn't feel right to just write nothing. I mean come on, it's almost April! Baseball is back, baby! How can you not be excited? First up, is the American League, which is still leaps and bounds ahead of the National League in terms of overall quality.
AL East: A.K.A.: Japan invades the East Coast.
Boston Red Sox: Much as I'd like to, it's hard to fault them for wanting Daisuke Matsuzaka that badly. I still think Papelbon is more valuable as a starter, but at least for the time being, their closer situation is solved. Their offense isn't quite as potent as New York's, but it is still a force. But seriously...Julian Tavarez is the fifth starter?
--Record: 94-68; 1st in the AL East
New York Yankees: They lose the division this year because they have too many starting pitching concerns. (Carl Pavano the Opening Day starter? Wow.) They should still get the Wild Card, however, because that lineup is absolutely ridiculous. And they still have the greatest closer ever at the end of that bullpen.
--Record: 92-70; 2nd in the AL East
Toronto Blue Jays: I wouldn't be surprised to see Toronto steal the division (or the Wild Card) from either of the aforementioned teams. But for them to do that, Roy Halladay and A.J. Burnett must stay healthy for the whole season.
--Record: 88-74; 3rd in the AL East
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: I think they will finally get out of the cellar, but not by too many games over Baltimore. This team still desperately needs quality pitching behind Scott Kazmir. And their bullpen might be the worst in the American League.
--Record: 68-94; 4th in the AL East
Baltimore Orioles: Like the Devil Rays, this club needs pitching so badly, it's ridiculous. The O's are still years from contending again and Peter Angelos remains one of the worst, if not the worst, owners in baseball.
--Record: 63-99; Last in the AL East
AL Central: No longer MLB's joke division of years past, but I highly doubt it will be as competitive as it was last year.
Cleveland Indians: It's finally the Tribe's year, but their success hinges entirely on their bullpen. They have a good rotation and they have a juggernaut of an offense. Cleveland needs Joe Borowski to be stalwart and not falter, because they clearly don't have anyone who can just step in and take over as closer.
--Record: 93-69; 1st in the AL Central
Chicago White Sox: Their pitching staff taken as a whole doesn't overly impress me as it has in years past, and I think that's what just barely keeps them out of the playoffs this year. They will still give Cleveland a run for its money, though, because they have an extremely well rounded lineup. Joe Crede, in particular, is due for a monster year.
--Record: 88-74; 2nd in the AL Central
Detroit Tigers: My guess is the Tigers will have roughly seven DL stints out of their current 5-man rotation. The arms were overworked last year and that normally comes back to bite teams in their backside the following season. Plus, Captain Handstain, Kenny Rogers is due to have a career implosion anytime now. (UPDATE: Rogers is starting the season on the DL—that's one.)
--Record: 81-81; 3rd in the AL Central
Minnesota Twins: I love Minnesota's lineup and their bullpen, but their pitching rotation is a joke and a half after Johan Santana. (Ramon Ortiz, Boof Bonser, Carlos Silva, and Sidney Ponson, in case you were wondering.) That bullpen is going to be overworked by the second week of August.
--Record: 77-85; 4th in the AL Central
Kansas City Royals: Gil Meche is apparently worth $55 million. In other news, I just won the fifth spot in their rotation.
--Record: 56-106; Last in the AL Central
AL West: None of these teams strike me as ones that can get past the first round of the 2007 playoffs, but I have been wrong many times before.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: They still have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball and a lot of quality arms in the rotation. Unfortunately, they still have little to no power beyond Vladimir Guerrero. And on top of that, they may have to deal with distractions of the Gary Matthews, Jr. steroid fiasco. Still, I think they have easily the most well rounded team of the weakened AL West bunch, despite their noticeable lack of power. Keep an eye on Howie Kendrick.
--Record: 90-72; 1st in the AL West
Oakland Athletics: If this team has any hope of winning the division, Rich Harden must pitch 30+ games. As a whole, their projected starting lineup doesn't exactly strike a ton of fear into opposing pitchers, though.
--Record: 83-79; 2nd in the AL West
Texas Rangers: Okay, so let me get this straight—Akinori Otsuka was tremendous as their closer last year (32 saves, 2.11 ERA). Eric Gagne has pitched exactly 2 regular season innings in the last 18 months and has clearly lost a lot on his pitches. Gagne is the new closer. In the words of many Looney Tunes characters, "IT JUST DON'T ADD UP".
--Record: 73-89; 3rd in the AL West
Seattle Mariners: This team is like the AL's answer to San Francisco—an aging team that doesn't look to be getting any younger anytime soon. They better hope they can keep Ichiro locked up after this year. They aren't exactly burgeoning with other big names that put the fans in the seats. And I feel obligated to mention, yet again, that Adrian Beltre is still the biggest bust of the last decade.
--Record: 72-90; Last in the AL West
AL Wild Card: New York Yankees
--In the running until the end of September: White Sox and Blue Jays
AL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero
--Runner-up: Derek Jeter
AL Cy Young: Johan Santana
--Runner-up: C.C. Sabathia
AL Manager of the Year: Eric Wedge
--Runner-up: Mike Scioscia
AL Rookie of the Year: Alex Gordon
--Runner-up: Dustin Pedroia
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Rich Harden
--Runner-up: José Guillen
Cleveland over Boston in 5 games
New York over Anaheim in 4 games