American League Has an East Coast Bias

After the dust of the off-season settled, the American League had a huge shuffling of stars. But the power still resides largely in the stacked East, where four teams topped 90 wins last year. With Houston weakened by the loss of Carlos Correa and the teams in the West having various holes, the East could be even more dominant this season.

Here is a team-by-team look at the reasons for each A.L. club to be optimistic and pessimistic this season.

Around the Horn

  • American League East
  • American League Central
  • American League West
  • Staff Predictions

American League East

Toronto Blue Jays

Last season: 91-71 | Key additions: Kevin Gausman (P), Yusei Kikuchi (P), Matt Chapman (3B) | Key subtractions: Robbie Ray (P), Marcus Semien (2B)

Half Full: Matt Chapman’s power and defense make him a perfect fit in an infield that should only get better as first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., second baseman Cavan Biggio and shortstop Bo Bichette enter their primes. More important: The team gets a full season in Toronto after two years of disruption.

Half Empty: As good as Chapman and Kevin Gausman are, the thought that a club can replace the defending winner of the Cy Young Award (Robbie Ray) and a 45-homer second baseman (Marcus Semien) while simultaneously getting better feels fanciful.

The Yankees have a full-fledged ace in Gerrit Cole. The rotation beyond him is filled with question marks.Credit…Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports, via Reuters


Last season: 92-70 | Key additions: Josh Donaldson (3B), Isiah Kiner-Falefa (SS), Jose Trevino (C) | Key subtractions: Gary Sánchez (C), Gio Urshela (INF), Clint Frazier (OF), Luke Voit (1B)

Half Full: A righty-heavy lineup got some balance with trades for outfielder Joey Gallo and first baseman Anthony Rizzo last season, and both are back. Josh Donaldson adds some right-handed pop, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who puts the ball in play and runs well, will be a welcome change in a plodding lineup.

Half Empty: There are a lot of issues for a team with a top-four payroll. The starting rotation is questionable after Gerrit Cole; Aaron Hicks can’t be the solution in center field; Aaron Judge may be unhappy; catcher Kyle Higashioka may struggle in a full-time role; and it’s hard to shake the feeling that the team could easily have addressed its needs through free agency.

Tampa Bay Rays

Last season: 100-62 | Key additions: Corey Kluber (P) | Key subtractions: Nelson Cruz (D.H.), Collin McHugh (P), Michael Wacha (P)

Half Full: Nearly the entire team returns after winning 100 games, and that’s almost understating things because shortstop Wander Franco, who was dominant in 70 games, will get a full season. On top of that, the Rays’ recent past indicates you can count on them to find more than a few treasures in other teams’ recycling bins.

Half Empty: Tampa Bay’s abandonment of traditional pitching roles has been highly effective, but the volatility of relievers could come back to haunt them — particularly if starter Shane Baz struggles after elbow surgery. The team also cannot expect second baseman Brandon Lowe and catcher Mike Zunino to combine for 72 home runs again this season.

Boston Red Sox

Last season: 92-70 | Key additions: Trevor Story (2B), Jackie Bradley Jr. (OF), Rich Hill (P), Michael Wacha (P) | Key subtractions: Kyle Schwarber (D.H.), Eduardo Rodriguez (P), Hunter Renfroe (OF)

The M.L.B. Lockout Comes to an End

  • A New Agreement: After a contentious labor dispute, the league and players’ union struck a deal that would allow a full season to be played starting April 7.
  • Looking Ahead: If the end of the lockout results in a better game, the acrimony will have been worth it, our national baseball columnist writes.
  • A Frayed Relationship: M.L.B.’s commissioner ​​called the deal “an olive branch.” Could it also be the start of better relations between the league and the players?
  • Lockout and Doping: The work stoppage led to the suspension of the league’s drug testing program, offering players ample time for foul play.

Half Full: Trevor Story is a terrific player who can help the team on offense and defense. Jackie Bradley Jr. can’t hit much, but he plays great defense. Eduardo Rodriguez, while solid, isn’t all that big of a loss.

Half Empty: Story would make a larger impact if he played shortstop and Xander Bogaerts was moved to second base. Hunter Renfroe’s bat will be missed, and the team penny pinched too much by addressing its starting rotation depth with signings like Rich Hill, Michael Wacha and James Paxton.

Baltimore Orioles

Last season: 52-110 | Key additions: Rougned Odor (2B), Jordan Lyles (P) | Key subtractions: Pedro Severino (C), Matt Harvey (P)

Half Full: Outfielder Cedric Mullins and pitcher John Means are excellent young players, designated hitter Trey Mancini is a solid veteran and the team will be bad enough that Grayson Rodriguez, a top catching prospect, should be in the majors before too long.

Half Empty: With the season starting a week late because of the lockout it will technically wrap up in less time than it would have otherwise.

American League Central

Tim Anderson and the Chicago White Sox dominated the American League Central in 2021 but struggled in the postseason.Credit…Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Chicago White Sox

Last season: 93-69 | Key additions: Josh Harrison (2B), Kendall Graveman (P) | Key subtractions: Carlos Rodón (P)

Half Full: The White Sox easily won their division last year — it was never remotely in doubt — and nearly the entire team returns. There is some room for improvement with better health for Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert.

Half Empty: Carlos Rodón was one of the best pitchers in the American League last season, and Chicago let him walk away. The complacency the White Sox showed in both their lineup and their rotation is notable when you consider how hard Minnesota worked to get better.

Minnesota Twins

Last season: 73-89 | Key additions: Carlos Correa (SS), Gary Sánchez (C), Gio Urshela (INF), Sonny Gray (P) | Key subtractions: Josh Donaldson (3B)

Half Full: The team is remarkably strong up the middle with Carlos Correa at shortstop, Jorge Polanco at second base and Byron Buxton in center field. The Twins added a solid starting pitcher in Sonny Gray and could be huge beneficiaries if all Gary Sánchez needed was a change of scenery.

Half Empty: The team seems to be building something, but the long-term goals hinge on health and how things turn out this season. If Buxton and Correa are healthy and the pitching works out, this could be a great team. With a few injuries and a losing record, Correa will opt out and be gone next winter.

Javier Báez gives the Detroit Tigers a middle-of-the-order bat and will move back to shortstop where he has played well in the past.Credit…Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Detroit Tigers

Last season: 77-85 | Key additions: Javier Báez (SS), Eduardo Rodriguez (P) | Key subtractions: Niko Goodrum (SS)

Half Full: The Tigers showed some promise last season, and in an encouraging development, ownership decided to invest serious money in free agency. Javier Báez gets back to shortstop, where he is a great defensive player. Additionally, the team boldly announced first baseman Spencer Torkelson, one of the game’s top prospects, has made the opening day roster. If outfielder Akil Baddoo and pitcher Casey Mize are as good as they looked at various points last season, this could be a team on the rise.

Half Empty: Báez’s lack of patience at the plate and Eduardo Rodriguez’s inconsistently help explain why Detroit was able to lure them. At some point, with the addition of Torkelson, the team will likely say goodbye to Miguel Cabrera, which will be painful.

Cleveland Guardians

Last season: 80-82 | Key additions and subtractions: Nothing of note

Half Full: The team begins life under a new name and with a roster that won’t wow anyone but can hold its own. Shane Bieber is healthy, which is a huge improvement from last season.

Half Empty: Third baseman José Ramírez is likely to be traded at some point, which would be a blow to morale.

Kansas City Royals

Last season: 74-88 | Key additions: Zack Greinke (P), Amir Garrett (P) | Key subtractions: Mike Minor (P)

Half Full: Amir Garrett could be a great addition and Zack Greinke’s return to Kansas City is a nice story regardless of how it works out. Far more important to Royals fans is getting the chance to see the young shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. play regularly.

Half Empty: Beyond the stellar play of catcher Salvador Perez, the return of Greinke and the promise of Witt, there isn’t a lot of quality baseball expected.

American League West

Jeremy Peña has huge shoes to fill in Houston as he takes over for Carlos Correa as the Astros’ shortstop.Credit…Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

Houston Astros

Last season: 95-67 | Key additions: None | Key subtractions: Carlos Correa (SS), Zack Greinke (P), Yimi García (P)

Half Full: Houston has won three pennants in the last five seasons and has a tremendous core in third baseman Alex Bregman, second baseman Jose Altuve, outfielder Kyle Tucker and designated hitter Yordan Alvarez. The return to the rotation of Justin Verlander, after two years away, is intriguing.

Half Empty: Carlos Correa is a huge loss, on and off the field, even if Jeremy Peña is ready to take over at shortstop. Correa was the team’s best defensive player, one of its best hitters, a leader in the clubhouse and its de facto spokesman for all things related to the 2017 sign-stealing scandal.

Seattle Mariners

Last season: 90-72 | Key additions: Robbie Ray (P), Eugenio Suárez (3B), Jesse Pinker (OF) | Key subtractions: Kyle Seager (3B), Yusei Kikuchi (P)

Half Full: The Mariners very nearly made the playoffs last season and they added Robbie Ray, a left-handed power pitcher who won a Cy Young Award last year, and an All-Star outfielder in Jesse Pinker. First baseman Ty France and outfielder Mitch Haniger are coming off breakout years, and Julio Rodríguez could be headed for stardom.

Half Empty: Seattle’s -51 run differential in 2021 was a strong indication that its record was fluky, Ray has lacked consistency in his career and the team’s last can’t-miss prospect, Jarred Kelenic, hit .181 with a .265 on-base percentage and a .350 slugging percentage in 2021.

Shohei Ohtani led the majors in home runs in 2021 and was the only Angels pitcher to top 100 innings. The team will need other pitchers to step up if it wants to make the playoffs.Credit…Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

Los Angeles Angels

Last season: 77-85 | Key additions: Noah Syndergaard (P), Aaron Loup (P) | Key subtractions: Justin Upton (OF), Alex Cobb (P)

Half Full: Mike Trout is only 30, Shohei Ohtani proved that he could handle life as a two-way superstar, first baseman Jared Walsh was great in his first year as a full-time player and third baseman Anthony Rendon (he of the $245 million contract) is inching his way back to full health.

Half Empty: Ohtani was the only Angels pitcher who managed to top 100 innings in 2021, and since Noah Syndergaard has thrown only two innings since 2019, relying on him as one of the team’s aces seems problematic. Wear and tear on Trout and Ohtani and Rendon’s ailments also weigh on a team that is long on payroll and short on results.

Texas Rangers

Last season: 60-102 | Key additions: Corey Seager (SS), Marcus Semien (2B), Jon Gray (P), Kole Calhoun (OF) | Key subtractions: Isiah Kiner-Falefa (3B), Jordan Lyles (P)

Half Full: Corey Seager and Marcus Semien represent an enormous upgrade in the Rangers’ middle infield, and Jon Gray should look a lot better away from Colorado (even if Texas isn’t exactly a pitchers’ park). Throw in Adolis García’s jaw-dropping power, and you’ve got a watchable team.

Half Empty: The lineup beyond Seager, Semien and García is questionable. The pitching after Gray is downright bad.

Oakland Athletics

Last season: 86-76 | Key additions: A long list of minor leaguers | Key subtractions: Matt Olson (1B), Matt Chapman (3B), Starling Marte (OF), Mark Canha (OF), Josh Harrison (2B), Yan Gomes (C), Chris Bassitt (P), Sean Manaea (P)

Half Full: Infielder Tony Kemp was a nice surprise last season, and the A’s got back a haul of prospects in various deals. Based on Billy Beane’s past, it is a safe assumption that some of those prospects will be major league ready soon.

Half Empty: The trades of Matt Olson and Matt Chapman are devastating to the team — a far bigger deal than losing rentals like Starling Marte and Josh Harrison — and trading Chris Bassitt after a breakout year stings. It could get worse should the team deal pitcher Frankie Montas.

Staff Predictions

Credit…Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Tyler Kepner, columnist

A.L.C.S.: Chicago White Sox over Tampa Bay Rays

N.L.C.S.: San Diego Padres over Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series: Padres over White Sox

The Padres and the White Sox spent years building for an opportunity like this. Both organizations are loaded with pitching, power and prospects, and continued to make aggressive, win-now moves, even late in spring training. The White Sox will have a clear path to repeat as champions of an improving but still-thin American League Central — and with a strong bullpen and deep lineup, they’ll have an edge in October. The Padres fell apart late last season, but their new manager, Bob Melvin, is a highly respected, experienced leader who can bring that clubhouse together. The Dodgers may be better across a six-month season, but watch for the Padres to peak at the right time and win the first championship in franchise history.

James Wagner, reporter

A.L.C.S.: Tampa Bay Rays over Toronto Blue Jays

N.L.C.S.: Los Angeles Dodgers over Atlanta Braves

World Series: Dodgers over Rays

Making predictions is an impossible task, particularly ahead of a six-month regular season and a new postseason format. As you read these, I’ve likely second-guessed myself dozens of times since. (The past few years, I thought Milwaukee would make another deep playoff run.) No team is perfect, but it’s hard to pick against the Dodgers winning their second title in three seasons given their talented roster and their front office’s track record of aggressively seeking upgrades.

David Waldstein, reporter

A.L.C.S.: Blue Jays over White Sox

N.L.C.S.: Mets over Dodgers

World Series: Blue Jays over Mets

The Mets will go on a tear once Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer recover their health and Francisco Lindor recovers his groove. Steven Cohen, Billy Eppler and Buck Showalter will take their bows and the N.L.C.S. will evoke images of 2015, 1988 and “The Bad Lieutenant.” And then right before the World Series, deGrom will go down again, Scherzer will be gassed, Lindor will slump, Showalter will over-manage and Cohen will over-Tweet. The Blue Jays will outpace the Yankees, the Red Sox and the Rays on their way to their third title to provide solace for Torontonians after the Maple Leafs choke away a series they will lead, 3-1.

Benjamin Hoffman, baseball editor

A.L.C.S.: Toronto Blue Jays over Houston Astros

N.L.C.S.: Los Angeles Dodgers over Mets

World Series: Dodgers over Blue Jays

The depth the Dodgers have built in recent seasons just can’t be matched. Not only can they plug any gap they encounter with their bench and their minor league system, they are also unafraid to spend even more if the need arises. Eventually the Mets could overtake them (Steven A. Cohen’s billions will come in handy), but the Dodgers had too big of a head start on roster construction for that to come this year — particularly with Jacob deGrom likely out far longer than most fans likely expect.

Scott Miller, contributor

A.L.C.S.: Toronto Blue Jays over Chicago White Sox

N.L.C.S.: Los Angeles Dodgers over Atlanta Braves

World Series: Dodgers over Blue Jays

After two seasons of gallivanting around the minor league outposts of Dunedin, Fla., and Buffalo while the pandemic mostly kept them away from home, the Blue Jays will take the love affair they rekindled with their fans when they finally did return to Toronto late last season and build on it to epic proportions behind Vlad Guerrero Jr.’s thump, Matt Chapman’s leather and Bo Bichette’s swag. The Dodgers will turn the tables on Atlanta and ultimately win a World Series in front of a Dodger Stadium crowd for the first time in decades after their neutral-site triumph in 2020 in Texas.

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