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MLB American League Preview

idleguy.com breaks down teams vying for division titles and wild cards for the 2024 MLB season. Rankings are at the sole discretion of the publisher. Your evaluations may differ. That's fine.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

2023 Record: 101-61
Projected 2024 Record: 96-66

Baltimore had a dream season last year and they are the team to beat in the division. With run-producing Anthony Santander, the steadying influence of Andy Rutschman behind the plate, and a young, improving squad, the O's are capable of scoring in bunches. Starting pitching may prove to be an issue. Most of the starters are still in their 20s, but there's plenty of upside to Kyle Bradish and Corbin Burnes. Craig Kimbrel takes over the closing job and he'll be needed often.

Going one and done in the playoffs last season by dropping three straight to the Rangers had to bite, but the O's can use that as motivation to do even better in 2024.

Toronto Blue Jays

2023 Record: 89-73
Projected 2024 Record: 91-71

Just barely making the playoffs in 2023, Toronto finds itself loaded with maturing talent like Vlad Guerrero Jr., Justin Turner, Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, and Daulton Varsho. Starters Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, and Yusei Kikuchi highlight a strong rotation. The Blue Jays had the second-best ERA in the AL, behind Seattle, and led the league in saves (51). This could be the year they put everything together for what could be a deep dive into the post-season.

Tampa Bay Rays

2023 Record: 99-63
Projected 2024 Record: 90-72

Relying on manager Kevin Cash's formula for success will lead to another strong season for the Rays, employing many arms in the bullpen and sly substitutions at key moments. The team is fairly devoid of all-stars, though catcher Yandy Diaz had a breakout year in 2023, batting .330 with 22 HRs and 78 RBI. If the Rays can get enough production from Randy Arozarena, Isaac Paredes, and Brandon Lowe, the bullpen will keep them in games. There isn't much mystery to how the Rays operate, the questions are depth and perseverance.

New York Yankees

2023 Record: 82-80
Projected 2024 Record: 77-85

The Yankees missed the post-season in 2023, but will try to get back to October baseball with the addition of Juan Soto, one of the biggest off-season moves. With Aaron Judge,Soto, and Giancarlo Stanton, the Yanks should hit a lot of doubles and homers, but staying healthy has been an issue for both Judge and Stanton. Gerrit Cole leads a questionable pitching staff and the Yankee bullpen doesn't appear to be a strength. They will rely on Clay Holmes as their closer. Playoffs may be another year away.

Boston Red Sox

2023 Record: 78-84
Projected 2024 Record: 77-85

Following a dismal 2023 campaign, the Red Sox can point to the left side of the infield as maybe their only strength, with Rafael Devers patrolling third base and Trevor Story filling the hole at short. Other than those two, the Sox are devoid of breakout performers and the pitching, with Chris Sale on IR much of last season, is worse now that he's gone to Atlanta. The Red Sox have too much to do to expect anything better than last place again.

AL Central

Detroit Tigers

2023 Record: 78-84
Projected 2024 Record: 88-74

Detroit executed some off-season moves to shore up their pitching, getting Kenta Maeda from Minnesota and Jack Flaherty from Baltimore (via St. Louis). Tarik Skubal, following his first winning season (7-3, 2.80 ERA) could be the best of the bunch. He'll be the opening day starter. The closer role falls to either Alex Lange or Jason Foley, or maybe both. On the offensive side, Detroit needs to see more from shortstop Javier Baez, who's been a bust since arriving from the Cubs in 2021. The Tigers have a lot of bodies in the outfield, but Mark Canha and Riley Greene are keepers. Center fielder Parker Meadows will get his chance in center field. Meadows can hit for average and power and should be a solid complement to Spencer Torkelson in the middle of the lineup.

In what shapes up to be the weakest division in baseball, the Tigers have an opportunity to emerge as the team to beat. They have a youthful roster that can produce, and the pitching should improve.

Minnesota Twins

2023 Record: 87-75
Projected 2024 Record: 84-78

Minnesota managed to win the AL Central by six games over Detroit and was the only team in the division to finish with a record over .500. Their team ERA of 3.87 was fourth in the league, but the batters left much to be desired, with a team BA of .243, better than just four other AL teams. Anthony DeSclafani was added to the rotation in the off-season, from San Francisco. He went 13-7 in 2021, but is just 4-10 since. At 37, Carlos Santana (23 HR, 86 RBI) is likely to become a full-time DH, leaving first base open to Alex Kitilloff (41 RBI in 281 ABs). Otherwise, offense will come from CF Byron Buxton, who hasn't played more than 92 games since 2017. Shortstop Carlos Correa hit a career low .230 last season and hopes to rebound. Max Kepler can also contribute.

The Twins appear to be a team that did just enough to get by in a weak division. They had the Tigers on their tails in 2023, but may fall behind them in 2024.

Cleveland Guardians

2023 Record: 76-86
Projected 2024 Record: 75-87

Great things were expected from Cleveland in recent years, but since trading away Francisco Lindor and changing the team name to the Guardians, all they've guarded against was competing in the division. Standout performers include DH Josh Naylor (97 RBI), Jose Ramirez (.282, 24, 80), and closer Emmanuel Close and his 44 saves, but a 3-9 record with 12 blown saves. Ace starter, Shane Bieber, went 6-6 with a 3.80 ERA in 2023. Cleveland has the look of a .500 team, which, in the AL Central is good enough to stay relevant through August.

Kansas City Royals

2023 Record: 56-106
Projected 2024 Record: 66-96

Kansas City came up pretty short on mound duties, posting a team ERA of 5.17 in 2023, and their 163 home runs was better than only Cleveland (124) in the American League. Bad pitching and a lack of power hitting was the recipe that cooked up just 56 wins against 106 losses. They added starter Michael Wacha (11-2 with Boston in 2022; 14-4 with the Padres in 2023), and got Cole Ragans from the Rangers in the middle of last season. He went 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA in 12 starts. Catcher/DH Salvador Perez socked 23 homers and drove in 80 runs. Hunter Renfroe had 20 HRs and 60 RBI, but after that, there just isn't much offense. They do look a little better than the White Sox, so maybe not last place this season.

Chicago White Sox

2023 Record: 61-101
Projected 2024 Record: 60-102

Pitching for the White Sox was better than only two other AL teams, the Royals and A's, which explains why Chicago wasn't anywhere near division leaders after June and finished with 101 losses. It's going to take fresh arms to get the Sox into contention this season, but it appears the team is still in rebuilding mode, if one can even call it that. They picked up Paul DeJong, a .229 hitter, to play shortstop, a questionable move. Without much pitching or hitting to speak of, this squad could end up behind even the Royals in late September.

AL West

Texas Rangers

2023 Record: 90-72
Projected 2024 Record: 98-64

It only took 52 years, but the Texas Rangers took home the trophy, knocking off Arizona, four games to one in the World Series and they look likely to return to the post season in 2023 with even more firepower. The Rangers took the championship without Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom, both of whom return to the roster in 2023. In addition to Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, and lefties Cody Bradford and Andrew Heaney, the Rangers may have the best rotation in the majors. Jose Leclerc, who had four post-season save, has been elevated to closer.

The offense will come from the co-stars of last October's drama, World Series MVP Cory Seager and second baseman Marcus Semien, but they've got plenty of capable hitters up and down the lineup like Josh Jung, Nathan Lowe, Jonah Heim, and CF Leody Taveras. The Rangers should have an easier time clinching the division than last season's nail biting, though Seattle and Houston surely won't make it easy.

Houston Astros

2023 Record: 90-72
Projected 2024 Record: 95-67

A post-season mainstay for the past decade, Houston will once again contend in the AL West with a solid pitching staff consisting of Justin Verlander, Framber Valdez, Christian Javier, Jose Equity, and Lance McCullers Jr., as solid a rotation as there is in the league and essential to compete in the pitching-heavy division. Closer Josh Hader is among the best, so middle relievers will take on added importance.

Of course, the Astros remain fully loaded with Jose Abreu at first, contributing 18 HRs and 90 RBI in his first season with Houston. With Jose Altuve at second, Alex Bregman at third and Jeremy Pena having secured the shortstop position, the Astros have a powerhouse infield. The big booms come off the bat of 26-year-old Yordan Alvarez, who has emerged as one of the premier power hitters in the league. Last season's .293 average, 31 homers, and 97 RBI were right in line with his numbers from 2021 and 2022, though he played in only 114 games. Houston will be a tough out and the West could easily place three teams in the playoffs.

Seattle Mariners

2023 Record: 88-74
Projected 2024 Record: 92-70

Seattle had a breakout season in 2023, and were the best team to not make the playoffs, missing out by one game to the Blue Jays. The Mariners had the best team ERA in the AL, posting a stellar 3.74. They'll need to improve offensively in 2024 if they want to play in October. Their team BA of .242 was better than just four teams, the White Sox, Tigers, Yankees, and A's. While the Mariners slugged a respectable 210 homers, their issues were with consistency and getting baserunners across the plate.

On a team without a superstar other than center fielder Julio Rodriguez (.275, 32, 103), that means everybody will have to contribute, including players with some upside, like shortstop J.P. Crawford (.266, 19, 65), 2B Jorge Polanco, and 1B/DH Ty France and Luke Raley. Seattle's pitching is top-notch and if the offense improves just a little they can reach the playoffs.

Los Angeles Angels

2023 Record: 73-89
Projected 2024 Record: 67-95

The Angels might post a better record if they were in a different division, but they have the ultimate bad fate of being in the one that is probably the best. They still have Mike Trout, but they lost Shohei Otani to the Dodgers, so they're going to be looking up at Seattle, Houston and Texas for at least a few more seasons.

Oakland Athletics

2023 Record: 50-112
Projected 2024 Record: 58-104

Maybe the A's can get special dispensation from the commissioner to play some of its games in the Pacific Coast League because they truly can't compete in the AL West, or East, or Central for that matter. With a team batting average of .223 and ERA of 5.48 is there any wonder that the only thing the A's led in 2023 was losses, all 112 of them. Their team BA and ERA were the worst in the AL, and other than Colorado's 5.67 ERA, the worst in the majors. No, there is no hope.

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Untitled FASTPAGES: 1. Cover \ 2. Prelude / Publisher's Desk \ 3. Contents /Credits \ 4. Calendar \ 5. Books \ 6. State of the World \ 7. NCAA Tournament Blog \ 8. MLB AL Preview \ 9. MLB NL Preview \ 10. Toast of the Town \ 11. Public Domain \ 12. Back Page \ Daily Idler \ Home \ | idleguy.com March 2024 | Page 8