2012 American League Baseball Projections

Paul Grossinger

What an offseason for the American League West as it started off by having the Texas Rangers lose the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in a full 7 game series and ended having the best player in the league heading west. For a division comprising of only four teams, it was amazing to see how busy this offseason was for the AL West.

American League West

Texas Rangers: The Texas Rangers were on two different occasions (and in consecutive innings) one out away from being World Series Champions for the first time in franchise history but instead couldn't close the Cardinals out. After the season came to an abrupt end, the Rangers had a few key questions they had to answer before the start of free agency. One of the key questions was on Ace pitcher CJ Wilson as after the World Series, Wilson was due to be the top free agent available for in the 2012 offseason. Just like the summer before, the Rangers had to decide if they wanted to resign the Ace of their rotation (Cliff Lee left for Philadelphia the year before), or let him leave via free agency. At the same time, there were also rumors surrounding the Rangers about signing star first baseman Prince Fielder and Japanese Ace Yu Darvish. The offseason started off by the Rangers deciding to allow number one starter CJ Wilson to leave as he decided to sign with the division rival Angels. The Rangers announced that they would replace Wilson in their rotation with star closer NeftaliFeliz and as for the soon to be vacant closer position Texas decided to sign former Twins All-Star closer Joe Nathan. After signing Nathan to become the teams closer, the Rangers decided to sign Japanese Ace Yu Darvish to take the place of Wilson in their rotation and not pursue Fielder. Texas also decided to show that their committed to the future of their team by signing shortstop Elvis Andrus to a 3-year extension. In addition, the Rangers have to start looking into Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli to extensions as the two star hitters are due to become free agents after this season. The Rangers also decided to concentrate on sign their own hitters and not pursue other elite free agents for their 2012 roster which includes some of the best hitters (Hamilton, Napoli, Young, Cruz, Kinsler, Beltre) and pitchers (Feliz, Darvish, Holland) in baseball. Along with having great young talent already on their roster, the Rangers also feature two of the best prospects in shortstop Justin Profar along with pitcher Martin Perez. Texas should once again be at the top of the AL West in 2012 and continue to be an elite team for years to come.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: As the offseason was about to begin, the Angeles were seen as a team that might make a minor move to upgrade the offense, but not one that would transform and shock the baseball world. The Angels already featured a reliable rotation with All-Stars Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana and then decided to upgrade their rotation with the signing of CJ Wilson. The Angels also decided to sign some guy named Albert Pujols to a 10 year contact to make the Angels one of the best offense's in the league. The Angeles offense features Pujols, Torii Hunter, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, and Mark Trumbo along with wild cards Kendrys Morales and Mike Trout. If Morales proves he's healthy and can become a productive hitter in baseball, the Angels will receive calls about his availability on the trade market. With this, the Angels could either choose to upgrade their minor league system or receive a reliever to bolster the only weak part of their roster. As for Trout, he's rated as the number two prospect in baseball (Bryce Harper is 1) and the Angels will find it difficult to leave him off their roster. Los Angeles will once again be at the top of the division and the competition between these two teams should be great to watch this summer.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Colorado Rockies starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (38) during a regular season game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado. The Diamondbacks beat the Rockies 7-6 in 11 innings.

Oakland A's: The A's had a down year last year and this offseason decided to continue to rebuild their roster and minor leagues. Last year, the A's featured a solid rotation which consisted of young Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, former White Sox Brandon McCarthy, and Guillermo Moscoso. The A's rotation was the lone bright-spot last year as 3 of the 4 starters (mentioned above) had an ERA under 4.00 and Trevor Cahill's ERA was 4.16. The problem for the A's last year was their offense as Oakland had a .244 team batting average (24th ranked in baseball) and only scored 645 runs as a team (20th in baseball). This off-season, the A's decided to transform their roster and traded a few of their elite pitching for younger minor league talent. The A's started their offseason by trading Ace Trevor Cahill to Arizona for Collin Cowgrill and top prospect Jarrod Parker and additionally a few weeks later decided to trade 2011 All-Star Gio Gonzalez to Washington for 4 top prospects to help improve their minor league system. Lastly, the A's decided to trade Former Rookie of the Year closer Andrew Bailey along with former White Sox Ryan Sweeney to Boston for outfielder Josh Reddick and a few other minor leaguers. Oakland was able to trade Cahill and Gonzalez because of the pitching depth they anticipate to have in 2012 with the return of injured pitchers Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden. Furthermore, with the money Oakland was able to save this offseason from the three trades they made, the A's were able to sign outfielders Seth Smith, Manny Ramirez, and YoenisCespedes. The A's organization has now decided to rebuild their team by bolstering their young core and trade some of their players currently in their prime. With the young players currently on their roster (Cespedes, Jemile Weeks, Chris Carter, Michael Taylor, Josh Reddick, along one of the most underrated catchers in baseball in Kurt Suzuki), along with the hitters who are due to arrive in the near future (Michael Choice, Grant Green, and Derek Norris) the A's have a nice solid core of hitters and pitchers (Anderson, Braden, McCarthy, Moscoso, Parker, Brad Peacock, Sonny Gray and A.J. Cole) for the future.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners featured one of the best pitching staff's in majors last year headlined by 2010 Cy-Young Award Winner Felix Hernandez and 2011 All-Star Michael Pineda. The 2011 Seattle Mariners featured a respectable 3.90 team ERA (15th in baseball) however at the same time, had the worst team batting average in baseball (.233), scored the least amount of runs (556) last year, and were apart of a 17 game losing streak in the middle of the season (July 6 until July 26). With that said, the Mariners decided to bolster their young offensive core by trading All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda to the Yankees for top catching prospect Jesus Montero. Because Seattle is apart of one of the toughest divisions in baseball, it seems the 2012 Mariners will have a down year which will lead to Seattle starting over and building for the future. The young core Seattle currently features (some in the minor leagues and some in the majors) is as good as anyone in baseball and their core of young talent includes: Montero, Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, and Nick Franklin along with pitchers Felix Hernandez, Danny Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton. Lastly, at the trade deadline, the Mariners should look to trade future Hall-Of-Fame outfielder Ichiro Suzuki (whose a Free-Agent after this season) to a contender and acquire a few prospects to help improve their farm system. The Mariners should have a great rotation by the start of the 2013 season, but the organization needs to address their offense if they want to compete in the AL West.

American League East

I feel this is the best division in all of baseball as it features 3 of the best teams in baseball along with a team on the rise (that still went .500 last year and still finished in 4th place). With the new baseball playoff format, it wouldn't be surprising to see three teams in the playoffs when October rolls around.

New York Yankees

New York Yankees: Last year was an up and down year for the Yankees that started on their wrong foot (highlighted by injuries) and then they recovered to win the division before being ousted in the ALDS by the Detroit Tigers. The entire Yankees season was mirrored by injuries as pitchers Phil Hughes (shoulder inflammation) and Joba Chamberlain (Tommy John surgery) were the first to go down with injuries and eventually All-Stars Derek Jeter (hamstring) and Alex Rodriguez (knee) missed time due to injuries. Once New York recovered, and were fully healthy in mid-July, the Yankees went on a long run which culminated with the Yankees winning another division title. Once the Yankees lost to the Tigers in the ALDS, the organization realized they need to bolster their starting rotation during the upcoming offseason. As the offseason was about to commence, the Yankees decided to re-due star pitcher CC Sabathia's contract and gave him a new 7 year deal to anchor their rotation. With the Free-Agent pitching market so limited, the Yankees were quiet on the free agent market this offseason until the middle of January when New York decided to trade top catching prospect (Jesus Montero) for 2011 All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda along with signing pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. In 2012, the Yankees once again will feature one of the best lineups in baseball (Rodriguez, Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira Brett Gardner, Curtis and Curtis Granderson) to go along with a solid pitching staff (Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, and the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera). With the Yankees healthier along with the additions made to their pitching staff, the 2012 Yankees will once again compete for a division title.

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays: What a great season for the Tampa Bay Rays as the Rays started the season off losing 8 of the first 9 games and then in late September overcame a 9 1/2 game deficit to win the AL Wild Card (on Evan Longoria's game winning Home Run, capping off one of the greatest days in baseball history). In the 2010 offseason, the Rays decided to make significant changes to their roster, and decided to go in another direction (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena,Rafael Soriano, Matt Garza, along with other left the team). However, this offseason, the Rays were able to keep the core of their roster together and should once again find themselves as contenders once again in 2012. The Rays young hitting core includes Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist, and BJ Upton and at the same time they resigned former Rays first baseman Carlos Pena to bring more power to their team. The Rays also feature one of the best young rotations in baseball, anchored by "Big Game" James Shields, fellow all-star pitcher David Price, alongside Wade Davis, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann and rookie of the year winner Jeremy Hellickson. With the Rays having 6 solid starting pitchers currently in their rotation, along with former Cubs farm-hand Chris Archer, the Tampa should have a lot of depth in their rotation and leave them the possibility of trading one of their starters to help improve their offense. The Rays will once again be at the top of the AL East and compete for another division title.

Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox: The 2010 Red Sox offseason was exciting and eventful acquiring two all-stars (traded for Adrian Gonzalez and signed Carl Crawford) and left Red Sox fans dreaming of another title in Boston. With all the hoopla surrounding the Red Sox, Boston got off to a rough start as they started the season by loosing 7 of their first 8 games and had questions surrounding this team. However, the Red Sox recovered and at the start of September held a 9 1/2 game lead in the wild card standings over the Tampa Bay Rays. For the month of September, the Red Sox went 7-20 and on the last day of the season were passed by the Rays as Tampa advanced to the postseason. After the season, rumors of beer and fried chicken being ate during the game started surrounding the team which led to many changes occurring in the offseason. The 2011 offseason started by having manager Terry Francona leaving the organization and a few weeks later general manager Theo Epstein also left the Red Sox and became the Cubs president. The Red Sox started rebuilding their front office by naming Assistant General Manager Ben Cherington General Manager of the Red Sox. Cherington and the Red Sox then concentrated on finding a manager and decided to name former Rangers and Mets manager Bobby Valentine as manager of their team. With all of the changes the Red Sox went through this offseason, they still feature one of the best lineups in baseball which consists of Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis. The problem for the Red Sox is within the rotation as they feature a lot of question-marks which include: will Josh Beckett stay healthy, will Clay Buchholz come back fully recovered from his injury, and will someone step up and help solidify the last two spots in their rotation? If these questions are answered, and Jon Lester continues his assent as becoming a true ace, the Red Sox should be in for a nice season and will be stride for stride with the Yankees and Rays once September rolls around.

Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto Blue Jays: The Jays continued to show their a team on the rise and in the near future will be a team that competes for a division title. When the 2011 offseason rolled around, Toronto realized they needed to upgrade their pitching depth so they acquired former White Sox closer Sergio Santos to help solidify the back-end of their bullpen and tried to sign pitcher Yu Darvish to a offer-sheet but were outbid by the Texas Rangers. As for the 2012 Blue Jays, they feature a dangerous lineup which is led by MVP Candidate Jose Bautista along with Adam Lind, Colby Rasmus, J.P. Arenciba, and Brett Lawrie. The Jays also feature a young pitching staff highlighted by pitchers Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Henderson Alvarez, and Kyle Drabek but at the same time don't have a true number one starter. If the Jays were able to trade a few of their young prospects (Travis d'Arnaud, Anthony Gose, Jake Marisnick, Noah Syndergaard, or other prospects in the Jays system), they would become a legitimate threat to the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox and make this a four team race once the playoffs role around.

Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles: Baltimore once again finished in last place in the AL East and still have a lot of holes to fill on their roster. At the end of the 2011 season, the Orioles did a great job playing the spoiler roleby defeating the Red Sox 5 out of last 7 times as the Red Sox were falling apart. The core of the O's includes hitters Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters along with pitchers Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter. In addition to having a few young players currently on their roster, the O's have a couple of solid prospects in their farm system which includes shortstop Manny Machado and pitcher Dylan Bundy along with a few other prospects. The Orioles core is average, but I feel the new regime in Baltimore (led by new GM Dan Duquette) will make a few changes to their roster and at the same time use the models that have been used by Toronto and Tampa Bay to to rebuild their farm system. Baltimore's 2012 season will once again be tough one as they continue to remake their roster while playing in the toughest division in baseball. At the same time, I feel Baltimore should have a few attractive trade pieces at the trade deadline that might intrigue other teams (Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts (if he proves he's healthy), Mark Reynolds, Kevin Gregg, Jason Hammel, and Matt Lindstrom) if they decide to be sellers at the trade deadline.

American League Central

Cleveland The AL Central was disappointing last year as by the middle of August, the Division race was over and the Detroit Tigers ran away with the division title. Unfortunately for baseball fans, this season seems like it has a good chance of mirroring what occurred last year as this year division race might be over by the trade deadline.

Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers: The start of the 2011 Tigers season featured a one man rotation (at the All-Star Break the Tigers ranked 26th in team ERA) as pitcher Justin Verlander helped carry Detroit's starting rotation throughout the first half of their season. At the all-star break, Verlander led the Majors in wins, strikeouts, and WHIP and was the early favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award. In the second half of the season, the rest of the Tigers pitching staff started to step-up, highlighted by the newly acquired Doug Fister as Detroit took off and won the AL Central by 15 games. In the playoffs, the Tigers defeated the Yankees in a 5 series however they eventually lost to the Texas Rangers in 6 game series. In the offseason, Detorit realized they a few things which included having a lot of big contracts coming off their books (Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, and Brad Penny), averaged 32,000 fans per game, and reached the American League Championship Series. With these three facts, Detroit was seen as a team that would be players on the free-agent market. Before the Tigers could make a move, Tigers Star Designated Hitter Victor Martinez tore his ACL, leaving Detroit in a difficult position and had Tigers fans unsure who would fill in for Victor Martinez. A few weeks later, the Tigers turned around and decided to sign the second best player on the free agent market, (Prince Fielder), to a 9 year deal. For the 2012 season, the Tigers once again should be offensive powerhouse led by sluggers Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera along with Jhonny Peralta, Delmon Young, Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, and the most underrated player in baseball, Alex Avila. Detroit also features the best pitcher in baseball in 2011 MVP and Cy Young Award Winner Justin Verlander along with one of the bullpen's in the league highlighted by the man who didn't have a blow save last year, Jose Valverde. The two key question surrounding the 2012 Tigers are: do they have enough starting pitching (outside of Verlander) to compete with other elite teams and will their team defense be able to hold-up throughout the season. If the Tigers defense is stable and the rest of the rotation can step up and help Verlander, the Tigers will be a threat to win their first World Series Title since the mid 1980's; if not, this season might mirror that of the 2008 Tigers.

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians: The 2011 Indians showed there a team on the rise and proved they will feature a strong offense next season. The 2011 Indians also decided to upgrade their pitching staff by trading for Colorado Rockies Ace Ubaldo Jimenez and are counting on him to anchor their rotation. The 2011 offseason was quiet for Cleveland as the Indians only traded for veteran pitcher Derek Lowe and resigned fan favorite but often injured Grady Sizemore. In 2012, the Indians once again should feature a solid lineup which includes: (Sizemore, Michael Brantley, Shin-SooChoo, Asdrubal Cabrera, TravisHafner, along with youngsters Lonnie Chisenhall, Carlos Santana, and Jason Kipnis. The offense once again should be great, the question for Indians fans lies within their pitching rotation. Cleveland's staff will include All-Stars Jimenez and Lowe, along with youngsters Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson. If the Indians rotation shows they can be a reliable group, the Indians should put a little pressure on Detroit throughout the 2012 season. If the season doesn't get off to a good start for the Indians, they should still be able to trade a few of the 2012 offseason free agents (Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, or Derek Lowe) and continue to build their farm system.

Chicago White Sox

Chicago White Sox: The White Sox slogan last year was "All In" and unfortunately for White Sox fans, it played out to be anything but. Chicago was never able to get over the .500 mark as the final time the White Sox were above .500 mark was on April 15th with a record of 7-6. The team also had two players have the worst season of their careers (Adam Dunn and Alex Rios) along with the injury plagued season of pitcher Jake Peavy and if that wasn't enough, just before the end of the 2011 season, the Organization traded (yes, he was traded for a few prospects) Manager Ozzie Guillen to the Florida (now Miami) Marlins. A few weeks later, the White Sox decided to name former White Sox All-Star 3rd Baseman and first time manager Robin Ventura as the manager of the White Sox. With a disappointing 2011 season, people knew changes needed to be made so the team traded closer Sergio Santos (Toronto), Outfielder Carlos Quentin (San Diego), and let Pitcher Mark Buehrle leave via free agency (Miami). With Ozzie Guillen now in Miami and the Kenny-Ozzie feud over, the White Sox should not longer feature a circus like atmosphere and become a more low-profile team. If the 2012 team wants to be successful, they will need bounce-back years from a lot of players which include Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Adam Dunn, and Gordon Beckham. If the White Sox are able to receive productive years from the players mentioned above, Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza prove they can be dependable players, and Robin Ventura shows he can become a good manager in the majors; then like the Indians, the White Sox should put pressure on the Tigers at the top of the division.

Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals: The 2011 Kansas City Royals statistically didn't have a great season, but this team showed that Royals fans have a great future to look forward to. Early in the season, Kansas City decided to bring up rookies Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to give their top to prospects some experience in the majors. As the season went on, the Royals decided to also bring up a few of their other prospects along the way (Salvador Perez, Alcides Escobar, and Johnny Giavotella) and at the same time had a surprising turn of events as former top prospects Alex Gordon had a tremendous 2011 Hitting .303 while having 23 Home Runs and 87 RBI's to go along with a Gold Glove. In the offseason, the Royals decided to make a few improvements to their roster by trading for Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez and signed free agent Closer Jonathan Broxton. The 2012 Royals feature a great core of young hitters highlighted by the doubles machine (44 last year), Billy Butler, and also includes Hosmer, Moustakas, Perez, Escobar, and Gordon. The Royals also feature one of the most underrated bullpens in baseball in Broxton, Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, to go along with all-star closer JoakimSoria. The problem that with the 2012 Royals problem lies within their starting rotation which includes Jonathan Sanchez, Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Felipe Paulino, and Danny Duffy. Fortunately for the Royals, help is on the way as 3 of the team's top 6 players in their farm-system are highly touted pitching prospects (Mike Montgomery, Jake Odorizzi, and John Lamb. I feel the 2012 Royals will improve a little more but not challenge the Detroit Tigers at the top of the division, however, this is a team that is one starting pitcher away from becoming a dangerous team for many year to come. I feel with the abundance of offense the Royals will feature on both their roster and in the minors (Kansas City's top hitting prospects are outfielders Bubba Starling and Wil Myers) the Royals should look to trade one of their outfielders for a young pitcher.

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota Twins: It's rare to see a team go from Division Champions to the bottom of the division, but with the variety of injuries and a few players having down years, the Twins did indeed finish in last place in the AL Central a year after winning the AL Central Title. All of the significant players on the Twins roster went on the Disabled List at-least once last year, as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Kevin Slowey, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, Glen Perkins, Jose Mijares, Jim Thome, Denard Span, Jason Kubel, Alexi Casilla, Scott Baker, and Nick Blackburn made at-least on appearance on the DL last year. After the season, the Twins realized they would have to remake their roster and decided to let free agents Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan leave. The Twins record will be determined by the health of their roster and the success of their starting rotation. If these questions can be successfully answered, the Twins will compete with the Indians and White Sox and finish around in second or their place in the division.

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