I'm a few days late in posting this, but I did complete this prediction sheet before the first game on Sunday night. If anyone feels the need to question my integrity by digging through e-mails, Hillary Clinton style, we can do that! I have no problem with providing proof that I sent over my predictions to my brother before 2016's first official pitch!
Here's how I see the 2016 American League playing out in terms of standings, win totals, and playoff teams (in italics):
Boston solved a lot of issues with acquisitions Price, Kimbrel and Carson Smith, but have a lot bad decisions like Pablo Sandoval and Rusney Castillo kicking around. Their young core up the middle should progress enough to bring them out of the basement, but there are too many question marks in the rotation and bullpen to hit 90+ wins. Dombrowski will most likely add talent mid-season, but it will only be enough to win the Wild Card.
The Yankees bullpen could be historic and will most certainly be their strength as they try to shorten games. I can't see Teixeira and A-Rod replicating what they did last year to carry them to a playoff berth. I like Pineda and Eovaldi, but unless become #1's, I don't see a finish higher than 3rd place.
Pitching should once again be Tampa Bay's meal ticket for success, and I buy into their staff. Archer is a legitimate Ace, Cobb could be back mid-season, and I think Matt Moore is going to surprise people that haven’t given him much thought. I don't see enough offense to keep their pitchers from a lot of undeserved L's like the Mariner's clubs of the last 10 years.
Baltimore made a lot of questionable decisions in the off-season and have players like Kevin Gausman and Matt Wieters that should be cornerstone players for them, but are still question marks years into their careers. While other teams like the Astros and Nationals are turning top picks into sure-fire All-Stars, the Orioles are just hoping for above average production. That's not going to get in done in the AL East.
The youth and vigor of the Royals is a strength, but after two deep runs into October, I think fatigue will catch up with the 2016 club. The back of their bullpen is always a strength for the most recent incarnations of this team, however workload could be a problem and bullpen performance can always be volatile year to year. There is too much talent, athleticism, and drive to write them off completely. They will make it 3 years in a row of October baseball via a Wild Card Spot.
Detroit is full of elite veterans who could all put together healthy seasons and make a run for it. I don't think that health will last all year. Victor Martinez, Miggy, and Verlander all have had some health issues lately and the likelihood they are all out there for full seasons while J.D. Martinez is bashing baseballs across Lake Michigan is very low. I think the Tigers hang around long enough to sabotage their chances of making any smart trades for the future for a franchise that desperately needs to inject youth.
Minnesota shows some promise with the organization's farm system ready to graduate top prospects, but there just isn't enough veteran talent to warrant anything much over a .500 record in this division. They’ll show some flashes, but their time has yet to come.
2016 is the year where Chris Sale's body breaks down with his extremely violent delivery which won't help this already poor performing team. I don't think the White Sox have much going for them in 2016 other than being a punching bag for the rest of the league.
Texas adds a full season of Cole Hamels and eventually returns Yu Darvish to their already impressive and balanced roster. Texas will be a team to be reckoned with, but it won’t be enough to make the grade for October. I don't have much faith in the bullpen, and they will have to baby Darvish back to health after Tommy John surgery.
I'd love to predict the return of Mariners playoff baseball, which the world hasn't seen since 2001, but they don’t have the guns in the very talented American League. Cano, Taijuan Walker, and Hultzen could breakout to compliment great seasons from Seager, King Felix, Iwakuma and make me eat crow, but that’s still likely not enough. There's definite upside here, and I think if I'm end up about leaving a team in the AL out of the playoffs, it's Seattle.
The Angels are always fun to watch with Mike Trout being the best player at everything on the field. Unfortunately, the surrounding roster is questionable at best. The front office has had years of bad contracts and decisions catch up to them, while simultaneously failing to develop a new wave of talent to surround their megastar with.
Oakland has the very talented ace Sonny Gray, Josh Reddick, Sean Doolittle, and little else to offer. Billy Beane might be selling pieces off as early as June.