We’ve hit the official, unofficial half-way point through the 162 game campaign known as the Major League Baseball regular season. The best in the game battled it out in San Diego for the 2016 All Star Game, in which the American League, yet again, secured home field advantage in this year’s World Series. With the second half beginning tomorrow, I’m going to give you my postseason predictions for the American League along with who/what I like and don’t like about each team.
AL West: Texas Rangers (54-36)
I like this team a lot. I’m a big Jeff Banister fan. It’s great to see him succeed as a manager. He played one career MLB game as a Pirate and has 1 major league plate appearance, in which he got a hit, batting 1.000 for his career. He had been in the Pirates organization from 1994-2014. It’s really cool to see what he is doing with this club in his second year as manager.
I love the Cole Hamels move last year. It was a matter of time before Philly dealt him and was a great trade for both ends. He helped the postseason run in 2015 and hasn’t missed a step in 2016. Yu Darvish is said to rejoin the rotation this weekend in Chicago against the Cubs as well. A move they must make this year isn’t for pitching, but for a catcher. Jonathan Lucroy. Do it Texas.
I love the year Ian Desmond is having, all while playing center field. He was a shortstop since 2009 with the Nationals and turned down some really big contracts from them. (One being 7yr/107mil and then turned down the qualifying offer made after 2015 of 1yr/15.8mil. He instead took a 1yr/8mil contract with the Rangers in February 2016. He is having the best season of his career at age 30 and is well on pace to be a 20/20 guy. Maybe he made the right move after all?
I’m not a fan of Prince Fielder. A down year for the big boy posting a -1.6 WAR as a DH. A .216 AVG with 8 home runs is something that I’m sure Texas is loving to pay $24 million to this year. They aren’t going to put that kind of money on the bench. Mitch Moreland has been down this year with the bat also, but Jurickson Profar (once regarded as the #1 prospect in baseball a few years ago) has stepped up nicely playing 1st base.
AL Central: Cleveland Indians (52-36)
Pitching. Pitching. And… Oh yeah, pitching. Cleveland has the most complete starting rotation in the American League. For me, it is all about pitching come October. I think Madison Bumgarner would agree with me in 2014 postseason. I am a big Danny Salazar fan. I don’t think this guy gets enough credit or attention. He was a well deserved 2016 All Star selection. Trevor Bauer has been a great addition to the rotation after starting the year in the bullpen. Carlos Carrasco is back from an early season DL trip and back on his usual pace. Corey Kluber started slow but is returning to his form that won him the AL Cy Young in 2014. A rotation this good could lead Cleveland to their first postseason appearance since they lost in the 2013 Wild Card game.
Francisco Lindor is my favorite Indian. I think Lindor is better than the other young AL shortstop who beat him out for 2015 AL Rookie of the Year, Carlos Correa. A switch hitting shortstop that plays great defense, hits 3rd in the order and can flash power from both sides of the plate. Oh and has swiped 13 bags to this point of the season. This kid is really good, and it’s scary because he could become insanely good at just 22 years old.
A big low point for the Indians is their outfield. Michael Brantley is hurt for what seems to me like the 10th time, Marlon Byrd gets suspended for his second offense with PEDs, and Abraham Almonte gets busted for PEDs as well. Though the cast of Jose Ramirez, Rajai Davis, and Lonnie Chisenhall have done a nice job all together, it just makes me wonder how much better this team could be with all the parts in place in the outfield.
The only other thing I don’t like about this team is that they play their home games in Cleveland. Yes, that is a valid reason.
AL East: Baltimore Orioles (51-36)
Manny Machado is one of the most exciting young players to watch in the game. He does it all and reminds me of the young A-Rod I used to watch growing up. Except he does it steroid free… Sorry Yankee fans. The guy makes impossible plays look so smooth and so simple. His throws are on the money every time, and he has 2 Gold Gloves already. Hopefully he has a big enough space in his house for all the Gold Gloves that he’s about to accumulate over his career.
Chris Davis is fun to watch swing. I say swing because its fun to watch him connect with one and hit it a mile. It’s also fun to watch him swing and miss and almost hit it a mile 32% of the time. Nice K rate, Crush.
I love Zach Britton. His sinker may be the nastiest single pitch in the game. It is devastating to face as a hitter. Brad Brach has been another great piece in the back end of the Orioles bullpen with 6 wins and an ERA below 1.00. A combination like that can be a great asset to have on your team come the postseason.
I dislike the starting pitching. For them to make a run into October, their starters need to improve outside of Tillman. I guarantee Orioles fans do not want to keep watching Ubaldo Jimenez in a postseason push. I would like to see them go out and get a left handed arm. With Drew Pomeranz heading up to Boston I’d like to see them get Matt Moore from the Rays.
AL Wild Card Teams: Toronto Blue Jays (51-40) and Houston Astros (48-41)
Toronto started slow in 2016 but has turned it on and is tied with Boston currently for the two Wild Card spots. They are loaded with power through the order and have multiple starting pitchers that made the All Star team. I dislike their bullpen, other than Roberto Osuna. I have never been able to find myself liking Cecil, Grilli or Storen. Rent a bullpen arm to go with Osuna. Someone like Jeremy Jeffress in Milwaukee or Jake McGee from Colorado would fit. This team is going to be all in this year with lots of players heading for free agency at the end of this season.
Houston is another team that has started slow in April but has made their presence known. They went 16-8 in June and look to continue that kind of play. They’re only 2 games out of a Wild Card spot coming out of the break (5.5 out of the division). Jose Altuve is having a monster season and closer Will Harris has been exceptional. If Dallas Keuchel overcomes a shaky first half and Doug Fister keeps it up, this team will be playing into October. They have plenty of young guys in the minors that could come up and have an immediate impact or that could be used in a potential deadline move.
Honorable Mentions: Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals
Boston has the best offense in baseball right now and currently holds one of the two Wild Card spots. Their starting pitching has been so-so outside of Wright, Porcello and Price. They just traded for Drew Pomeranz from San Diego to bolster the rotation. If Price has a better second half, the Red Sox could easily find themselves on top of the division. Also, if Big Papi is keeping his word and really retiring, they’ll want to send him out with a bang.
I have to give a mention to the defending world champs. Injuries have been a huge part of keeping this team back. Moustakas out for the year and Alex Gordon missed a month earlier in the year and continues to struggle with the bat. The starting pitching has been weak. Lots of help will be needed if the Royals are to make a run to repeat as champs.
National League predictions coming soon.