The Designated 15: AL Power Rankings – Week 0.

Throughout the year, I’ll be separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings won’t be dependent on record alone, and will factor in such aspects as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. Normally I’ll write in-depth about the fares of 3-5 teams per week; given how it’s Opening Week however, like I did yesterday with the NL, I’ll briefly hit upon every team before they’ve played a game. Today it’s the turn of the AL.

  1. Tampa Bay Rays →  In what will most likely be David Price’s last year with the team, the Rays are all-in; the club re-signed both David DeJesus and James Loney to multiyear deals as well as picking up Ryan Hanigan and Grant Balfour, meaning Tampa Bay will have their highest Opening Day payroll in franchise history. Boasting an imposing starting staff, a solid relief corps, and employing Joe Maddon’s customary brand of defense, the onus will once again be on the offense to provide enough run support. With a full year of Wil Myers to bat behind Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria, that might not be much of an ask at all.
  2. Boston Red Sox → Minus Jacoby Ellsbury, the Red Sox will look to pick off exactly where they left off last year – on top. After everything went so perfectly last year though, the team getting incredible production out of darn near everyone on offense especially, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Boston take a small step back; they’re perhaps overly-reliant on youngsters Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr. to immediately replace the production of the departed Stephen Drew and Ellsbury (though a healthy Grady Sizemore will alleviate some of the pressure on JBJ), whereas the advanced age of key contributors David Ortiz and Koji Uehara will call for careful management of each. Still, the Sox are above-average at most every spot on the roster, and while maybe not the 97-win juggernaut of last year, should be there right until the end once again in 2014. Boy is the pinnacle of the AL East going to be fun this year.
  3. Detroit Tigers  Pros: 1) The Kinsler-for-Fielder trade not only saved them money and allowed Miguel Cabrera to move back to first base, but provided the Tigers with some more offensive balance. 2) Drew Smyly has finally been moved into a more appropriate role than the LOOGY slot since-departed manager Jim Leyland had him in last September. 3) After winter surgery on his core, Justin Verlander looks like his old self, rather than his old self once again. 4) The AL Central isn’t exactly a division of death. Cons: 1) Smyly graduated to the oration only because of the Doug Fister trade. 2) Left field is still an offensive sinkhole and Torii Hunter’s age is a worry in right, nor is there much in the way of assets to make a trade if necessary (or even just to grab a much-needed bullpen arm) 3) Jose Iglesias has stress fractures in both his legs, leaving the shortstop position very much up for grabs 4) Oh dear Lord, those recent contract negotiations/extensions though…
  4. Oakland Athletics  They might not have a pre-eminent superstar, but the A’s are very, very good. Much like the Rays (well, at least before 2014), they’re perennially overlooked during spring, and then proceed to make everyone look stupid by extracting value from every possible source over the regular season; Defensive shifts and positional versatility? Oakland are pioneers in the field. Using platoons to maximize splits? Perhaps only the Red Sox do it better, and they’ve double the payroll. Even without Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, the A’s still boast a stable of quality arms (Sonny Gray being the most exciting), and even dug deep into their pockets to add ‘proven closer’ Jim Johnson to the bullpen mix. More than anyone perhaps, Billy Beane’s Athletics pride themselves on having no gaping holes, and guess what? Once again, they have no gaping holes. I’m tired of looking stupid – pay attention, they’ll win a ton of games in the AL West this year.
  5. Kansas City Royals → …and the American League suddenly drops off in quality. After last year’s pseudo-breakthrough, the Royals are in pole position to grab a Wild-Card spot should all break evenly. Dayton Moore avoided having his lunch money taken by a big nasty, savvy, team (*cough* Wil Myers trade *cough*) this winter, effectively plugging the gaping holes at second base and right field with Omar Infante and Norichika Aoki. Rather than caving to Ervin Santana’s demands too, he picked up a compensatory pick when the Braves eventually cracked and signed the big righty – score another to Dayton. The Jason Vargas contract will likely go down as a blemish in the long run, but in James Shields’ likely last year in KC, the club will need help from every spot; if Mike Moustakas can make the leap alongside Eric Hosmer and Salvador Perez, they continue their slick fielding, and the flame throwing Yordano Ventura thrives from the jump as a starter, KC have a great shot at meeting Big Game James before his regular season alter ego inevitably departs. 
  6. New York Yankees  Enough ink has already been spilled on the Yankees this offseason; to summarise, they spent a boatload of money after a horrible 2013, ensuring a solid outfield, Jesus Montero trade?” href=”http://dugoutperspective.mlblogs.com/2014/03/25/might-the-yankees-finally-win-the-jesus-montero-trade/” target=”_blank”>an even better rotation, but an unforgivably poor infield and questionable bullpen. If all breaks right, perhaps Derek Jeter makes one final postseason hurrah. If things go poorly (or even simply as expected considering their tough division), well, he could suffer through a similarly depressing farewell season as Mariano Rivera endured last year.
  7. Los Angeles Angels → They’ve locked up Mike Trout, now to just get him to the playoffs for the first time in his young career. The back end of the rotation doomed the Angels to mediocrity last year, so acquiring Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs for essentially Mark Trumbo represented a good bit of business on the part of Jerry Dipoto; if the two lefties can create some rotation stability behind the declining velocity of Jered Weaver, L.A. should be just fine in terms of starting pitching. The multi-year addition of Joe Smith should bolster a bullpen that was criminally bad in 2013 too. Now, if they just got some of the Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton production they shelled out for, Anaheim would have a good shot for the division. That I’ve got them this low in a fairly weak AL West suggests my opinion on their chances of their rebounding. 
  8. Baltimore Orioles → As predicted, the regression monster slapped the O’s in the face in 2013 after Buck Showalter’s deal with the devil from the season prior expired. After a long period of inactivity, the birds dived into free agency late this winter, snapping up Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz long after others had decided the compensatory picks attached were too rich a price; both will fulfill needs for Baltimore, but whether they can lift the Orioles back to the heights of 2012 remains dubious considering the team’s loaded division. If Manny Machado is out for any significant period of time too, their additions might not even matter.
  9. Cleveland Indians  Terry Francona’s squad are a tough nut to crack; though they made the playoffs last year and have a talented roster, Vegas has their line set at 81.5 wins – an assessment I kind of agree with. 2013 success stories Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir are both gone, meaning the Tribe will be heavily reliant on both Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber going forward – a design I can’t get on board with. Thanks to Danny Salazar, a Jason Kipnis-led offense, and the ‘Carlos Santana: third baseman’experiment, the Indians will be eminently watchable during 2014, but it’s unlikely they replicate the feats of ’13.
  10. Texas Rangers → Oy. What a brutal Spring Training for the Rangers. They’d probably have come in at 4 or 5 a mere two months ago, now they’re without Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Geovany Soto, Jurickson Profar, and Elvis Andrus come Opening Day. If they ever get some health, Texas have a good shot to advance up the rankings quickly; until then we’ll just have to see if Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder can jack enough homers to compensate for Tanner Scheppers being their Opening Day starter.
  11. Seattle Mariners  Much like the Yankees, I’ve written Seattle’s offseason to death; they finally landed their long-craved star player by outbidding the field by $65 million for Robinson Cano, but unless Taijuan Walker and co. can provide the lift necessary behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma (when he returns), the M’s will likely be hovering below .500 again. I’d love for my now local team to surprise me mind you – I have a date with Mike Trout at Safeco Field in May and would appreciate a good showing.
  12. Toronto Blue Jays  After entering 2013 with high expectations, the injury bug bit hard Toronto hard, taking down Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, and Brett Lawrie for significant chunks of time, while also rendering their promising rotation moot. Believing in the already-rostered talent, GM Alex Anthopolous didn’t, or was unable to, add any real pieces over the winter, figuring normalcy would soon be restored after such an unlucky season. The Jays are going to need far more than simply the healthy return of the aforementioned plenty to compete in the restocked AL East however; lacking any power arms to back the aging R.A. Dickey and Mark Buerhle, the shallow rotation might be a real problem against intradivision bats, whereas the offense is still one-dimensional (and thus vulnerable to prolonged slumps). Given their stiff competition, and how it’s considered ‘put up or shut up’ time for Anthopolous, it could be a trying year north of the border.
  13. Chicago White Sox → GM Rick Hahn has been widely lauded for his offseason work – most notably his snaring Adam Eaton from the Diamondbacks and landing Cuban slugger Jose Abreu – but the Sox are clearly still devoid of the talent necessary to send off franchise player Paul Konerko with anywhere close to a winning record. Thankfully they’ve Minnesota in their division, so will unlikely be propping up the AL Central alone come the end of the year.
  14. Minnesota Twins → How far back will the Twins be in the AL Central by the time they host the All-Star Game this summer? The biggest news to come out of Minnesota this winter was the formal move of Joe Mauer to first base, closely followed by Miguel Sano needing TJ surgery – that’s how depressing things are for the Twins right now. Even with the pitching additions of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes, this ball club isn’t scaring anyone even remotely – that is at least until Byron Buxton shows up in September.
  15. Houston Astros → They’re not quite the 51-win joke of 2013 (they’ll actually be spending real money this year on Scott Feldman and Dexter Fowler), but the 2014 Astros are still going to be horrifically bad. In a loaded AL West division too, there will be little opportunity for even incremental improvement; Astros fans can go ahead and write off a 65+ win 2014 already, and keep dreaming of the not-so-distant days when the farm system arrives and Houston are relevant once more.
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  1. Pingback: The Designated 15: AL Power Rankings – Week 2. « The Dugout Perspective

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