MLB 2019 Team-by-Team Preview: American League

Updated Monday 3rd June 2019, 12:27 PM

The dark, baseball-less winter months are on their way out, teams are tuning up in Spring Training, and the 2019 Major League Baseball regular season is almost upon us. The Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics will travel to Tokyo, Japan, to get the season underway in a two-game series on March 20-21, before the traditional Opening Day festivities get going on March 28, the earliest Opening Day in MLB history.

Bet on the Outright Winner of the MLB Here

There’s been a lot of movement on and off the field since the Boston Red Sox beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in October’s World Series, and there is certain to be a lot more change before the Commissioner’s Trophy is contested again. We’ve taken a look at the odds of winning the World Series for all 30 MLB teams , starting with those competing in the American League.

Select one of these links to jump to a division: AL East | AL Central | AL West 

AL East

  • 2018 Division Winners – Boston Red Sox

Baltimore Orioles

  • 2018 progress – 5th In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 601.00
  • Key moves – Dwight Smith Jr (from Toronto), Adam Jones (to free agency)

The Orioles will be eager to forget their torrid 2018 season, in which they posted a record of .290, the worst in the Major Leagues and the club’s worst result since 1939. Their trade of All-Star third-baseman Manny Machado to the Dodgers in return for five prospects is in line with the management’s aspirations to rebuild, but will that be enough to satisfy a fan-base who had to sit through 115 losses last year?

Mike Elias, former assistant GM at the Houston Astros, was brought in as Orioles GM in November, and he has stated that he wants to get the team to a “playoff-caliber state as quick as possible.” The team will be boosted by the return of designated hitter Mark Trumbo, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since August, but it’s going to take some big performances from his less experienced colleagues to even approach .500 ball in 2019. Don’t expect big things until that roster has been strengthened.

Boston Red Sox

  • 2018 progress – World Series Winners
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 7.00
  • Key moves – Craig Kimbrel (to free agency), Ian Kinsler (to free agency)

The Red Sox smashed 2018 on their way to a World Series title and a franchise-record 108 wins, and there is little to suggest that their momentum will slow this year. The loss of All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel, who saved 42 games for the club in 2018, will be a blow, but not enough of one to derail the club’s postseason ambitions. 

Dave Dombrowski, the Red Sox president of baseball operations, has stated that the gap left by Kimbrel won’t be filled before Opening Day, which leaves Matt Barnes as the favorite to step in as closer when the regular season gets underway. The return of second-baseman Dustin Pedroia from long-term injury is a huge boost, but it’s expected he will only feature in around 100 games. With the strength of the Red Sox lineup, anything less than a deep run into the postseason will be a disappointment to staff and supporters alike.

New York Yankees

  • 2018 progress – Division Runners-Up
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 7.00
  • Key moves – Adam Ottavino (from free agency), James Paxton (from Seattle), Troy Tulowitzki (from Toronto), DJ LeMahieu (from free agency)

The Yankees have been busy in the offseason and have added some depth to their lineup, most notably in the form of second-baseman and three-time Gold Glove winner DJ LeMahieu. He signed a two-year deal reportedly worth $24 million, and his defensive experience and .298 career batting average should help shore up a side hoping to bounce back from the disappointment of losing out to bitter rivals the Boston Red Sox in last year’s ALDS.

The arrival of left-hander James Paxton, who was traded from the Mariners in return for three Yankees players, will add some depth to the starting rotation, while reliever Adam Ottavino, who went 6-4 with a career best 2.43 ERA in 2018, will further strengthen an already formidable bullpen. 

Last year the Yankees relied on their power hitting, leading the Major Leagues in home runs and scoring the second-most runs, beaten only by the Red Sox. If players like DJ LeMahieu can add some more contact to the Yankees offence, they could easily close the 25-run differential with Boston and take another swing at the postseason.

Tampa Bay Rays

  • 2018 progress – 3rd In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 36.00
  • Key moves – Avisail Garcia (from free agency), Yandy Diaz (from Cleveland), Mike Zunino (from Seattle), Charlie Morton (from free agency)

The Rays played .500 ball for the first time in five years in 2018 but were still 18 games behind a record-setting Red Sox outfit. Hopefully for the Rays, ongoing speculation about pitcher Blake Snell’s contract won’t turn into anything more disruptive. The negligible salary increase last year’s Cy Young winner received heading into this season surprised many, not least the player himself. 

Snell addressed the issue in a statement and moved on to focus on the preseason, and while he may be optimistic when he says he looks forward to competing for the World Series, there’s no doubt that he could help push the Rays on to bigger and better things. 

The club also made some moves in the offseason, signing outfielder Avisail Garcia on a one-year deal. His numbers last year weren’t stellar, but if he can reproduce his form from 2017, when he hit his way to a .330 average and an OBP of .380, he will be invaluable. With the other additions they made to their lineup, the Rays could bag a Wild Card spot after missing out by just a couple of games last year.

Toronto Blue Jays

  • 2018 progress – 4th In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 91.00
  • Key moves – Clay Buchholz (from free agency), Matt Shoemaker (from free agency), Dwight Smith Jr (to Baltimore), Russel Martin (to LA Dodgers), Troy Tulowitzki (to free agency)

Right-hander Marcus Stroman has been given the Opening Day assignment for the Toronto Blue Jays, and he will be hoping to put a disappointing 2018 season, in which he went 4-9 with a 5.54 ERA, behind him. That the Blue Jays have no bona fide ace to call on for big game days is some indication of why they won’t push for a Wild Card spot in 2019. 

Charlie Montoyo steps in as Blue Jays manager for after some success as a bench coach for the Rays last season. He’ll be overseeing a rebuilding Toronto outfit that saw a lot of roster movement in the offseason, including the signing of veteran pitcher Clay Buchholz and right-hander Matt Shoemaker. 

All eyes will be on top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr in his rookie year in the Majors. He has ended Spring Training laid up with an oblique strain, though. The loss of aging but experienced personnel in Troy Tulowitzki and Russel Martin places the Blue Jays firmly at the start of their rebuild, and they’ll struggle to push for a postseason spot this year as a result.

AL Central

  • 2018 Division Winners – Cleveland Indians

Chicago White Sox

  • 2018 progress – 4th In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 76.00
  • Key moves – Jon Jay (from free agency), Kelvin Herrera (from free agency), Avisail Garcia (to free agency) 

The Chicago White Sox went after some high-profile targets in the offseason, chief among them departing All-Star Oriole Manny Machado, but they failed to land any of them. That’s not to say they didn’t stay busy. They signed veteran outfielder Jon Jay on a one-year deal in January, partly as a sweetener for Machado, with whom he is good friends. Jay has posted solid numbers in recent seasons but has struggled to claim a regular place in a lineup after leaving the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015, and has since played for five different clubs.

On the mound, right-hand reliever Kelvin Herrera comes in on a two-year deal worth $18 million and a third-year option of $10 million. That’s the third-highest salary on the White Sox roster, so it will be hoped that he can make an immediate impact. His numbers have dropped slightly from his All-Star form in 2015-16, but he still posted a combined 17 saves and 2.44 ERA last year with the Royals and the Nationals. The White Sox have finished fourth in the division for five years running, and while they might improve on that this year, they won’t clinch a Wild Card spot.

Cleveland Indians

  • 2018 progress – Division Winners
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 15.00
  • Key moves – Carlos Santana (from Seattle), Michael Brantley (to free agency), Josh Donaldson (to free agency), Edwin Encarnacion (to Seattle)

Most of the talk about the Cleveland Indians heading into the regular season regards how the MLB’s new rules could affect the club going forward. Manager Terry Francona admitted that the change he’s most concerned with is the one that says pitchers will have to face at least three batters when they enter a game. The strength of the Indians bullpen was a big factor in the club’s incredible 102-win 2017 season, and the new rule could have a big impact on how effectively relief pitchers can be utilized in the future.

The Indians have otherwise been relatively quiet in the offseason, and haven’t made any huge additions. Carlos Santana returns to the club after a year with the Phillies. It will be between him and the other recent signing, Jake Bauers, to fill the gap at first base left by the outgoing Edwin Encarnacion, with a spot in the outfield also waiting for one of them. There is little chance that the club will make any big signings before the start of the regular season, as it has been made clear that payroll reduction is a current priority. As a result, they’re banking their postseason spot on the teams around them not strengthening either. A risky strategy.

Detroit Tigers

  • 2018 progress – 3rd In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 251.00
  • Key moves – Josh Harrison (from free agency), Jody Mercer (from free agency)

Nicholas Castellanos is coming off a career-best .298 season, in which he hit 23 home runs and 89 RBIs, but despite that, his future is still uncertain as he heads into the last year of his contract with the Tigers. The club offered him out to trade in the offseason with no success, and Castellanos has stated he is open to discuss a contract extension in order to avoid a difficult free agent market in the winter.

Aside from the situation with Castellanos, the Tigers have had a quiet offseason as they continue their rebuilding process. The signing of Josh Harrison and Jody Mercer should provide some stability to the infield and, in the former’s case, some utility in a team that will be looking to find what its best shape looks like in 2019. Miguel Cabrera’s return after his season-ending bicep injury in June will obviously be a huge boost for the organization, especially if he can find the form that led him to seven straight All-Star games.  

Kansas City Royals

  • 2018 progress – 5th In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 251.00
  • Key moves – Billy Hamilton (from free agency), Terrance Gore (from free agency), Brad Boxberger (from free agency), Alcides Escobar (to free agency)

The descent of the 2015 World Series champions reached its nadir last year, as the Kansas City Royals limped their way to 58 wins – the second-fewest in MLB, after the Orioles. The offense didn’t struggle to get on base, but the runs weren’t brought in when they needed to be, leading to one of the lowest team RBIs in the leagues.

On the face of it, the addition to the roster of former Reds speedster Billy Hamilton should help alleviate that problem. He stole the fifth-most number of bases in 2018, so there are few better than him at getting into scoring position. Terrance Gore doesn’t have similar experience but he has the same speed: he has stolen 27 bases in 63 career games. Neither, however, are big run scorers. Like Royals second-baseman Whit Merrifield, who stole more bases than anyone last year, they will need backup from the hitters behind them in the lineup to get back to home plate. Speed isn’t everything. 

Minnesota Twins

  • 2018 progress – Division Runners-Up
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 51.00
  • Key moves – Lucas Duda (from free agency), Jonathan Schoop (from free agency), Nelson Cruz (from free agency), Joe Mauer (retired)

The Twins have brought in some big hitters in the offseason in an attempt to shake their status as second-best in the AL Central. Lucas Duda enters the lineup after an unmoored couple of years in which he has hit for four different clubs for a .228 average. Duda is known for his ability to get on base despite underwhelming batting averages, and he has continued that trend through Spring Training, hitting for .267 but a huge .405 on-base percentage. Those numbers are projected to come down through the season, of course, but he should provide another dependable out for an ambitious Twins side.

C.J. Cron and veteran Nelson Cruz were also signed in the offseason to add some power to the top and middle of the order. They hit 67 homers and batted in 171 runs between them last year, and with other power hitters sitting around them in the lineup, it could be another productive season for the Twins. If it all comes together, the club could well take the division from an Indians side who have been sluggish with changes this offseason.

AL West

  • 2018 Division Winners – Houston Astros

Houston Astros

  • 2018 progress – ALCS Runners-Up
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 7.00
  • Key moves – Charlie Morton (to free agency), Dallas Keuchel (to free agency), Aledmys Diaz (from free agency), Michael Brantley (from free agency)

2018 was another record-setting year for the Astros, after a 2017 season that saw the franchise claim its first ever World Series title. They might not have achieved the same heights last year, but they did win a record 103 regular season games on their way to an ALCS defeat at the hands of the eventual champions, the Boston Red Sox. Perhaps understandably, given the club’s success over the last two years, not much has changed in this offseason. 

Right-hander Charlie Morton was a big departure from the club after two good years, culminating in his 15-win, All-Star 2018 season. He has suffered from shoulder problems in recent years, and he has stated that his new contract with the Rays may well be his last before retirement, but there is no doubt that the Astros have lost a champion-caliber asset. 

The club has made some good signings, though. Outfielder Michael Brantley brings a .295 average and two All-Star nods from his decade at the Cleveland Indians, and his well-rounded game means that he will slot in perfectly somewhere in the middle of the Astros order. On the mound, left-hander Wade Miley will add some more depth to the club’s rotation, and he will be looking to build upon a good 2018 season that helped to banish the memories of his career-worst 15 loss year with the Orioles in 2017. 

Los Angeles Angels

  • 2018 progress – 4th In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 51.00
  • Key moves – Matt Harvey (from free agency), Jonathan Lucroy (from free agency), Trevor Cahill (from free agency), Garrett Richards (to free agency)

If there’s one thing the Angels have proved in recent years, it is that one man does not make a team. Mike Trout had another incredible year in 2018: .312 average; .460 OBP; 147 hits; 39 homers; 24 stolen bases; the list goes on. Despite his accomplishments, the Angels could only muster 80 wins and a fourth-place finish in the division. The club has a couple of years before Trout’s contract runs out, and they are reportedly considering offering him a huge nine-figure, ten-year extension before then. But will that be enough for a player that could walk into any championship-winning team in the Major Leagues?

In the short-term, the Angels have had to supplement their starting rotation, since Shohei Otani is ruled out for 2019 for Tommy John surgery. Right-hander Matt Harvey was signed in December, and while he’s not regained the form of his breakout 2012-13 seasons, he should be good for five-plus wins in Otani’s absence. Jonathan Lucroy will add some experience as catcher, and the Angels will be hoping that the move will spur him on to regain the offensive form that led him to two All-Star games in the last five years.

Oakland Athletics

  • 2018 progress – Division Runners-Up
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 26.00
  • Key moves – Jed Lowrie (to free agency), Jonathan Lucroy (to free agency), Trevor Cahill (to free agency), Jurickson Profar (from Texas), Marco Estrada (from free agency)

The departure of utility infielder Jed Lowrie is a big blow to the Athletics, and he leaves after a 159-hit, 99-RBI, 37-double season. Only in his first year in Oakland did he post bigger numbers. Jurickson Profar comes in to fill the gap, and while his numbers last year weren’t quite up there with Lowrie’s, he still had an admirable season with the Texas Rangers, hitting .254 – above his career average – and ending the season with 20 home runs.

The A’s also added to their rotation in the form of righty Marco Estrada, although he had a 2018 to forget after pitching 14 losses with the Toronto Blue Jays. The form of the 2015 Cy Young contender has dipped in recent years, which means he was acquired by Oakland on a one-year deal worth $4 million, less than a third of what he finished up on in Toronto. The A’s bullpen also got some extra personnel with the signing of free agent Joakim Soria on a two-year deal. Soria ended 2018 with three wins, 16 saves, and a 3.12 ERA, so he should provide some solid relief and help the A’s clinch a Wild Card spot for the second-year running.

Seattle Mariners

  • 2018 progress – 3rd In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 61.00
  • Key moves – Robinson Cano (to New York Mets), Edwin Diaz (to New York Mets), Nelson Cruz (to free agency), Domingo Santana (from Milwaukee), Edwin Encarnacion (from Cleveland)

Some big names have departed the Seattle Mariners during this offseason, including Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, James Paxton, and Jean Segura. It has been made clear that the focus for the future is on youth prospects, and the offloading of all that salary (Cano alone was on $24 million in 2018) will give the Mariners plenty of room to find and develop the next big stars.

That will almost certainly come at a cost, however, and last year’s Wild Card-chasing aspirations are not realistic this time round. Between them, Cano and Cruz were responsible for 227 hits, 47 homers, 147 RBIs and a combined .273 average, and the Mariners will suffer without finding replacements for those kinds of numbers. Outfielder Domingo Santana will enter the middle of the order looking to do just that, but will need to develop last year’s .265, 56-hit season to make a big impact. Similarly, first-baseman Edwin Encarnacion has the potential to change games, but he’ll need to improve on what was a forgettable season by his standards. Expect the Mariners to go backwards this year as they build for future success.

Texas Rangers

  • 2018 progress – 5th In Division
  • Odds of Winning 2019 World Series – 201.00
  • Key moves – Jurickson Profar (to Oakland), Adrian Beltre (retired), Asdrubal Cabrera (from free agency), Zach McAllister (from free agency), Shelby Miller (from free agency)

The Rangers posted one of the worst seasons in franchise history in 2018, playing .414 baseball on the way to just 67 wins. It’s a far cry from their division-winning ways of just three and four years ago. Perhaps to the consternation of Rangers fans, the club hasn’t done much to remedy that situation in the offseason. The signing of vet Asdrubal Cabrera will add another dependable bat to the lineup, but his All-Star glory days are long gone, and he batted just .228 in the latter third of 2018.

The pitchers that the Rangers signed are similarly underwhelming. Right-hand reliever Zach McAllister enters off a 1-2 season in which he posted a 6.20 ERA and 1.489 WHIP, while former Cardinals and Diamondbacks starter Shelby Miller has played just nine games in the last two seasons and ended 2018 with a 10.69 ERA. Despite the lackluster numbers, he will slot into the rotation as part of a pitching staff that bagged the fewest strikeouts of any team in 2018, and which had the third-worst combined ERA. Things can only get better for the Rangers, but they’ll stay rooted to the bottom of the AL West this year unless they make some more meaningful changes.

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Last Updated: Monday, 3 June 2019 12:27:32+00:00
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