The Weekly Reed: How the American League will shape out. 


At the beginning of a new MLB season, I love trying to predict what the season will look like by the end. The American League (AL) might be the easier league to try, so here’s what I’m thinking:  

The most competitive division in baseball is the AL East, with five valid teams. Baltimore has a young roster filled with potential, plus they started to find their footing last season. Their record of 83-79 secured their first season above .500 since 2016, and having Adley Rutschman for the future just makes them even more of a threat. Boston has a chance if Trevor Story comes back healthy and their pitching doesn’t implode like 2022. New York had a solid offseason, securing their best player on a long-term deal, enhancing their rotation with Carlos Rodon and announcing that prospect Anthony Volpe made the opening day roster. Their biggest obstacle: pitching injuries. New York starts the season with three of their projected starters, namely Rodon, Severino and Montas, on the injured list. Rodon and Severino should return during the beginning of the season while Frankie Montas could be out for a while. Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortes Jr. are still healthy, but another season with injury-riddled pitchers does not bode well when up against Toronto and Tampa Bay. Toronto made the playoffs last year but were bounced early, making the team even hungrier for success. Acquiring Dalton Varsho from Arizona highlights the big moves that they made to make a deeper run. The team signed Kevin Kiermaier and Chris Bassitt while also trading for relief arms Erik Swanson and Adam Macko. Another underrated move for Toronto, they named James Click Vice President of Baseball Strategy. He played a vital role in both Tampa Bay and Houston’s postseason runs in the front office and is a powerful figure in the baseball realm. The Blue Jays already had enough talent to make it to October, adding to that talent only makes them stronger. Tampa Bay finished at 86-76 in 2022 barely earning the third wild card spot in the AL. They traded away Ji-Man Choi and lost Kevin Kiermaier to Toronto while the biggest move they made was signing Zach Eflin to a three-year deal. Baltimore finished just three games behind them last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Orioles passed them this season. 

AL Central baseball is not something I regularly watch. From an outside perspective, Kansas City and Detroit are non-threats to the rest of their division competition. Cleveland, Minnesota and Chicago look to be the teams that have a chance to claim the division title. The Guardians finished on top last season with an 11-game lead at season’s end and I’m predicting a repeat in 2023. A pitching staff that features Shane Bieber and Triston McKenzie with Emmanuel Clase out of the bullpen supports that statement. Cleveland improved in the power department with the additions of catcher Mike Zunino and first base man Josh Bell. For Minnesota, getting Carlos Correa back was huge for their lineup, however, losing utility player Luis Arraez definitely hurts. Arraez was traded for starter Pablo Lopez who is a great player, but their utility guy was key to their offense. He led the team in hits, batting average, doubles and runs while playing three different infield positions. Minnesota added Joey Gallo, Michael Taylor and Christian Vazquez, but that only did so much. Chicago is in the same boat for me. I feel as if they lost more than they gained with Jose Abreu signing with the Astros, so I doubt they will make a run at the title.  

I think Seattle will make a run at Houston for first in the AL West, but the Astros will still come out on top. The Mariners come into the season after making their first postseason appearance since 2001. Executive Jerry Dipoto, while happy with the playoff berth, showed that he wanted his team to do more. He went out and acquired infielder Kolten Wong (trade with Milwaukee), outfielder Teoscar Hernández (trade with Toronto) and outfielder AJ Pollock (free agency) to solidify the lineup. Starter Luis Castillo, their big mid-season move at the deadline for 2022, was given a five-year $108 million deal to keep him in Seattle. Star Julio Rodriguez continues to impress with his performance in the World Baseball Classic, so the pieces are definitely there for success. Personally, I don’t think it’s enough to overcome Houston quite yet. Despite losing Justin Verlander to the New York Mets, Houston arguably got stronger with the addition of first baseman Jose Abreu from the White Sox. The 2020 AL MVP is coming off a season where he had a decrease in production, but his 4.2 WAR tops the -0.3 Yuli Gurriel had at first last year. Comparing the two players, Abreu had 51 more hits, seven more home runs, 22 more RBIs, 32 more walks and a higher OPS+ by 49. Houston is adding this player to their already dominant lineup that has Jeremy Pena, Jose Altuve, a healthy Michael Brantley, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. Pitching will always be there for the Astros, but it’s the lineup that separates them from Seattle.  

What exactly does this mean for my predictions? I believe that Toronto has enough to get past a New York team that struggles with injuries to secure the AL East crown, but the Yankees still make the playoffs as the top-seeded wild card team. Cleveland earns their second straight AL Central title with little to no competition from Minnesota and Chicago. Houston wins the division in the AL West with the Mariners close behind them. Seattle and Baltimore secure the last two wild card spots to round out the American League.  

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