An American League season preview with fantasy predictions

An American League season preview with fantasy predictions

AL East

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Toronto Blue Jays

3. New York Yankees

4. Tampa Bay Rays

5. Baltimore Orioles

Comments/Predictions: The Red Sox lead MLB in runs scored, while Hanley Ramirez finishes as a top-15 player...Mookie Betts finishes as a top-three fantasy second baseman (where he’s eligible in Yahoo leagues), while Dustin Pedroia is also top-five...Coming off a down year, Xander Bogaerts rewards fantasy owners who gamble on him, as he’s a top-10 shortstop...Neither Koji Uehara nor Edward Mujica lead the Red Sox in saves...Despite opening the year in the minors, Rusney Castillo wins Rookie of the Year.

Brett Cecil is a top-20 closer, while Drew Hutchison emerges as Toronto’s clear ace...Dalton Pompey has the best first name in baseball and even steals 30 bases to boot...At age 31, Brian McCann hits five more homers than he ever has during his career...Andrew Miller finishes with the most saves on the Yankees, while Carlos Beltran goes down as a steal...Alex Rodriguez hits 20 homers with 85 RBI, while Nathan Eovaldi is far more valuable than CC Sabathia.

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Thanks to a poor spring training, Steven Souza proves to be a late round steal...A potential starting rotation featuring Alex Cobb, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and Matt Moore (with a strong bullpen) sure has some upside, which is why I made this bet (the Phillies were essentially the same price at the time), but I’m becoming less enthused with all of Tampa Bay’s injuries since then...Chris Davis rebounds and hits .250 with 35 homers, while Manny Machado fully breaks out and is easily a top-10 third baseman...Steve Pearce’s expected regression is overrated, as he hits nearly as well this year as he did last season.

AL Central

1. Cleveland Indians

2. Chicago White Sox (wild card)

3. Detroit Tigers

4. Kansas City Royals

5. Minnesota Twins

Comments/Predictions: Carlos Carrasco is a top-10 fantasy starter. If he qualified, his 13.0 SwStr% would’ve ranked first among all AL starting pitchers last year (which is especially impressive considering his 1.91 GB/FB ratio), and his 21.0 K-BB% was higher than Max Scherzer’s (20.9) and just below Cy Young winner Corey Kluber’s (22.9). Carrasco is a former top prospect who posted a 1.72 ERA and 0.90 WHIP after the All-Star break...Carlos Santana hit 20 homers with a .912 OPS during 332 ABs as a first baseman last year. He hit .088/.326/.118 as a catcher and .129/.283/.226 as a third baseman over a combined 37 games. Bump him way up as catcher eligible in Yahoo leagues...Brandon Moss hits more home runs than Albert Pujols, while Trevor Bauer goes down as one of the biggest late round steals among all starting pitchers (seriously, draft Bauer).

Jose Abreu is the only player in the American League to reach 40 homers, while Chris Sale wins the Cy Young...Adam LaRoche hit 26 home runs in 140 games last year in a home park that’s suppressed long balls for LHB by 20 percent over the past three seasons. He’ll now play in U.S. Cellular Field, which has increased HR for LHB by 13 percent over that span, when it’s also boosted run scoring more than any park other than Coors Field. Few players who could easily approach 35 homers with 100-plus RBI are available as cheap as LaRoche. He’s even more valuable in daily transaction leagues, where you can just bench him against left-handed starters (he’s hit one HR per 19.0 at-bats versus RHP over the last three seasons. To put this in perspective, Miguel Cabrera has homered once every 17.5 ABs during his career).

A Sale/Jeff Samardzija/Jose Quintana trio is formidable, but the looming Carlos Rodon addition really puts the White Sox over the top...Joakim Soria is easily the most valuable Tigers reliever, as Joe Nathan is dropped by most fantasy owners by the end of May...Miguel Cabrera recovers from his offseason surgery and returns as the top hitter in baseball...Sadly, Justin Verlander is done.

Alex Rios was a top-20 player in three of the previous four seasons before last year, when he somehow hit four homers over 492 at-bats despite playing in one of the better hitting parks in baseball. He recently hurt his thumb, an injury that he says will affect him all of this season. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success...Yordano Ventura’s average FB velocity (97.0 mph) last season easily led MLB but that resulted in just a 7.82 K/9 rate (which wasn’t even top-30). He also missed some time with an arm injury. However, Ventura returned and pitched in the postseason, and his 10.3 SwStr% was elite (making his K rate all the more improbable), so there’s a ton of upside here, especially if his secondary pitches develop.

Oswaldo Arcia is 23 years old and hit 17 homers over 241 at-bats against RHP last year, so there’s potential here...Joe Mauer isn’t a top-300 player...Over the last three years, Torii Hunter is one of only 20 players with a .300 BA. He’s a fine boring veteran option late.

AL West

1. Seattle Mariners

2. Los Angeles Angels (wild card)

3. Oakland Athletics

4. Houston Astros

5. Texas Rangers

Comments/Predictions: Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz finish well below their ADPs, while Brad Miller far exceeds his...Mike Zunino finishes top-three among catchers in home runs...Taijuan Walker is more valuable than Hisashi Iwakuma...Garrett Richards, whose average FB velocity (96.3 mph) was the second highest in baseball last year, held hitters to the second-lowest “hard-hit” rate. Once he returns from his knee injury, Richards will be a top-15 fantasy SP. He’s the real deal...Mike Trout wins MVP once again.

Kendall Graveman becomes one of the most popular pick ups within the first couple weeks of the fantasy season, while Brett Lawrie becomes back on the radar, even in shallower leagues...The A’s are going to be a major threat to make the playoffs despite so much offseason movement, so I like their OVER 82 wins total.

Collin McHugh is a top-25 starter. He had a 2.12 ERA and 0.93 WHIP with an 8:1 K:BB ratio after the All-Star break last season and despite modest velocity (91.6 mph FB), his 10.8 SwStr% suggests the breakout was legit. Go get him...Robinson Chirinos is a sneaky good pick in 2-C leagues, while Ryan Rua proves to be the same in AL-only and deeper mixed formats...Prince Fielder returns as a top-50 player, while Adrian Beltre isn’t a top-five third baseman..

ALCS: Indians over Red Sox

Check back for my NL preview Thursday.

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