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American League baseball preview

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Team outlooks are listed in predicted order of finish. Lineups and rotations are projections.

EAST DIVISION

1 l Tampa Bay

2013 l 92-71, second place Last year in playoffs l 2013

Tampa's young rotation — average age: 25 — may prove to be the AL's best. And it could get better when 26-year Jeremy Hellickson returns from the disabled list in June. But the lineup lacks power and Grant Balfour's health concerns may one day have the Rays searching for a closer.

Lineup

LF D. DeJesus

2B B. Zobrist

DH M. Joyce

3B E. Longoria

1B J. Loney

RF W. Myers

CF D. Jennings

C R. Hanigan

SS Y. Escobar

Rotation

LH D. Price

RH A. Cobb

LH M. Moore

RH C. Archer

RH J. Odorizzi

Closer

RH G. Balfour

2 l Baltimore

2013 l 85-77, third place (tie)

Last year in playoffs l 2012

Which Chris Davis will the Orioles get? The one who had 37 homers and 93 runs batted in by the All-Star break, or the one who batted .216 down the stretch? Having Nelson Cruz hitting behind him may help. The rotation is solid, but Tommy Hunter is likely to be a work in progress as closer.

Lineup

RF N. Markakis

LF D. Lough

CF A. Jones

1B C. Davis

DH N. Cruz

SS J.J. Hardy

C M. Wieters

3B R. Flaherty

2B J. Schoop

Rotation

RH C. Tillman

RH U. Jimenez

LH W. Chen

RH M. Gonzalez

RH B. Norris

Closer

RH T. Hunter

3 l Boston

2013 l 97-65, first place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

David Ortiz carried Boston to a title last fall, but through 35 spring at-bats he was hitting .057. That may be an anomaly, lack of interest in spring training, or age — he's 38. But it won't matter if Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy pitch as well as they did in last season's second half, when they went 18-6 with a 3.13 ERA, including the postseason.

Lineup

CF G. Sizemore

RF S. Victorino

2B D. Pedroia

DH D. Ortiz

1B M. Napoli

LF D. Nava

SS X. Bogaerts

C A. Pierzynski

3B W. Middlebrooks

Rotation

LH J. Lester

RH J. Lackey

LH F. Doubront

RH J. Peavy

RH C. Buchholz

Closer

RH K. Uehara

4 l New York Yankees

2013 l 85-77, third place (tie)

Last year in playoffs l 2012

Only three men who played in the Yankees' 2013 opener will start on opening day this year. One, Jacoby Ellsbury, started for the other side last year. Derek Jeter will make his final opening-day start to begin a goodbye tour that probably won't end where his first full season did: in the World Series.

Lineup

CF J. Ellsbury

SS D. Jeter

RF C. Beltran

C B. McCann

1B M. Teixeira

DH A. Soriano

3B K. Johnson

2B B. Roberts

LF B. Gardner

Rotation

LH CC Sabathia

RH H. Kuroda

RH I. Nova

RH M. Tanaka

RH M. Pineda

Closer

RH D. Robertson

5 l Toronto

2013 l 74-88, fifth place

Last year in playoffs l 1993

The Blue Jays added $35.5 million in payroll before last season and still finished last. They may not do much better this year. Jose Bautista's slugging percentage has declined the last two years, Jose Reyes has a sore hamstring and no projected starter had an ERA below 4.15 last season.

Lineup

SS J. Reyes*

RF J. Bautista

1B E. Encarnacion

DH A. Lind

CF C. Rasmus

LF M. Cabrera

3B B. Lawrie

C D. Navarro

2B R. Goins

Rotation

RH R.A. Dickey

RH D. Hutchinson

LH M. Buehrle

RH B. Morrow

LH J.A. Happ*

Closer

RH C. Janssen

CENTRAL DIVISION

1 l Detroit

2013 l 93-69, first place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

No one will miss Prince Fielder more than Miguel Cabrera, who won consecutive MVP awards with Fielder hitting behind him. But the Tigers return four starters who won at least 13 games. The addition of Joe Nathan strengthens a bullpen that lost 25 games and saved just 39 in 2013.

Lineup

LF R. Davis

RF T. Hunter

1B M. Cabrera

DH V. Martinez

2B I. Kinsler

CF A. Jackson

C. A. Avila

3B N. Castellanos

SS A. Gonzalez

Rotation

RH J. Verlander

RH Anibal Sanchez

RH M. Scherzer

LH Drew Smyly

RH Rick Porcello

Closer

RH Joe Nathan

2 l Kansas City

2013 l 86-76, third place

Last year in playoffs l 1985

Seven Royals regulars weren't alive the last time Kansas City made the playoffs. But those 20-somethings could lead the Royals to a postseason appearance if the bullpen, which had an AL-best 2.55 ERA, pitches as it did last year, when the Royals won 31 one-run games.

Lineup

RF N. Aoki

2B O. Infante

1B E. Hosmer

DH B. Butler

LF A. Gordon

C S. Perez

3B M. Moustakas

CF L. Cain

SS A. Escobar

Rotation

RH J. Shields

LH J. Vargas

RH Y. Ventura

RH J. Guthrie

LH B. Chen

Closer

RH G. Holland

3 l Cleveland

2013 l 92-70, second place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

The Indians have lost 38 wins and 28 saves from a pitching staff that got them to the postseason. That depth will be difficult to replace, putting more pressure on an offense that was fourth in the league in runs despite no regulars hitting better than .284 and only one player with more than 20 home runs.

Lineup

CF M. Bourn*

1B N. Swisher

2B J. Kipnis

3B C. Santana

LF M. Brantley

DH J. Giambi*

SS A. Cabrera

RF D. Murphy

C Y. Gomes

Rotation

RH J. Masterson

RH C. Kluber

RH Z. McAllister

RH C. Carrasco

RH D. Salazar

Closer

RH J. Axford

4 l Minnesota

2013 l 66-96, fourth place

Last year in playoffs l 2010

With Joe Mauer moving from catcher to first base, newcomer Kurt Suzuki will be charged with sorting out a rotation that combined for a 33-55 record and 4.62 ERA last season. That would be an upgrade for the Twins, though, whose 2013 starters had an MLB-worst 5.26 ERA.

Lineup

CF A. Hicks

2B B. Dozier

1B J. Mauer

LF J. Willingham

RF O. Arcia

3B T. Plouffe

DH J. Kubel

C K. Suzuki

SS P. Florimon

Rotation

RH R. Nolasco

RH K. Correia

RH M. Pelfrey

RH P. Hughes

RH K. Gibson

Closer

LH G. Perkins

5 l Chicago White Sox

2013 l 63-99, fifth place

Last year in playoffs l 2008

Chicago will be competitive every fifth day — when Chris Sale pitches. The other days, not so much. Aside from the addition of Cuban defector Jose Abreu, the AL's lowest-scoring lineup remains largely intact, which is a problem since no one hit better than .284 last season and only Adam Dunn had more than 17 home runs.

Lineup

CF A. Eaton

SS A. Ramirez

1B J. Abreu

DH A. Dunn

RF A. Garcia

LF D. Viciedo

3B C. Gillaspie

2B G. Beckham*

C T. Flowers

Rotation

LH C. Sale

RH F. Paulino

LH J. Quintana

RH E. Johnson

LH J. Danks

Closer

RH N. Jones

WEST DIVISION

1 l Texas

2013 l 91-72, second place

Last year in playoffs l 2012

Texas blew last-month division leads in each of the last two seasons, so Manager Ron Washington says, "We have to sustain at the end." Adding Shin-Soo Choo (107 runs) and Prince Fielder (25 home runs, 106 RBIs) should help, but a questionable rotation became more so with Yu Darvish's neck injury.

Lineup

LF S. Choo

SS E. Andrus*

3B A. Beltre

1B P. Fielder

RF A. Rios

DH M. Moreland

C N. J.P. Arencibia

2B J. Wilson

CF L. Martin

Rotation

RH Yu Darvish*

RH T. Scheppers

LH Martin Perez

LH J. Saunders

LH R. Ross

Closer

RH J. Soria

2 l Angels

2013 l 74-84, third place

Last year in playoffs l 2009

If Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton bounce back, the Angels won't miss Mark Trumbo's 100 RBIs. If not, the heavy lifting is left to Mike Trout. The rotation has two proven starters, so the bullpen will have to be better than in 2013, when it blew more than a quarter of its save chances.

Lineup

RF K. Calhoun

CF M. Trout

1B A. Pujols

LF J. Hamilton

3B D. Freese

DH R. Ibanez

2B H. Kendrick

C C. Iannetta/H. Conger

SS E. Aybar

Rotation

RH J. Weaver

LH C.J. Wilson

LH H. Santiago

RH G. Richards

LH T. Skaggs

Closer

RH E. Frieri

3 l Oakland

2013 l 96-66, first place

Last year in playoffs l 2013

The Athletics return nearly the same lineup that finished third in the AL in homers and runs. They may have to do better this year, though, with the loss of Jarrod Parker (12-8, 3.97) weakening the rotation. Jim Johnson (101 saves the last two seasons) should bolster the bullpen.

Lineup

CF C. Crisp

3B J. Donaldson

SS J. Lowrie

LF Y. Cespedes

1B B. Moss

RF J. Reddick

DH J. Jaso

C D. Norris

2B E. Sogard

Rotation

RH S. Gray

LH S. Kazmir

RH J. Chavez

RH D. Straily

LH T. Milone

Closer

RH J. Johnson

4 l Seattle

2013 l 71-91, fourth place

Last year in playoffs l 2001

The $240-million signing of Robinson Cano puts the rebuilding Mariners on the clock. The core of Seattle's young, home-grown lineup becomes eligible for free agency in three years and it's unlikely the team will be able to keep them and pay Cano. Winning now is a priority.

Lineup

CF A. Almonte

3B K. Seager

2B R. Cano

DH C. Hart

1B J. Smoak

LF D. Ackley

RF M. Saunders

SS B. Miller

C M. Zunino

Rotation

RH F. Hernandez

RH E. Ramirez

LH J. Paxton

RH R. Elias

RH H. Iwakuma*

Closer

RH F. Rodney

5 l Houston

2013 l 51-111, fifth place

Last year in playoffs l 2005

The Astros had the youngest team in the majors last year and the addition of leadoff man Dexter Fowler, 28, won't change that. The worst-paid team in baseball might get cheaper as the Astros dip into their deep farm system, rarely a recipe for success. This could be another 100-loss season.

Lineup

CF D. Fowler

LF R. Grossman

2B J. Altuve

C J. Castro

DH C. Carter

1B J.Guzman

3B M. Dominguez

RF L.J. Hoes

SS J. Villar

Rotation

RH S. Feldman

RH J. Cosart

LH B. Oberholtzer

RH B. Peacock

LH L. D. Keuchel

Closer

RH C. Qualls

*May start season on the disabled list.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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