2016 MLB preview: American League projections

2016 MLB preview: American League projections

Indians ace Corey Kluber, the 2014 Cy Young Award winner, leads the best rotation in the American League.

(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

A team-by-team and division-by-division look at the American League.

Mike DiGiovanna’s team outlooks are listed in predicted order of finish. Lineups and rotations are projections.




2015 l 86-76, 2nd in West. Last year in playoffs l 2015

An all-or-nothing offense — Houston ranked second in the AL in homers (230) and first in strikeouts (1,392) last season — works. Having George Springer, who missed two months because of a broken wrist, and Carlos Gomez, a July trade acquisition, for a full season should help. The Astros addressed their biggest weakness with a trade for hard-throwing closer Ken Giles, and shortstop Carlos Correa is a budding most-valuable-player candidate.

Starting lineup

2B Jose Altuve


RF George Springer

SS Carlos Correa

LF Colby Rasmus

CF Carlos Gomez

3B Luis Valbuena

1B Tyler White

DH Preston Tucker

C Jason Castro


Pitching rotation

LH Dallas Keuchel

RH Collin McHugh

RH Doug Fister

RH Scott Feldman

RH Mike Fiers


RH Ken Giles



2015 l 88-74, 1st in West. Last year in playoffs l 2015

Ian Desmond (one year, $8 million) could be the steal of the winter; the shortstop turned left fielder should be a better-than-average defender, and his 20-homer power should play up in Arlington. The heart of the order — Shin-Soo Choo (33), Prince Fielder (31) and Adrian Beltre (36) — is getting old, but Rougned Odor (22) is a budding star. The return in June of Yu Darvish from arm ligament surgery should solidify the rotation.

Starting lineup

CF Delino DeShields

RF Shin-Soo Choo

DH Prince Fielder

3B Adrian Beltre

1B Mitch Moreland

LF Ian Desmond

SS Elvis Andrus

2B Rougned Odor

C Robinson Chirinos

Pitching rotation

LH Cole Hamels

LH Martin Perez

RF Colby Lewis

LH Derek Holland

RH A.J. Griffin


RH Sean Tolleson


2015 l 76-86, 4th in West. Last year in playoffs l 2001

Seattle, with the worst on-base percentage (.300) in baseball this decade, added players who reach base in Nori Aoki (.353 career on-base percentage), Chris Iannetta (.351) and Adam Lind (.354 vs. right-handers). The lineup is strong in the middle with Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. A Felix Hernandez-led rotation is deep, but injuries to left-hander Charlie Furbush and right-hander Evan Scribner have thinned a suspect relief corps, which blew 24 saves in 2015.

Starting lineup

LF Nori Aoki

SS Ketel Marte

2B Robinson Cano

DH Nelson Cruz

3B Kyle Seager

RF Seth Smith

1B Adam Lind

C Chris Iannetta

CF Leonys Martin

Pitching rotation

RH Felix Hernandez

RH Hisashi Iwakuma

LH Wade Miley

RH Taijuan Walker

RH Nathan Karns


RH Steve Cishek


2015 l 85-77, 3rd in West. Last year in playoffs l 2014

The left-field platoon of Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry could be better than expected. The added on-base percentage of Yunel Escobar and Nava should increase RBI opportunities for Mike Trout, the 2014 AL MVP. Andrelton Simmons is a defensive wizard at shortstop. The rotation thins after Garrett Richards, and the bullpen is nowhere near as deep as it was two years ago. There might not be enough talent surrounding Trout for the Angels to contend.

Starting lineup

3B Yunel Escobar

LF Daniel Nava

CF Mike Trout

DH Albert Pujols

RF Kole Calhoun

1B C.J. Cron

SS Andrelton Simmons

C Carlos Perez

2B Johnny Giavotella

Pitching rotation

RH Garrett Richards

LH Andrew Heaney

LH Hector Santiago

RH Matt Shoemaker

RH Jered Weaver


RH Huston Street


2015 l 68-94, 5th in West. Last year in playoffs l 2014

The return of closer Sean Doolittle from a shoulder injury and the addition of Ryan Madson, John Axford, Liam Hendriks and Marc Rzepczynski shores up a bullpen that had an AL-worst 4.63 earned-run average last season. The rotation drops off precipitously after ace Sonny Gray, though Henderson Alvarez, coming off shoulder surgery, and top prospect Sean Manaea could help by June. Slugger Khris Davis adds pop, but the offense is weak.

Starting lineup

CF Billy Burns

2B Jed Lowrie

RF Josh Reddick

3B Danny Valencia

C Stephen Vogt

LF Khris Davis

DH Billy Butler

1B Yonder Alonso

SS Marcus Semien

Pitching rotation

RH Sonny Gray

LH Rich Hill

RH Chris Bassitt

RH Jesse Hahn

RH Kendall Graveman


LH Sean Doolittle




2015 l 95-67, 1st in Central. Last year in playoffs l 2015

The rotation isn’t dominant, and the loss of Greg Holland (elbow surgery) and Ryan Madson (free agency) thinned baseball’s best bullpen, which will make it difficult for the defending World Series champions to run away with the division again. But a lineup that relies on contact and clutch hitting is deep and balanced, the defense features six Gold Glove candidates, and the bullpen trio of Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Joakim Soria is formidable.

Starting lineup

SS Alcides Escobar

3B Mike Moustakas

CF Lorenzo Cain

1B Eric Hosmer

DH Kendrys Morales

LF Alex Gordon

C Salvador Perez

RF Paulo Orlando

2B Omar Infante

Pitching rotation

RH Edinson Volquez

RH Yordano Ventura

RH Ian Kennedy

RH Chris Young

RH Kris Medlen


RH Wade Davis


2015 l 81-80, 3rd in Central. Last year in playoffs l 2013

They don’t generate the buzz of the New York Mets’ pitchers, but Cleveland’s quintet of right-handers, led by Corey Kluber, is the best rotation in the AL. With more offensive support — the return of MVP candidate Michael Brantley from shoulder surgery in late April and the addition of Mike Napoli and Juan Uribe should help — the Indians could challenge Kansas City for the division title.

Starting lineup

SS Francisco Lindor

2B Jason Kipnis

DH Carlos Santana

1B Mike Napoli

RF Lonnie Chisenhall

C Yan Gomes

3B Juan Uribe

LF Marlon Byrd

CF Rajai Davis

Pitching rotation

RH Corey Kluber

RH Carlos Carrasco

RH Danny Salazar

RH Trevor Bauer

RH Josh Tomlin


RH Cody Allen


2015 l 74-87, 5th in Central. Last year in playoffs l 2014

New General Manager Al Avila revamped a bullpen that ranked 14th in relief ERA, adding Francisco Rodriguez, Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe, but is this group much better? Rodriguez, 34, relies more on his changeup than the fastball-slider of his youth, and Lowe is a journeyman who had a bounce-back 2015. Jordan Zimmermann and Mike Pelfrey deepen the rotation, and Justin Upton and his career .352 OBP line up in front of Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez.

Starting lineup

2B Ian Kinsler

LF Justin Upton

1B Miguel Cabrera

DH Victor Martinez

RF J.D. Martinez

3B Nick Castellanos

C James McCann

SS Jose Iglesias

CF Anthony Gose

Pitching rotation

RH Justin Verlander

RH Jordan Zimmermann

RH Anibal Sanchez

RH Mike Pelfrey

LH Daniel Norris


RH Francisco Rodriguez


2015 l 83-79, 2nd in Central. Last year in playoffs l 2010

Brian Dozier, Miguel Sano, Trevor Plouffe, Byung Ho Park and Eddie Rosario all are 20-homer threats, but the Twins will strike out a lot and don’t have enough OBP to maximize that power. The bullpen should improve with full seasons from Kevin Jepsen and Trevor May. There is a big defensive drop-off in right field from the retired Torii Hunter to Sano, a converted third baseman.

Starting lineup

2B Brian Dozier

1B Joe Mauer

RF Miguel Sano

3B Trevor Plouffe

LF Eddie Rosario

DH Byung Ho Park

C Kurt Suzuki

SS Eduardo Escobar

CF Byron Buxton

Pitching rotation

RH Phil Hughes

RH Kyle Gibson

RH Ervin Santana

LH Tommy Milone

RH Ricky Nolasco


LH Glen Perkins


2015 l 76-86, 4th in Central. Last year in playoffs l 2008

Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon are superb left-handers, but the rotation drops off from there, with John Danks (25-44, 4.82 ERA in four seasons) and Mat Latos, who is coming off two injury-plagued seasons. Newcomers Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie should thrive in Chicago’s hitter-friendly park, but the controversy surrounding Adam LaRoche’s abrupt March retirement strained player-management relations.

Starting lineup

RF Adam Eaton

SS Jimmy Rollins

1B Jose Abreu

3B Todd Frazier

LF Melky Cabrera

DH Avisail Garcia

C Alex Avila

2B Brett Lawrie

CF Austin Jackson

Pitching rotation

LH Chris Sale

LH Jose Quintana

LH Carlos Rodon

RH Mat Latos

LH John Danks


RH David Robertson




2015 l 93-69, 1st in East. Last year in playoffs l 2015

No team can match Toronto’s middle-of-the-order hitters Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, who combined for 111 homers and 319 runs batted in last season. The Blue Jays led baseball with 891 runs, 127 more than the second-ranked Yankees, and they should out-hit some pitching deficiencies. The defense is strong, and a full season from Marcus Stroman, who missed most of 2015 because of elbow surgery, should ease the loss of David Price.

Starting lineup

CF Kevin Pillar

3B Josh Donaldson

RF Jose Bautista

DH Edwin Encarnacion

SS Troy Tulowitzki

C Russell Martin

LF Michael Saunders

1B Chris Colabello

2B Ryan Goins

Pitching rotation

RH Marcus Stroman

RH Marco Estrada

RH R.A. Dickey

LH J.A. Happ

RH Aaron Sanchez


RH Roberto Osuna


2015 l 78-84, 5th in East. Last year in playoffs l 2013

David Price (AL-leading 2.45 ERA) gives Boston the ace it has lacked since Jon Lester was traded in 2014, but there is no clear-cut No. 2. With young stars Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts and the veteran bats of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox should score plenty. But corner-infield defense with Ramirez at a new position and Pablo Sandoval’s range shrinking as his waistline expands could be a problem.

Starting lineup

RF Mookie Betts

2B Dustin Pedroia

SS Xander Bogaerts

DH David Ortiz

1B Hanley Ramirez

3B Pablo Sandoval

LF Brock Holt

C Blake Swihart

CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

Pitching rotation

LH David Price

RH Clay Buchholz

RH Rick Porcello

RH Joe Kelley

RH Steven Wright


RH Craig Kimbrel


2015 l 87-75, 2nd in East. Last year in playoffs l 2015

When 100-mph-throwing Aroldis Chapman returns from a 30-game suspension imposed under baseball’s domestic violence policy, he will join Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller to form a dominant bullpen trio. The Yankees will need stout relief to support a rotation filled with questions, from the health of Masahiro Tanaka’s elbow to CC Sabathia’s return from alcohol-related rehabilitation. An aging lineup filled with the bloated contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran will be hard-pressed to remain healthy and productive.

Starting lineup

CF Jacoby Ellsbury

LF Brett Gardner

RF Carlos Beltran

1B Mark Teixeira

DH Alex Rodriguez

C Brian McCann

3B Chase Headley

SS Didi Gregorius

2B Starlin Castro

Pitching rotation

RH Masahiro Tanaka

RH Michael Pineda

RH Luis Severino

RH Nathan Eovaldi

LH CC Sabathia


LH Andrew Miller


2015 l 80-82, 4th in East. Last year in playoffs l 2013

Closer Brad Boxberger felt a twinge in a hamstring in early March and thought he’d need a few days off. Instead, he needed surgery to repair a core muscle tear and will be out until late May, a blow to a shaky bullpen. The rotation looks strong, as does a defense featuring center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who led baseball with 42 runs saved last season. But there does not appear to be enough offense to contend.

Starting lineup

2B Logan Forsythe

1B Logan Morrison

3B Evan Longoria

DH Corey Dickerson

LF Desmond Jennings

SS Brad Miller

RF Steven Souza Jr.

CF Kevin Kiermaier

C Curt Casali

Pitching rotation

RH Chris Archer

LH Drew Smyly

RH Jake Odorizzi

LH Matt Moore

RH Erasmo Ramirez


RH Alex Colome


2015 l 81-81, 3rd in East. Last year in playoffs l 2014

The Orioles spent a major league-high $280 million this winter hoping to contend. They have led baseball for two seasons in percentage of runs (47.8%) scored on homers and will rely heavily on the long ball again, with 30-homer threats Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez joining Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Adam Jones. Zach Britton and Darren O’Day form a nice one-two bullpen punch, but the rotation is thin, and the offense is one-dimensional.

Starting lineup

3B Manny Machado

DH Pedro Alvarez

CF Adam Jones

1B Chris Davis

RF Mark Trumbo

C Matt Wieters

LF Hyun Soo Kim

2B Jonathan Schoop

SS J.J. Hardy

Pitching rotation

RH Chris Tillman

RH Yovani Gallardo

RH Ubaldo Jimenez

RH Kevin Gausman

RH Miguel Gonzalez


LH Zach Britton

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna