MLB: Way Too Early 2017 American League Predictions

Sep 26, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians celebrate clinching the Central Division title in the clubhouse after the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Indians win 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB offseason is in full swing and teams have started to improve their rosters. With this being done, we make our way too early 2017 American League predictions.

It seems like the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series just weeks ago, but in reality, it was over a month ago. And it seems like baseball season is an eternity away, but pitchers and catchers report less than two months from now. So of course, it is time to make predictions, because that it what all MLB fans love to obsess over.

Some teams, like the Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals, seem like they are completely going for it in 2017. While others, the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, seem to be taking the rebuilding approach. Rosters have been tweaked and some farm systems have been completely blown up. The Winter Meetings featured plenty of big deals and a couple of blockbuster trades that knocked everyone off their seats.

There are still big name free agents, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo, who have yet to be signed, but making predictions shouldn’t be drastically changed by the team that they sign with.

The AL East should be the most interesting in the AL. The Red Sox and Yankees are showing tendencies of their old ways, while the O’s and Blue Jays will have to fight to stay prominent. The Central seems like the Indians’ division to lose, but anything can happen (just ask the Royals). And in the West, there could be an in-state brawl between the Rangers and Astros (not literally, Rougned Odor).

It may be just December, but it’s never too early for 2017 American League predictions.

American League East

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

 Standings Predictions:

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Tampa Bay Rays

Overview:

At the beginning of the Winter Meetings, some Red Sox fans were wondering if Dave Dombrowski was even present. The answer to that mystery came in a major fashion when Dombrowski shipped superstar prospect Yoan Moncada to the White Sox for All-Star Chris Sale. The addition of Sale gives the Red Sox one of the strongest pitching rotations in the MLB. They have two Cy-Young winners, and a pitcher in Sale who has finished in the top five in voting four times. And don’t forget that Mookie Betts finished second in MVP-voting.

They finally have a superb rotation, they had the number one offense in the MLB last year and have a pretty good bullpen now. Brian Cashman thinks they’re a superteam, which will make it easy for them to win the division.

The Yankees did something they’ve never done and stockpiled an impressive farm system last season while still keeping good major league talent on the field. The offense, which will be lead by Gary Sanchez’s power, will have to sustain a weak pitching rotation until it can give way to Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances.

The Orioles are in the same situation, led by a powerful offense but ridiculed with a weak rotation. They might be losing Mark Trumbo which would be a huge blow. I think there will be some regression from both the O’s and the Blue Jays. Without Bautista and Encarnacion, the Jays won’t be as powerful, even with Kendrys Morales. It’s been a quiet winter for a team that has been very loud the past few offseasons.

In the basement, the Tampa Bay Rays sit all alone. They watched their former manager change an entire culture and bring home a trophy this past season, a pill that must have been tough to swallow. Their young and talented rotation did not live up to the hype last season, which means the Rays could become sellers before the season gets underway.

American League Central

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 Standings Predictions:

  1. Cleveland Indians
  2. Detroit Tigers
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Minnesota Twins

Overview:

Sorry for the repeat, but I think the 2017 standings will look identical to the 2017 standings in the AL Central. The Indians were the American League’s best team last season and blew their 3-1 lead in the World Series. Looking at their roster, they are talented all the way around. They will have close to the exact same roster they brought to the World Series, lead by Corey Kluber, Francisco Lindor and Andrew Miller. And while they haven’t added in free agency, they will have Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar returning to the fold. If Mike Napoli returns and chemistry stays the same, they are the team to beat.

The Tigers are in a major identity crisis. It seems like every week we hear Miguel Cabrera is available and the next week he’s no longer on the market. If the Tigers elect to keep their rotation intact, it can carry them to a second place finish. Justin Verlander almost won a Cy Young this year and Michael Fulmer is the budding ace of the future. The offense is powerful and there is plenty of speed on the base paths.

If the Royals start slow, they will be sellers in July and begin their rebuilding process. With a small budget and a roster full of contract-year players, this could be the last chance for the Royals to go for it. With the emergence of the Indians and recently-acquired talent in the division, Kansas City might want to start building now.

Meanwhile, the White Sox now have a top three farm system with Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito. For all we know, they could have a few more moves up their sleeves. At the bottom, the Twins are still years away from contention. They took a major step backward in 2016, they lost 103 games and were the worst team in the majors.

American League West

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

 Standings Predictions:

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Houston Astros
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Los Angeles Angels
  5. Oakland Athletics

Overview:

The last two years, the Rangers have done this thing where they are really really good in the regular season and then crap the bed the first chance they get in October. With arguably one of the most talented rosters in the league, the Rangers should find themselves in October again. They have Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish coming off good 2016 campaigns, paired with veteran offensive players Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Jonathan Lucroy. Texas fans can also be excited about young players Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara and Martin Perez.

The Astros withered in the second-half of 2016, but have restocked their lineup with veterans for 2017. The team has been very young in past years, so this could be the boost they needed. Adding Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick in the offseason will provide needed leadership and guidance for younger players. They still have Jose Altuve and Dallas Keuchel, and have the promising Alex Bregman who will play third base.

The Mariners have been quiet this offseason, something that surprised many. Seattle has plenty of talent on their side, but just haven’t been able to put it together. If Robinson Cano has an MVP-like season and King Felix continues to dominate the league, the Mariners will be able to compete. Kyle Seager seems to be one of the most underrated players in the league, and they have flamethrower closer Edwin Diaz.

The Angels improved this offseason, adding Danny Espinosa for close to nothing and signing Cameron Maybin. However, the Angels lack pitching that is desperately needed to get them through the season and have so much money tied up in Albert Pujols, they can’t add anyone for big bucks. The Athletics will probably be sellers in July, potentially trading Sonny Gray and Khris Davis to help quicken their rebuilding process.

Editor’s Note: Check back for the National League predictions later this week, followed by playoff predictions.

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