Despite the National League winning the last two championships, the American League has always been considered the dominant league. That gap has widened even further this offseason. Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, two of the NL’s biggest slugger’s, have gone over to the AL and will make the competition ever fiercer. Also, the Yankees got what most people would consider a number two starter in Michael Pineda to further bolster the team that led the AL in wins last year. There are likely six teams that will fight for four playoff spots, without considering a surprise team cropping up. With the addition of the second wild card team winning the division will be of utmost importance for the Yankees.
The battle for the Yankees to get into the playoff will probably come down to five teams for three spots as I see the Tigers as a virtual lock to win the AL Central. They won it by 15 games last year and that was without Prince Fielder. In fact if you asked me right now I would say they are the team to beat in the entire AL. I know they will have issues on defense, but when Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hit over .310, with about 35 HR’s, and about 115 RBI each it will not matter as much. They also have a very nice top of the rotation in Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, and Max Scherzer and a very good back end of the bullpen.
The Yankees will in all likelihood be battling the Rays, Red Sox, Rangers, and Angels for the other 3 playoff spots. Right now I would consider the Yankees the favorite in the AL East. They won it last year with 97 wins and improved more than the Red Sox or the Rays did with the addition of Michael Pineda. I would consider the Rays a close 2nd and the Red Sox 3rd. The Sox have issues all over the diamond right now. Their outfield is a mess right now as Carl Crawford might not be ready to start the year and they still have a hole in RF, even though they signed Cody Ross. I do not understand them replacing Marco Scutaro with Mike Aviles at SS. They still have issues at the backend of the rotation as nobody knows how Daniel Bard will transform to the rotation. Their backend of the bullpen is also completely new and will have to prove themselves. Meanwhile, the Rays might have the best rotation in MLB and I like the acquisition of Carlos Pena to provide more power to their offense. But, the Yankees definitely have the edge over the Rays in offense and bullpen and they are not that far off in the rotation, which I think puts them over the top.
If the Yankees were to not win the AL East they will face a stiff competition for the wild card spots and not just from the AL East. Whoever doesn’t win the AL West between the Angels and Rangers will be battling for the wild card spots. The Angels greatly improved themselves with the additions of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols. They also have one of the best rotations in the MLB led by Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson, and Ervin Santana. The Rangers have one of the best offenses in MLB led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre, and Elvis Andrus. Yu Darvish will try to replace Wilson in the rotation and Neftali Feliz will make an interesting jump to the rotation. Both of these teams are legitimate threats to the Yankees.
As you can see the AL will be an absolute dogfight this year with all of these talented teams. All of this is subject to change of course with injuries and trades. You also know their will be a surprise team that will compete who I did not talk about. The Yankees have their work cut out for them in the AL this year, but if they play to their potential they should not have much of a problem.