Spring training is approaching its end and the regular season is almost upon us. There have been many surprises for each team this offseason and during spring training that should make people excited to see how everything plays out. The American League is full of teams that have varying approaches to this season but they all have something that a fan can be excited about.
Chicago White Sox
Many people may say that outfielder Luis Robert is the future face of the White Sox franchise, but starting pitcher Lucas Giolito is the face right now. In the last two seasons, Giolito has been a very solid pitcher. However, there is reason to believe that it is his time to become a true ace as he has improved every season. In spring training, he has been very good, even though it is a small sample size. The White Sox have many electric players, but be ready for Giolito to shine above them all and win the Cy Young award this season.
This offseason was not a good one for Indians fans. The team traded away franchise shortstop Francisco Lindor and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco. However, all hope is not lost, because the team still has third baseman Jose Ramirez. He is quite possibly a top 20 player in all of baseball, and last year he proved that. According to Baseball Reference, he was second in Most Valuable Player (MVP) voting last season and he won the Silver Slugger for third base. Ramirez is an electric switch-hitting player that is not only here for the next season: he may stay for longer if the Indians decide to try and keep him.
Tigers fans, the future is almost here! Top prospects infielder Spencer Torkelson, starting pitcher Casey Mize and starting pitcher Tarik Skubal all participated in this year’s spring training. According to MLB.com, all of these players are top 100 prospects in all of baseball. Although these players haven’t been very consistent in spring training, they all are projected to play this year or next year. This means a new age of super stars in Detroit is coming soon.
Kansas City Royals
Shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. may be ready sooner than expected. Witt Jr. has been tearing it up in spring training with his speed and power and this has many people inclined to maybe think that he deserves to be in the major leagues. According to reporter Ken Rosenthal, he was demoted to the minor leagues, but Royals fans, this guy is the real deal, and he may be in the majors sooner than many thought.
Designated hitter Nelson Cruz may have another year in him. Over the past couple seasons, Cruz has had a career resurgence with the Twins. The only issue is that he is 40 years old, so we may finally start to see a decline in his play. However, according to MLB.com, he has been quite solid in spring training. He currently has a 0.276 batting average with two home runs in his ten games played. Can Cruz defy Father Time and continue to play at an elite level? As of now it seems so.
Infielder Chris Davis’s contract is two years from being over. According to Spotrac, Davis signed a seven-year $161 million contract after having a few ridiculous seasons where he was on the leaderboards for the most home runs in all of baseball. The Orioles took a gamble and hoped that he would continue to hit home runs at an elite level. This was not the case as he has become one of the worst hitters in all of baseball. Don’t worry Orioles fans, his terrible contract is almost over.
Boston Red Sox
So right fielder Mookie Betts gets traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and he immediately wins another World Series. This may be a soft spot because Betts is easily a top five player in baseball, but it turns out that the return may not be so bad. Outfielder Alex Verdugo was one of the players in the trade and he may end up being a star just like Betts. According to Baseball Reference, Verdugo had a 0.308 batting average during the shortened season, and he finished 12th in the MVP voting last year. So even though you lost a superstar, you may have a superstar in the making.
New York Yankees
This may finally be the year that the Yankees get that World Series title. Over the past few years, the Yankees have struggled to put together a solid starting rotation. Last year the Yankees signed starting pitcher Gerit Cole, but that wasn’t enough. This offseason, they signed former Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber and traded for starting pitcher Jamison Tallion. These two pitchers may bolster the rotation just enough to get the Yankees what has evaded them for so many years. Everyone knows the Yankees offense is always really good, but now their starting rotation may also be really good and lead the Yankees to a World Series title.
Tampa Bay Rays
This was a strange offseason for the Rays. They traded away possibly their best starting pitcher, Blake Snell, to the San Diego Padres, but they also got a top prospect in Luis Patino. The good news is that starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow may have finally figured everything out. According to MLB.com, he has improved his slider. Glasnow already had two elite pitches that came in the form of a high velocity fastball and a curveball with a very high amount of break. Even though both of these pitches were elite, eventually teams would pick up on how to hit him because he normally only threw two pitches. Now that he has a slider, he may become a true ace and can make up for the loss of Snell.
Toronto Blue Jays
The offseason for the Blue Jays was a very eventful one. It appeared as if the Blue Jays were in conversation to sign every top free agent. The biggest acquisitions appeared to be outfielder George Springer, infielder Marcus Semien and closer Kirby Yates. However, these great signings are having some issues as Springer and Yates are dealing with injuries according to Chron. The really good news is that infielder Vladimir Guerrero Jr. may finally be ready to break out. He was one of the best hitting prospects ever but his time in the majors have been lackluster. In the offseason, he worked hard and now it appears he is ready to be that player he was projected to be. Although it is in limited games, Guerrero Jr. is batting 0.520, according to MLB.com. That means that over 50 percent of the time he is getting a hit. It may be spring training and it may be a small sample size, but it may be time to see him reach his full potential.
The past few years have been rough for the Astros. In 2019, they lost to the Washington Nationals in the World Series after being accused of cheating during the 2017 season. Ever since the cheating scandal was found to be accurate, the Astros have not been the same. They have also since lost George Springer and Gerit Cole to other teams. Even though they lost some production over these past two years, there is one player that the Astros fans can stay excited about because designated hitter Yordan Alvarez should be back and healthy. According to MLB.com, in his rookie year, he hit 0.312 and had 27 home runs in just 87 games. Alvarez can flat out hit. Last year he had an injury so he was unable to replicate his rookie year, but this year he should be healthy, and he should be absolutely destroying baseballs like he did two years ago.
Los Angeles Angels
In 2018, Shohei Ohtani debuted in the MLB as a two-way player. This means that he is a pitcher and he hits. He won rookie of the year and looked like he was going to be a superstar for years to come. However, in 2019, he was injured, so he did not pitch at all. He was expected to rebound in 2020, but according to Baseball Reference, he only pitched in two games and allowed seven runs in just 12 innings. He also only had a 0.190 batting average in 44 games. The good news is that all of his issues may be behind him. In spring training, he has a 0.600 batting average, which is absurd. His pitching has been a little inconsistent, but his pitches continue to be elite, so it is likely that he is going to rebound. We may finally see the full potential of Ohtani and that is going to be amazing, considering he can participate on both sides of the field.
The Athletics tend to not spend a lot of money on their players, so it is difficult for the team to retain the star powers when they reach free agency. This is consistent with the fact that the Athletics let closer Liam Hendricks and infielder Marcus Semien go into free agency this year. The good news is that third baseman Matt Chapman is still here, and he is possibly the best fielder in all of baseball. Athletics fans, cherish the time you have left with Chapman and his elite defense, because he may be in Oakland for only a few more years.
In the offseason, the Mariners had some internal issues surrounding former Mariners president and CEO Kevin Mather. According to ESPN, he had a conversation with a Rotary Club about some of the players on the Mariners. One of these players included outfielder Jarred Kelenic. In the leaked conversation, Mather talked about how the team purposely was not bringing up top prospect Kelenic to the majors to make sure he entered free agency later. This disappointed many fans as they believed that if he was ready, he should be promoted. The good news is that he is ready. There was high praise last season when he played at an alternate site and he has impressed in spring training. He may not start in the majors this season, but sooner rather than later he is going to get his shot and it seems as if he is going to make the most of it.
Texas RangersOutfielder Joey Gallo has to break out at some point. According to Baseball Savant, Gallo is always in the top levels in terms of exit velocity, barrel percentage and hard hit percentage. Basically, he hits the ball really hard, and when you hit the ball really hard it should go really far. He is a career 0.201 hitter so obviously hitting the ball hard does not always translate, but at some point, he has to figure it out. It’s safe to say if he can increase his contact rate, he is going to be really good, because he already has the power hand.