With so much attention heaped onto the National League this offseason—namely the Padres, Mets and Dodgers—it's been easy to forget about the teams in that other league. The American League is really a bit of a mess. Two of the three division winners (Tampa Bay and Oakland) subtracted key players over the winter, and another playoff team (Cleveland) traded its franchise star.
What are we to make of the AL? Who are the five best teams? SI's MLB experts weigh in:
1. Yankees: This ranking assumes New York made smart calls in replacing Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton with Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon, two pitchers who combined to throw one inning last year. Taillon, with his much-needed new arm stroke, could be the next Lucas Giolito.
2. White Sox: This already was a great defensive team that also slugs. Now mix in three key additions: Lance Lynn deepens the rotation, Liam Hendriks is an elite closer and Adam Eaton gives the aggressive-swinging lineup a bit more versatility.
3. Rays: This ranking depends on Randy Arozarena continuing to be the impact hitter he was in a short sample last season. And the way teams could not adjust to him in playoff series, there is a good chance that could happen. Blake Snell and Charlie Morton are gone, but look for Shane McClanahan and Josh Fleming to make major contributions (in the limited way Tampa Bay allows starters).
4. Twins: They get the edge over Toronto because of an easier schedule. Andrelton Simmons and Byron Buxton on the same field? The defense could be superb. Minnesota is heavily dependent on home runs, which might be trouble if the baseball does fly less this year. Last year the Twins were last in the majors in stolen bases and below average in strikeout and walk rates.
5. Angels: New GM Perry Minasian quietly had a very good offseason, picking up José Iglesias, Raisel Iglesias, José Quintana, Kurt Suzuki, Alex Cobb, Alex Claudio and Dexter Fowler all on one-year looks. The Angels have the best player (Mike Trout), the most talented player (Shohei Ohtani), one of the best pure hitters (Anthony Rendon), a fabulous infield defense and a rotation that might actually be decent.
Following the Yankees and White Sox are the ...
3. Astros: They return almost the whole lineup that got them within two runs of the World Series last year, and they could get Justin Verlander back in time for the playoffs. They will have to face fans for the first time since the details of their cheating scandal became public, but after a year in a pandemic, fans may be more willing to let them off the hook. And no one else in the division is really trying.
4. Twins: They improved around the margins: J.A. Happ as fourth starter, Alex Colomé to close, Andrelton Simmons to hit ninth and play the best shortstop defense in the game. And they retained Nelson Cruz as DH. This may not be the Bomba Squad, but it should still be pretty good.
5. Blue Jays: I considered going with the Rays here, but that rotation has the potential to be pretty thin. And I liked the Blue Jays' offseason: George Springer and Marcus Semien should bolster a lineup that is already very talented, and if a few of their young pitchers succeed, they could be a real threat in the division.
After the Yankees and White Sox come the ...
3. Rays, who, despite their backsliding this winter, are still a force to be reckoned with, and I'm sure they'll find some reliever between the couch cushions to develop a ridiculous strikeout rate and become someone we all know by July.
4. The Twins still have the power to grab a slot here ...
5. And I think the Blue Jays' round of upgrades—George Springer, Marcus Semien, Steven Matz—put them in this tier, too, particularly if their young talent continues to develop, which leaves the Astros juuuust on the outside looking in.
1. Yankees: They're going to hit well and probably pitch well, too. Can they do so in October? It's been a long time since 2009 ...
2. White Sox: This is tough. The Twins have such a solid group I wouldn't be surprised to see them win the AL Central. But the White Sox are overflowing with talent, despite more attention falling on the manager than stars of the team.
3. Twins: There won't be a better divisional race than the one between Minnesota and Chicago in the AL Central. Sorry, L.A. and San Diego.
4. Astros: They finished with a losing record through 60 games last year, so I'm awfully skeptical. But all those games against the Rangers and Mariners should pad the win total nicely.
5. Rays: They could assemble a team from scratch on the first day of spring training and it would still win 90 games. Don't sleep on Tampa Bay, ever.
1. Yankees: If starters Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon can stay healthy through the season, the Yankees should be favorites for the No. 1 seed in the AL.
2. White Sox: This may be too high for a team that didn't escape the expanded wild-card round last year, but there’s an intriguing mix of young, exciting talent and steady, proven veterans mixed throughout both the lineup and pitching staff.
3. Twins: Minnesota should comfortably qualify for the playoffs for the fourth time in five years given the weakening of several other AL contenders. José Berríos maturing into a full-blown ace would do wonders for this team's postseason outlook.
4. Astros: The maturation of young starters such as Framber Valdéz and Cristian Javier could help make up for the loss of George Springer, especially in a division no one is trying particularly hard to win.
5. Blue Jays: Toronto showed a refreshing willingness to spend in free agency, and should be rewarded with a playoff spot. Still tough to envision this squad topping the Yankees.
1. Yankees: They have the best lineup, the best bullpen and best pitcher in the American League. If Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton can stay healthy, they'll be fine.
2. White Sox: The PECOTA projections are not that high, but they've made all the right moves this offseason (minus hiring Tony LaRussa).
3. Twins: Some sneaky good offseason moves allow the Twins to keep pace with the White Sox in what could be the AL's most competitive division.
4. Angels: Their recurring approach of seeking quantity over quality could actually pay off this season, with the toll that last year's shortened season is expected to have on starters. They've also upgraded their bullpen with Raisel Iglesias and added shortstop José Iglesias.
5. Astros: They are going to miss George Springer and they'll be without Justin Verlander again for most, if not all, of this season. Even so, Houston still has plenty of talent.
1. Yankees: The Yankees are the clear-cut leaders of the pack in the AL, with as many high-impact arms in the rotation and bullpen of any team besides the Dodgers. The offense should be strong as well, with D.J. LeMahieu back in the fold and depth throughout the lineup elsewhere.
2. Twins: The Twins' postseason struggles obfuscate their consistency in recent years. Minnesota's acquisitions outweigh the team's losses this offseason, particularly the savvy signings of Andrelton Simmons and Alex Colomé.
3. White Sox: The White Sox have the highest ceiling of any team in the Central, though the Twins' have a higher floor, which gives them the nod. The back end of the rotation has lots of question marks that will probably determine who wins the division.
4. Astros: The Astros are still the most talented team in the West. Though they'll clearly miss George Springer, bounce-back seasons from José Altuve, Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel should make up for his absence.
5. Blue Jays: The Blue Jays have a similar profile to the White Sox—young, talented, a little thin in the pitching department—and could surge up the AL pecking order with breakouts from their young core. Resurgent performances from Ross Stripling, Robbie Ray and Steven Matz are crucial for Toronto to live up to its potential.