The American League champion has won just one of the past five World Series. Will the 2015 MLB season produce a different result for the Junior Circuit? Last season, the Kansas City Royals put an end to their 29-year playoff drought in dramatic fashion, venturing on a magical postseason run that came just one game shy of winning it all. This season, the Royals figure to have a tough road just to get back to the playoffs, as they must navigate a crowded AL Central.
The AL East features a little bit of everything – a team that spent big in free agency this offseason, one that’s pinning their hopes on several young players, another that’s hoping their aging superstars can turn back the clock, and a franchise that’s going through a makeover both on the field and in its front office.
The AL West has seen plenty of change too, as one team that’s made it to the playoffs three straight years could take a few steps backward in 2015, while the team that strung together three consecutive 100-loss campaigns from 2011-13 is slowly making its way back towards respectability.
Related: 2015 National League Predictions
Here is how Athlon Sports sees the AL shaking out in 2015, including a look at the leading candidates for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.
2015 American League Predictions
Wild cards: Cleveland, Seattle
AL East Breakdown
From last place in 2012 to World Series champs in ’13 and back to the basement last season, Boston is looking to go from worst to first yet again. The additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval along with the emergence this spring of dynamic leadoff hitter Mookie Betts gives the Red Sox the deepest lineup in the majors. Now it’s up to the pitching to hold up their end of the bargain. Elsewhere, defending division champion Baltimore stood relatively pat, while Toronto is banking on several young, unproven players and the addition of third baseman Josh Donaldson to end its 21-year playoff drought. Derek Jeter has retired, but the Yankees don’t lack for veteran leadership, while Tampa Bay is under new management both on and off the field, and could struggle to score runs in support of the Rays’ underrated starting rotation.
AL Central Breakdown
Detroit has won the last four division crowns, but don’t be surprised if this ends up being a four-team race. The Tigers still have Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, but neither are getting any younger and underwent surgery in the offseason. Justin Verlander will start the season on the DL, putting even more pressure on David Price, and the bullpen is suspect at best. Cleveland looks to have the pitching, fronted by reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and finished off by closer Cody Allen, so it will be up to the offense to take care of the rest. Chicago was the most aggressive team in the offseason, adding Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Melky Cabrera to its one-two punch of Cy Young contender Chris Sale and MVP candidate Jose Abreu. Kansas City was the story last season, but the Royals lost more than they added and will rely on their pitching, defense and team speed even more in 2015. Minnesota should be a better team, but this may not be reflected in the win column due to the depth of this division.
AL West Breakdown
Los Angeles is still smarting from last year’s brief playoff stay, but the Angels have a pair of MVPs in Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to lead their offense and appear to have enough pitching and depth to defend their division crown. Seattle has its own award contenders in Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, and has added enough pieces that should make the Mariners a thorn in the Angels’ side all season long. Texas is healthier, but has already suffered a big blow in the loss of ace Yu Darvish (Tommy John surgery). If Prince Fielder and Shin Soo-Choo bounce back and Adrian Beltre stays productive, the Rangers should at least surpass last year’s win total (67). Houston may not be able to match it’s 19-win improvement from last season, but the Astros have plenty of budding superstars that bear watching, starting with Jose Altuve and George Springer. Oakland won the division in 2012 and ’13, but this is a completely different A’s team, as GM Billy Beane cashed in on most of his valuable assets this offseason in hopes of building a team that can contend for many years in the future. In other words, don’t be surprised if the A’s take their lumps in 2015.
1. Mike Trout, Angels
Trout won his first MVP award after two runner-up finishes his first two seasons, and he did so with arguably his worst numbers (.287-36-111, 115 R, 16 SB). Just 23 years old, the sky is seemingly the limit for the best player in the game.
2. Robinson Cano, Mariners
3. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
4. Jose Abreu, White Sox
5. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
6. Michael Brantley, Indians
7. Victor Martinez, Tigers
8. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
9. Adam Jones, Baltimore
10. Adrian Beltre, Rangers
AL Cy Young
1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
The 2010 recipient finished a close second to Corey Kluber last season despite posting career-bests in ERA (2.14), strikeouts (248) and WHIP (0.915). As long as he stays healthy, Hernandez should receive enough offensive support to challenge his high-water mark for wins (19 in 2009).
2. David Price, Tigers
3. Chris Sale, White Sox
4. Corey Kluber, Indians
5. Alex Cobb, Rays
AL Rookie of the Year
1. Rusney Castillo, Red Sox
Similar to NL Rookie of the Year favorite Kris Bryant, Castillo will start the season in AAA. However, the only thing that stands between the Cuban import and the necessary at-bats to flash his power/speed potential is 34-year-old Shane Victorino, who underwent back surgery in August.
2. Steven Souza, Rays
3. Dalton Pompey, Blue Jays