So far we’ve covered the favorites of the American League and then teams similar to the Yankees’ situation, which is to say, playoff contenders but who need a little bit of help. Now we move onto the teams who have something going but aren’t quite going to be there in the end. These teams are a step below the Yankees, but still comparable.
Minnesota Twins: Probably the “best of the next” The Twins are an interesting team heading into 2016. On one hand, they were a -4 in run differential despite finishing a respectable 83-79. On the other hand, a full year of Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, along with the acquisition of Byung Ho Park and Jr. Murphy should improve an offense which ranked eighth in the league while maintaining a pitching staff in a pitcher’s park which ranked ninth. Minnesota has decent pitching and an improving offense, but in a brutal division it would take a lot of luck on the pitching side to break through into a playoff team. They will likely end up with right around the same record and once again just on the outside looking in as their young prospects develop into MLB contributors.
Los Angeles Angels: Winners of 85 games, the Angels were right there with the Yankees last season. Contrary to popular belief, New York did have a productive winter despite not signing a free agent to a major league deal with the acquisitions of: Aaron Hicks, Aroldis Chapman and Starlin Castro and only surrendering Adam Warren from the major league starting roster. The Angels failed to cover its main flaw in left field and will look to start Daniel Nava as an everyday option. Andrew Heaney will look to take a next step and Andrelton Simmons is in the fold to sure up the defense, but the Angels didn’t take any drastic steps and have no farm system to speak of for any sort of depth. The talent levels could be similar and the western division is very top heavy, but expect the Angels to be more fragile than the Yankees, with as questionable of a high upside rotation, a worse bullpen and a thin offense leaving them a notch below the Bronx Bombers.
Baltimore Orioles: Signing Chris Davis saved the Orioles’ offseason and they are currently the front-runners to land Yovani Gallardo. If these moves become official, the Orioles will at least have five solid starters (though none of them with ace upside) and an offense featuring: Adam Jones, Davis, Manny Machado and a potentially healthy, Matt Wieters. The bullpen always seems to be solid, especially by keeping O’Day. The Orioles won’t be hopeless but are likely a clear step below the Big(ger) three in the AL East. A weaker rotation and bullpen is too much of a battle over a potentially better lineup to put them on the same level as the Yankees, especially finishing six games back ending last season.
Tampa Bay Rays: Up to their usual tricks, the Rays relied on trading for Chris Dickerson and relying on its young, homegrown players to make up an offense. With Evan Longoria’s health a usual concern, it’s conceivable Tampa does not have a player capable of hitting 30 home runs and with Jake Mcgee gone, the bullpen should take a marginal step backwards. Tampa is a team who can’t afford to stay competitive without a clear view of the playoffs, so expect a potential sale at the trade deadline in a highly competitive division and league, leaving Tampa on the outside looking in, despite comparable talent. The Rays have major upside in its pitching staff if Chris Archer, Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly and Matt Moore can all stay healthy, but like the Yankees, the health of the rotation is by no means a guarantee. A weaker bullpen and likely offense, and a pitching staff with just as much durability concerns, and the Rays are unlikely to make up the seven games necessary to be on the same level as the Yankees.