The Kansas City Royals resigned Alex Gordan, the Rangers have a full year of Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels and the Astros will turn to its elite youth movement. All three teams are the favorites in the AL this season. We’ve covered the teams who are on the same level as the Yankees as well, the ones who could make noise with some help but who ultimately have a flaw holding them back. Most recently, we discussed the teams who have something positive going, but will ultimately fall short of the playoff picture.
Now in our final American League coverage edition, we will cover the bottom dwellers. These are the teams who have no chance of making the playoffs without the benefit of catastrophic injury and woeful under performance from the dozen or so better teams out there. These are teams who are clearly not as good as the Yankees going into the 2016 season.
Seattle Mariners – Robinson Cano will face another season of losing in the Pacific Northwest. Adam Lind is an upgrade in the lineup and Steve Cishek should fill in for the closer role admirably. Leonys Martin and Nori Aoki are nice additions and Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seagar will add nice middle of the order depth to Cano. The Mariners are on the right path and have a solid offense forming. They still have an ace in Felix Hernandez and brought back Hisashi Iwakuma in addition to trading for Wade Miley. They have two good prospects in the back of the rotation. Still, the Mariners are likely another year away from competing legitimately.
Robbie Cano would need to revert to MVP numbers for the lineup to truly come together, and though the rotation has upside, nobody outside of Hernandez can truly be counted on to deliver elite numbers. Miley, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker could all legitimately struggle and will be relieved by a bullpen where Charlie Furbush and his 21 innings last season is the third most viable candidate. The Mariners are on the right track but have an upside of third place in its own division and that’s only if the rotation and bullpen pans out (both are a step below the Yankees) and the offense finally clicks together (which unlike the Yankees, it did not last year). It’s a lot to ask and it’s more realistic the Mariners will be out of contention by September. It is nearly impossible to expect this team to make up 11 games against the Yankees.
Chicago White Sox – Not signing Ian Desmond by now is a head scratcher with Tyler Saladino currently unproven and manning shortstop. Todd Frazier is a nice addition to accompany Jose Abreu in the middle of the lineup but after that the offense is largely full of question marks. A lot of pressure will be placed on the outfield to perform at the plate in Melky Cabrera, Aroldis Garcia and Adam Eaton. A lot will be expected for Adam Laroche to make a comeback to a degree.
The White Sox simply don’t have as many bullets in the lineup as the Yankees, it has an inferior bullpen and its rotation will largely hinge on comeback years from Mat Latos and John Danks in addition to a major step forward from the promising Carlos Rodon. It’s unrealistic, especially in potentially the hardest division in the league. None of this factors in the Sox needing to make up 11 games on the Yankees. The White Sox are likely in firesale mode by September, rather than jockeying for a playoff position.
Oakland Athletics – Now we have arrived at the worst team in the league, likely destined to repeat for a second year in a row in 2016. The A’s won just 68 games in 2015, one year after qualifying for the playoffs and are highly prone to firesales with the quick trigger of Billy Beane. Expecting the A’s to do anything but make a push for fourth place in the west is a stretch, third place a miracle and second place nearly impossible. They finished 19 games behind the Yankees and outside of its top starter in Sonny Grey, have a more questionable rotation, inferior bullpen and lower upside lineup. A return of Sean Doolittle and the acquisition of Ryan Madson is a good start, and a full year of Billy Burns and Jesse Hahn should help, but the Athletics have a long way to go in the West and in the league to become contenders.