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The New York Yankees' Juan Soto hits a single in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 6, 2024, in Tampa, Florida. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images/TNS)
The New York Yankees' Juan Soto hits a single in the first inning against the Tampa Bay Rays during a spring training game at George M. Steinbrenner Field on March 6, 2024, in Tampa, Florida. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images/TNS)

The Hoosier Network's 2024 MLB preview: The American League

It will be no easy feat for the Rangers to repeat as World Series champions

The 2024 Major League Baseball season is right around the corner, and with spring training officially in full swing, that means it’s finally time to turn our attention to the diamond. The Texas Rangers are defending World Series champions, and will seek to defend their crown against the rest of the league. 

[Read our National League preview]

However, it likely won’t be smooth sailing for Texas, as a host of other contenders look to steal the crown from them, especially coming in the American League. And speaking of that, here’s the Hoosier Network’s look at the AL for the 2024 MLB season.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

The Baltimore Orioles are somehow the favorites to win the AL East? When did this happen?

It may be a bit hard to believe in these times, given that the Orioles were either mediocre or just plain bad for the vast majority of the 2010s, but in 2024, we find ourselves here. The Orioles are coming off a 101-win season, and it seems like they’ve only gotten better, as the signing of Corbin Burnes from the Brewers is an excellent addition and gives them a top-flight ace at the top of the pitching rotation. To the surprise of absolutely no one, he was named Baltimore’s Opening Day starter.

That being said, it will be a close race with their neighbors in the division throughout the entire year. The AL East might very well be the best division in baseball, but judging by the utterly massive potential this group still has, even after that 101-win season last year, the Orioles will (barely) get the nod over everyone else in the AL East. Not quite 101 wins again, but the bar is very high for the second straight year.

Prediction: 98-64

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are in a strange position heading into 2024. They are not really a bad baseball team. The unfortunate fact about their situation is that they just so happen to play in the best division in baseball.

However, it is fair to question what Boston’s front office is thinking at this moment in time, and it is also fair to question if they really, truly fancy themselves as a contending club. This team doesn't really have a clear direction. They seem very resistant toward committing to a complete teardown of the roster, but then again, they are not on the road toward becoming a consistent contender. Trevor Story and Rafael Devers are still here, and they should put up good individual numbers, but the pitching is more on the bad side than good, and the rest of the lineup is largely putrid. Kind of like how last year was, it could very well be another long, frustrating season in Boston.

Prediction: 74-88

New York Yankees

It’s time. You know why.

Juan Soto was brought in from the Padres this past winter for a reason, and this was why. It’s officially World Series or bust for the New York Yankees. They have the talent to win it all, and they arguably always have. Going along with Aaron Judge back in the fold once again, there is a reason to believe that this team is capable of not just getting to the World Series but winning it. However, there are also reasons to doubt. Take a look at their past history: The Yankees haven’t been to the Fall Classic since 2009. The core of the team is getting older. The future rests in the glove (and bat) of shortstop Anthony Volpe, and the question of how he will develop coming off a solid rookie season is legitimate. 

Playoff questions aside, New York should have another fantastic regular season. Maybe not quite as good as their neighbor a few hours down the road in Baltimore, but still a great season nonetheless with all the talent and star power they have.

Prediction: 96-66

Tampa Bay Rays

I will warn those who have grown accustomed to the Tampa Bay Rays finding largely unknown pieces and developing them into stars or key role players who inevitably help them contend for the postseason year after year: do not be so surprised if this team experiences a slight decline.

Am I saying the Rays will suddenly fall out of contention entirely? Absolutely not. In fact, I still think that they will have an extremely solid regular season. However, there are a few more questions than normal surrounding this team this time around. Star shortstop Wander Franco is more than likely never playing baseball ever again, given the, let’s call it, situation around him, and Tyler Glasnow is gone.  

With all that being said, there is still a lot of talent on this team. And knowing the roster construction and who they are helmed by — two-time AL Manager of the Year Kevin Cash — they will still contend for the postseason. However, going into 2024, there are a few more unanswered questions than there have been before. And that is a sign for caution.

Prediction: 86-76

Toronto Blue Jays

The question of whether or not this Blue Jays team as they are currently constructed will ever find sustained playoff success is perfectly legitimate. They have been to the postseason each of the past two years, but haven’t won a single playoff series. 

However, if there’s any year for them to make serious noise in the playoffs, it’s got to be this one. The signing of Justin Turner away from the Dodgers should help what was an inconsistent batting lineup last year. However, other than that, the most notable signing was the addition of cupholders to the seats of the team’s home stadium, the Rogers Centre

It seems like this year, Toronto’s front office and management are simply banking on the roster, which has undergone extremely minimal changes between the end of the last season and today, to simply be better after a disappointing 2023. And that seems like a hard scenario to envision given the lack of offseason improvements and the fact that they also play in the best division in baseball. The Blue Jays could very well be in for, once again, another year of good, not great.

Prediction: 85-77

AL Central

Chicago White Sox

This could be a long year for the Southsiders.

The latest bombshell to drop on White Sox fans’ heads was the blockbuster trade regarding former ace Dylan Cease, as he was dealt to the San Diego Padres for Drew Thorpe, Jairo Iriarte, Samuel Zavala and Steven Wilson. Three out of the four of those players are right-handed pitchers.

If there is a silver lining for White Sox fans, it is that management is finally seeing that a rebuild needs to happen, and the Cease blockbuster was simply one of the first dominoes to fall. Luis Robert Jr. should be on his way out as well in the very near future. However, the Cease trade is probably coming too late, as they should have shipped him out sooner than this so they might have a chance to recoup some better value for him. 

So with all that being said, the White Sox will not be good this season. Oh, and here’s something else: Tony La Russa is still involved in baseball operations. You’re welcome.

Prediction: 67-95

Cleveland Guardians

The Guardians made the playoffs in 2022, but that was mostly just because the rest of the AL Central couldn’t stop losing to each other, and the Guardians found themselves at the top of the standings when all was said and done. However, in 2023, they took a nosedive, and the Twins took the division.

That being said, it’s difficult to view this team as a legitimate playoff contender in 2024. There were very little, if any, offseason changes to try and make the roster better, and it’s more or less the same team as last year. Cleveland isn’t fundamentally a bad baseball team, they’re just in the middle of the pack as it stands right now. Realistically, the path to a potential playoff berth for the Guardians is simply filled with too many obstacles. It isn’t particularly feasible. Another middle-of-the-road season might be up on the docket for 2024.

Prediction: 78-84

Detroit Tigers

They’re…interesting. I don’t know if they’ll fully put the pieces together this year, but there is no doubt that they are getting better.

This is the first time in a long time that the Tigers have had even a slimmer of legitimate hope. The roster is young and constantly improving, and they took a step forward in 2023. Now, the onus is on the team to do the same in 2024. Even considering the horrendous miss on the Javy Baez contract, there are still lots of bright spots here. Tarik Skubal is a developing ace atop the rotation. Mark Canha and Gio Urshella are bringing some quality hitting to the back end of the lineup. Riley Greene and Spencer Torkleson look like two of the best young players in the AL.

Their time is coming. Again, not sure if it’ll be this year, but it’s coming soon.

Prediction: 81-81

Kansas City Royals

It is a much, much slower climb up the rebuilding hill for the Royals than for their division neighbor in Detroit, but they are making progress. 

Locking up Bobby Witt Jr., who looks to be the franchise’s next superstar, is a big step in the right direction. Their rotation, while still pretty bad, is at least a little closer to being respectable. The trio of Witt Jr., MJ Melendez and Vinnie Pasquantino is certainly a sight for sore eyes for long-suffering Royals fans. However, the bottom of the lineup could really use some work, and there is a real chance that not one starter in Kansas City’s entire rotation will post an ERA below four.

So, yeah. There is some progress being made, but there’s still a lot, and I mean a lot, of work left to be done for this team to return to contention.

Prediction: 69-93

Minnesota Twins

This team won the AL Central last year, and barring any unforeseen circumstances, they should be able to accomplish that feat once again.

Byron Buxton is adamant he's ready to play center field full time again, but he hasn't played more than 92 games since 2017. (Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune)

Sure, I’ve gone over how the Guardians might put up a bit of a fight and the Tigers are a young time on the rise to look out for, but are either of those teams really legitimate competition for Minnesota at this point in time? Yes, Sonny Gray and Jorge Polanco leaving will sting, but assuming everyone stays healthy, the Twins have one of the best lineups in the American League. And Byron Buxton is capable of being a game-changer on both sides of the field (again, assuming he stays healthy, which has been a highly publicized topic).

The Twins took the division title last year, and they are looking to defend it in 2024. If everything goes according to plan, they shouldn’t have much of a problem doing that.

Prediction: 87-75

AL West

Houston Astros

Even coming off the heels of coming oh-so-close to yet another World Series appearance in 2023, the Astros aren’t going anywhere.

This team has been considered the class of the AL West for the past half-decade or so (coming up on a full decade now), and that designation is for good reason. While the core of the dynasty has taken a few losses over the years, they are still a strong team. Jose Altuve, the heart of this current iteration of Houston, is still here. Yordan Alvarez and his game-breaking bombs are still here. Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker are still here. Those four could very well all be All-Stars in 2024, and the rotation should be less injury-prone and more effective.

Even though they weren’t able to put the finishing touches on their postseason run in 2023, if we’ve learned one thing over the past few seasons, it’s to never count out the Houston Astros in the playoffs. And even though this roster might not be as strong as previous years, they are still a force to be reckoned with. They should have another outstanding regular season.

Prediction: 93-69

Los Angeles Angels

Mike Trout stands alone.

In all seriousness, after the best player in the game left the Angels in free agency this past winter, LA is now left to pick up the pieces. There isn’t much to be excited about if you’re an Angels fan in 2024, as Shohei Ohtani is gone and there is extremely little around Trout and Anthony Rendon. In fact, Rendon apparently doesn’t even care about playing baseball anymore, and that will definitely go over smoothly with everyone in the Angels organization. Nope, that won’t cause any problems whatsoever!

And that’s not even getting into the rotation, which is among the worst in baseball. Combine that with an aging lineup that might put out mediocre statlines at best, and it will likely be yet another long season in Anaheim.

Prediction: 68-94

Oakland Athletics

Surely it can’t get any worse than last season. Right?

The 2023 Oakland A’s lost 112 games last season, which was among the worst marks in baseball history. So there’s nowhere to go but up. They should be a teeny bit better in 2024, although that’s not saying a lot. Zach Gelof is a bright spot, as he is a do-it-all, scrappy player that every MLB team would love to have. Twenty-six-year-old catcher Shea Langeliers is another bright spot, and he looks to be growing into one of the best catchers in the American League in a couple of years. Esteury Ruiz stole 67 bases last season and looks to be a young foundational piece. And the crown jewel of Oakland’s lineup could be Brent Rooker, the 29-year-old center fielder who led the team in home runs last year.

If A’s fans are expecting at least somewhat of a turnaround, I’m afraid that that’s not materializing this season. This team still has a long, long way to go. However, they should be better than last year, which is a sign of progress. Baby steps, people.

Prediction: 64-98

Seattle Mariners

This Seattle team could be one of the most interesting teams in the AL and perhaps one of the toughest to get a read on.

Are they truly contenders in a top-heavy AL West? They had some rather serious budgetary issues that limited them from making some serious improvements to their team in free agency this past winter. On the flip side, they have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, and when you’ve got a bonafide superstar and MVP candidate in Julio Rodriguez sitting in the middle of the lineup, I’d say that’s a pretty nice toy to play with. There are some legitimate concerns, such as the bullpen and the worrying back end of the lineup, but the positives mostly outweigh the concerns here.

If everything goes according to plan, the front half of the lineup should have enough firepower to keep Seattle in range for a playoff spot. However, the argument against them making the postseason in 2024 has some legs. Only time will tell on this intriguing core.

Prediction: 83-79

Texas Rangers

Oh, how sweet the ultimate victory is.

The Texas Rangers are defending World Series champions for the first time in franchise history. However, when you’re the king, you’ve got a target on your back. And while they may be a little more flawed than they were at full strength this past postseason, there are still weapons abound in the lineup. Marcus Semien, Corey Seager, Adolis Garcia, Nathaniel Lowe, Josh Jung, and others are still around. And there should be even more riches thrown onto the pile with the emergence of young studs like Evan Carter and top prospect Wyatt Langford.

Texas Rangers infielder Ezequiel Duran, left, outfielders Leody Taveras, center, and Adolis Garcia jog during a spring training workout at the team's training facility on Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, in Surprise, AZ. (Shafkat Anowar/Tribune Content Agency)

However, the pitching has already started struggling with health issues, as Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer will both be sidelined through at least the first half of the season. The rotation will be tested, as guys such as Nathan Eovaldi, Jon Gray, Dane Dunning, Andrew Heaney, and others will be called upon to shore up the rotation in their absence.

The rest of Major League Baseball doubted the Rangers last year when they lost the division to the Astros. They were quickly and swiftly proven wrong. The Rangers are defending World Series champions, but the rest of the AL will be coming for them. When you aim for the king, you best not miss. The Rangers should be worried about defending their title, though, and another great regular season should be in the cards again.

Prediction: 89-73

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