Monday, May 8, 2017

Season 38 Preview: AL North

Season 37 Recap
The Twinkies took their 2nd straight North crown with a strong 98-win campaign.  The Tigers claimed a wild card, but both North teams were erased in their first playoff series. The White Sox seemed to age quickly, sagging by 20 wins to 76, while Toronto improved to 74 victories but still finished 4th.

Season 38 Preview
The big offseason news here, of course, is Minnesota's max contract for Luis Osuna.  It remains to be seen if they'll use him as a traditional every-5th-day starter or in some other capacity as part of their almost-all-relief scheme.  You can be sure that they'll try to squeeze 250 innings out of him whatever his role(s).  With their infield hits (world-leading 175 last year) and base-stealing (347 - lapped the field), the Twins' offense should be in the 800-850 run range again. Add that to their sterling defense, and perhaps Osuna is the ticket to their first World Championship since Season 14.

The Tigers and White Sox both had busy off-seasons as well.  The Tigers extended themselves right up to their $110MM budget, bringing in Jim Colin as a #2 starter, Dennis Nakajima to bolster the OF, and Tori Hatcher at 2B.  I expect a big rebound for Chicago.  While they made some smart budget FA signings, I think they'll get rebound seasons from a number of their star veterans (Magglio Rodriguez and Addison Johnson, for example, bit had their worst seasons by far last 33 and 31, you have to expect big comebacks).

Toronto made a big jump behind a wave of youngsters last year.  They've reached competitive status but will still be concentrating on farm system development for the next season or 2.  They have 1 or 2 prospects who could help some this year, but the real jump will come when their last 3 #1's - Perry Sutton (Season 35 #1 overall), Wally Gordon (Season 36 #16), and Ernest Erving (Season 37 #5) - reach the Bigs.

Forecast:  I'm picking the White Sox to win the division in a pretty big upset, with the Twins grabbing a Wild Card.

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