Mar 21, 2019
Mar 21, 2019

MLB 2019: American League Preview

2019 American League team previews

American League East

American League Central

American League West

MLB 2019: American League Preview

The 2019 MLB season is now upon us and while bettors will be thinking about the first game of the season, the World Series and everything in between, it’s important to have a measure of all the teams competing before placing. Read on for a team-by-team preview of the MLB American League.

This article contribution comes from Michael Rathburn (@FantasyRath).

When evaluating over/under win totals and eventually division, pennant, and World Series winners, I try and ask the following questions:

  1. Did they over or under achieve last year?
  2. Did they have key injuries or no injuries?
  3. What did the team do in the offseason to improve or decline?
  4. What did the rest of the division do in the offseason?
  5. Are they going to be buyers or sellers come July?

My overview on the American League is that not much has changed from 2018 to 2019. The Yankees went out and bolstered their starting rotation and bullpen. The Twins made a lot of moves to improve their offense. I am expecting much of the same, but I really love what the Astros have done with adding Michael Brantley. I’m all-in on the Astros again in 2019 (I rode them all the way in 2017) to win over 100 games and the World Series.

American League East

New York Yankees

2018 W-L record: 100-62

2018 O/U win total: 94.5

2019 O/U win total: 96.5

Key acquisitions: James Paxton, DJ LeMahieu, Troy Tulowitzki, Adam Ottavino, Gio Gonzalez

Key losses: Luis Severino/CC Sabathia/Aaron Hicks (all dealing with injuries), David Robertson, Didi Gregorius (injured).

The Yankees made a splash in the offseason by acquiring James Paxton in a trade with the Mariners along with bolstering an already dominating bullpen by signing Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino.

Until a few weeks ago, the Yankees were looking like solid favourites to win the American League, but the injury situation with Luis Severino and Aaron Hicks could be crucial. They might be able to overcome Hicks with Clint Frazier, but Severino would be a huge loss.

Boston Red Sox

2018 W-L record: 108-54

2018 O/U win total: 92

2019 O/U win total: 94.5

Key acquisitions: (None)
Key losses: Craig Kimbrel, Ian Kinsler

Everything changed for the 2018 Red Sox when they signed JD Martinez. The impact of Martinez’s bat in the lineup resulted in a career year for him, but also for AL MVP Mookie Betts. The Red Sox offence got back to being the offensive juggernaut they were before David Ortiz retired.

Almost the entire team is back in 2019 except for closer Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox decided the price tag and years were going to be too much, and Kimbrel remains unsigned. The closer role is the only question mark and it is being filled by Matt Barnes, or Ryan Brasier.

Keep an eye on LHP Darwinzon Hernandez who could be their Josh Hader. With the Yankees looking vulnerable, the Red Sox look like a solid bet to win the AL East again.

Tampa Bay Rays

2018 W-L record: 90-72

2018 O/U win total: 74

2019 O/U win total: 84.5

Key acquisitions: Mike Zunino, Avisail Garcia, Yandy Diaz, Charlie Morton

Key losses: (None)

The 2018 Rays had a great season and eclipsed their season win total by 16 games. Their success was not luck, but a sound strategy to use their pitchers in a different way, that other teams started to copy.

The use of an “opener” allowed them to mix and match pitchers instead of relying on one going most of the game unless it was Cy Young winner Blake Snell. The Rays were forced to do this after losing several pitchers to Tommy John surgery.

The Rays only had one month in which they were under .500, and that was by just one game. They played consistently all year and even better in the second half (.621). I think they will compete for a Wild Card spot in 2019 again, and their win total for this year looks like a fair mark.

Toronto Blue Jays

2018 W-L record: 73-89

2018 O/U win total: 81.5

2019 O/U win total: 75.5

Key acquisitions: Freddy Galvis, Matt Shoemaker, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette

Key losses: Russell Martin, Josh Donaldson

The Blue Jays tried to be competitive in 2018, but it was obvious that they were not going to compete with the Red Sox and Yankees. Instead of doing the fire sale last year or in the offseason, they have decided to keep playing. I am very confident that come July several veteran pieces will be moved and if that happens going under their win total of 75.5 looks like the most likely outcome.

Baltimore Orioles

2018 W-L record: 47-115

2018 O/U win total: 72.5

2019 O/U win total: 58.5

Key acquisitions: (None)

Key losses: Manny Machado

The 2018 Orioles will go down as the worst team in the history of baseball. They were a poor 19-62 on the road and never hit 10 wins in a single month. Throw on top a 3-16 record against the Red Sox. Their Pythagorean W-L put them at deserving 55 wins and despite them being worse this year, their win total is so low that it’s difficult to take on the under.

American League Central

Cleveland Indians

2018 W-L record: 91-71

2018 O/U win total: 94.5

2019 O/U win total: 90.5

Key acquisitions: Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Santana, Hanley Ramirez, Jake Bauers

Key losses: Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Cody Allen

The 2018 Indians fell short of expectations in terms of their win total and also got swept away by the Astros in the AL Division Series. While they have the best starting rotation in baseball, they failed to address the issues in the outfield which still puts them behind the Yankees, Red Sox, and Astros.

There were rumors of a deal with the Padres who have a surplus of outfielders, but nothing has transpired yet. Feeling a sense of desperation, they just signed Carlos Gonzalez.

The Indians need to hope their pitching can carry them to another division title and perhaps they can swing a deal to fill the OF gap. If they don’t, I can see the Twins breathing down their necks all year and possibly overtaking them in the AL Central.

Minnesota Twins

2018 W-L record: 78-84

2018 O/U win total: 83

2019 O/U win total: 83.5

Key acquisitions: CJ Cron, Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, Marwin Gonzalez, Martin Perez, Blake Parker

Key losses: Joe Mauer, Ervin Santana

The 2018 Twins started off very slow and were never able to catch the Indians. In looking at their home/road splits, they were a dismal 29-52 on the road. With the addition of several veterans, they will certainly be hoping for that road record to improve in 2019.

The lineup is on par with the Indians or even slightly better, but the rotation needs some help. It looks like Martin Perez could be a sleeper as he has been hitting 97mph in spring training. Along with Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda they have pitching with pedigree, but also have warts. The Twins are an SP2 away from really making a run in the AL Central (Dallas Keuchel could be the answer), so it’s easy to see them making a solid jump in win total, but not the division in 2019.

Chicago White Sox

2018 W-L record: 62-100

2018 O/U win total: 72.5

2019 O/U win total: 73.5

Key acquisitions: Alex Colome, Kelvin Herrera, Jon Jay, Yonder Alonso, Eloy Jimenez, Ivan Nova, Ervin Santana

Key losses: Michael Kopech (injured), Avisail Garcia,

The White Sox fell short of their 2018 win total by 10.5 and did not make enough moves in the offseason to warrant a bump in their 2019 win total to 73.5. Yes, they do play against the Royals and White Sox, but the Twins are improved, and the Indians are about the same. When you combine that with the injury to future ace Michael Kopech, it’s tough to see a double-digit improvement.

The Sox do have big time hitting prospect Eloy Jimenez coming which will help the lineup tremendously, but nothing else in the pipeline for 2019.

Kansas City Royals

2018 W-L record: 58-104

2018 O/U win total: 70

2019 O/U win total: 69.5

Key acquisitions: Billy Hamilton, Martin Maldonado, Chris Owings, Brad Boxberger

Key losses: Salvador Perez (injured), Danny Duffy (injured)

The over for the Royals win total certainly looked like the more attractive option, but that was until Salvador Perez suffered a season-ending injury. There is potential there to improve but they won 58 in 2018, and their total is 11.5 higher this year. When taking everything into consideration, including the fact that the Royals are another team destined to be sellers come July, it’s difficult to see much value in the over.

Detroit Tigers

2018 W-L record: 64-98

2018 O/U win total: 67

2019 O/U win total: 68.5

Key acquisitions: Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Tyson Ross, Matt Moore

Key losses: James McCann, Victor Martinez, Jose Iglesias, Michael Fulmer (injured)

The only thing that saved the 2018 Tigers from losing 100 games is the fact they play in the AL Central with the Royals and White Sox. All three teams are equally bad, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better in 2019.

The Tigers will most likely be sellers in July and that means the over on their win total is probably best avoided. The question is whether the under offers any value, and given that the Royals and White Sox will probably edge them then a case could be made for taking the Tigers to get less than 68.5 wins.

American League West

Houston Astros

2018 W-L record: 103-59

2018 O/U win total: 97.5

2019 O/U win total: 96.5

Key acquisitions: Michael Brantley, Wade Miley, Forrest Whitley, Kyle Tucker

Key losses: Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers (injured)

It is very difficult to repeat as World Series champions in baseball (although it’s always best to avoid narrative, they’ll be plenty of people who avoid the Red Sox this year for that exact reason). The Astros won 103 games last season, but their Pythagorean W-L put them at an impressive 109. This team could have been better, they just happened to run into the buzzsaw called the Red Sox.

While they did lose Dallas Keuchel to free agency and Lance McCullers to injury, they do have Collin McHugh to step in along with the signing of Wade Miley. There is also Brad Peacock who can be an effective starting pitcher along with a long reliever.

The Astros are the best 25-man roster in baseball and have depth to fill in for injuries. They also have potential contributors/trade chips in top prospects Kyle Tucker (OF) and Forrest Whitley (SP). The AL MVP from the season before last, Jose Altuve played hurt most of last year, so expect a bounce back season from him. The Astros can definitely make a push for 110 wins in 2019 and go on to win everything - including the World Series.

Oakland A’s

2018 W-L record: 97-65

2018 O/U win total: 75.5

2019 O/U win total: 83.5

Key acquisitions: Jesus Luzardo, AJ Puk, Jurickson Profar, Nick Hundley

Key losses: Jed Lowrie, Matt Joyce, Trevor Cahill, Fernando Rodney

The 2018 A’s beat their projected win total by a whopping 22 games. Much of their success was due to the huge season from closer Blake Treinen. They also put up a 31-14 record in one run games which is hard to sustain. From the start of June onwards they were one of the best teams in baseball.

When looking at their head-to-head matchups, they beat up on the weaker teams of the AL and struggled with the big guns (Yankees, Indians, Red Sox, Astros). Don’t get me wrong, the A’s have a solid lineup but that is the case for a lot of teams in the AL.

A big part of the 2019 A’s success will rest on the arm of top prospect Jesus Luzardo. If he can contribute like a front of the rotation starter, they should be in line for playoff contention. Also, top pitching prospect AJ Puk is scheduled to return around the All-Star Break and would be a huge factor.

Los Angeles Angels

2018 W-L record: 80-82

2018 O/U win total: 84.5

2019 O/U win total: 81.5

Key acquisitions: Matt Harvey, Trevor Cahill, Justin Bour,

Key losses: Garrett Richards, Shohei Ohtani (hitter only - May), Blake Parker, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney (injured)

I had high hopes for the Angels in 2018 and had them down as playoff contenders, but injuries to Mike Trout, Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, and most of their pitching staff left them at just under .500. Their win total is just shy of a .500 team, so their expectations are lower this year.

Unfortunately, the injuries have already piled up in 2019 as Ohtani will not be able to pitch and Andrew Heaney is dealing with elbow inflammation. This team has been snakebitten with injuries for several years which leads me to think it’s an organisational issue, rather than simply bad luck.

Seattle Mariners

2018 W-L record: 89-73

2018 O/U win total: 81.5

2019 O/U win total: 71.5

Key acquisitions: Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion, Domingo Santana, Omar Narvaez, Tim Beckham, Yusei Kikuchi, Hunter Strickland

Key losses: Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano, Mike Zunino

The 2018 Mariners outperformed their Pythagorean W-L record by a substantial margin (they won 89 games but only should have won 77). This combined with all the offseason moves have led their 2019 win total to drop all the way to 71.5.

Despite all the changes, it still looks likely that they can hit the over 71.5 wins, but plenty of people out there will have a different opinions which makes this one of the hardest win totals to call for this MLB season.

Texas Rangers

2018 W-L record: 67-95

2018 O/U win total: 75

2019 O/U win total: 71.5

Key acquisitions: Asdrubal Cabrera, Lance Lynn, Drew Smyly, Shelby Miller

Key losses: Adrian Beltre, Matt Moore, Martin Perez

The 2018 Rangers looked awful coming into the season and lived up to expectations. Not much has been done with the roster to think they can improve on the 67 win season - their win total is 71.5 which may come as a surprise to bettors. The Rangers could easily become part of the 100 loss club in 2019.

They have several assets that teams would want on the hitting side, and at what point do they decide to blow it up and go into a full rebuild. The pitching staff is one of the worst in baseball with no prospects on the way any time soon.

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