As Opening Day gets even closer, the Boston Red Sox are looking to become the first team in MLB to repeat as World Series champions since their division rivals the New York Yankees won three straight from 1998 to 2000. The problem with repeating will be the Yankees, which went out and got some pitching help in the offseason. The Red Sox might struggle to repeat as AL East champs let alone World Series champs. Here’s a look at the favorites to win each division in the American League.
The Red Sox do return most of their championship-winning lineup from a year ago. That includes AL MVP Mookie Betts and slugger J.D. Martinez. The pair combined for 75 home runs and 210 RBIs while both batting over .330. The problem for Boston will be overcoming the losses of relievers Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly.
The favorite to win the division is the Yankees, who had the third-best record in baseball last season. They return a lineup that was first in the majors in home runs, second in runs scored, and second in OPS and RBIs. New York added starting pitcher James Paxton and reliever Adam Ottavino in the offseason, which should put them over the top in the East.
It was the weakest division in baseball in 2018 and that will continue in 2019. The only team over .500 last year was division winner Cleveland and the Indians are the favorites to win the Central again. The Indians did make some changes, but still have a solid core with Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez as well as Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber.
The stiffest competition for Cleveland should come from Minnesota, which lost veteran Joe Mauer to retirement. The Twins went out in free agency and obtained 2B Jonathan Schoop and 1B C.J. Cron from Tampa Bay. They also added Nelson Cruz, who has averaged 40 home runs over the last five seasons.
In 2017 the Houston Astros won the World Series. They followed that up by improving their win total by two games last season (103-59). Houston swept Cleveland to make to the ALCS but fell to the eventual champs, Boston. The talent is still there in Houston, which led the majors last year with a +263 run scoring differential.
The question for the Astros will be the pitching rotation. Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel are gone, but Houston still has ace Justin Verlander (16-9), Gerrit Cole (15-5), and Collin McHugh (6-2). Houston held the opposition to just 3.3 runs per game last season and if they can come close to that in 2019 there is no question they will win the AL West for the third consecutive season.
The Angels will still have the best player in baseball in Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani will return from Tommy John surgery, but the Angels simply do not have the pitching staff to make a serious run at Houston. Trout has been to seven All-Star games already but has not won a single playoff game with the Angels. The best-case scenario for Trout and the Angels is to get into the postseason as a wild card.