The 2014 MLB season has officially begun, with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks playing two games in Australia last weekend. Opening Day for the rest of the league, however, is set for the first week of April.
Last year, the Boston Red Sox won the American League Pennant for the third time in a decade, and went on to win the World Series. In 2014, they’ll face even stiffer competition.
In the offseason, American League teams did a much better job of improving than the National League clubs. All of the top free-agent position players went on to sign with AL organizations. While players like Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and Nelson Cruz switched from one AL team to another, others came over from the NL. Brian McCann (Atlanta Braves) and Carlos Beltran (St. Louis Cardinals) joined the New York Yankees, and Shin-Soo Choo made the leap from the Cincinnati Reds to the Texas Rangers.
Most of the best pitchers on the market also ended up in the AL. Chief among them is rookie Masahiro Tanaka. The Japanese starter went to the Yankees for $155 million over seven years.
Having added a number of big names to their roster, the Yankees are looking to bounce back from one of their worst seasons in recent years. New York missed the playoffs for just the second time, since the strike of 1994. They added four of the biggest names available in order to compensate for the loss of Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Alex Rodriguez, whose suspension will keep him out the entire season.
New York won’t have it easy, considering they’re a part of perhaps the best division in baseball. The Yankees may have to contend with the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, as well as the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays, who finished with 92 wins in 2013, were one of the two last season's wild card teams.
Despite the loaded AL East, the favorite to represent the AL in the World Series comes from the AL Central. After losing in back-to-back ALCS’s, the Detroit Tigers have the best odds of winning the pennant. Detroit made a major deal in November, sending Prince Fielder to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler. Still, the club has arguably the best pitcher, as well as offensive player, in Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.
In the West, there doesn’t seem to be much separation between the top three teams. Oakland won the division last year with 96 wins, and Texas narrowly missed the playoffs with 91 victories. Even after a sub-.500 year, some experts expect the Los Angeles Angels to be a contender. With Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in the middle of their lineup, L.A. has the potential to be very dangerous.
Below are predictions for the American League in the 2014 season, as well as each team’s odds to reach the World Series. All betting odds are courtesy of Bovada.lv.
New York Yankees (13/2)
Boston Red Sox (6/1)
Tampa Bay Rays (6/1)
Toronto Blue Jays (14/1)
Baltimore Orioles (16/1)
Detroit Tigers (4/1)
Kansas City Royals (16/1)
Chicago White Sox (33/1)
Cleveland Indians (20/1)
Minnesota Twins (50/1)
Oakland Athletics (9/1)
Los Angeles Angels (11/1)
Texas Rangers (8/1)
Seattle Mariners (16/1)
Houston Astros (125/1)
Wild Card: Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers
ALCS: Detroit Tigers over New York Yankees