Yankees: Evaluating The American League Competition For 2020

While there are plenty of rebuilding teams in the American League, there are still a handful of teams that could give the Yankees trouble in 2020.

The New York Yankees are coming off their first decade in 100 years without reaching a world series.

With the addition of Gerrit Cole, many are tabbing the Yankees as the favorites to win the American League pennant in 2020.

While one can make a great case for the Bombers being the best team on paper in the AL, there are still plenty of talented teams they will need to overcome to reach the fall classic?

Who poses the most significant threat? Here’s a quick look at all other 14 AL clubs.

The Bottom Rebuilders

Baltimore Orioles:

2019 marked the second straight 100-plus loss season for the Baltimore Orioles.

The Yankees dominated their season series with the Birds as after losing two of the first three meetings, they won 16 in a row to finish 17-2 against Baltimore.

While the Orioles farm system is getting better and better, their major league team still has a world of holes that will keep them far from the postseason picture in 2020.

Detroit Tigers:

The Tigers finished with baseball’s worst record in 2019 (47-114) and will hold the first pick in the MLB Draft for the second time in three years.

To their credit, they’ve signed some major league talent this offseason to help the club in the short term. Detroit added veteran players such as former Yankees back-up catcher Austin Romine, former all-star Jonathan Schoop and slugger C.J. Cron.

Regardless this roster is far from one ready to compete as the Tigers lengthy rebuild will continue to hurt their play on the field in 2020.

Kansas City Royals:

Just five years ago, the Kansas City Royals won the 2015 World Series and back to back AL pennants, now they’re in the midst of a rebuild.

While Kansas City is closer than Baltimore and Detroit to competing, their roster has a lot of question marks, especially in the starting rotation and bullpen.

The Royals offense figures to be improved with the return of Salvador Perez and addition of Mikel Franco, joining slugger Jorge Soler in the middle of the order, but their lack of pitching depth will keep them out of the race in 2020.

Seattle Mariners: 

The Seattle Mariners hold pro-sports the longest playoff drought as they’ve not made it to the postseason since 2001.

It doesn’t appear 2020 will be the season they break the streak as Seattle again appears to be in rebuilding mode.

Seattle’s offense has the potential to score some runs, but their pitching staff is young, and the veterans are mostly those looking to reinvent themselves with players such as Kendall Graveman and Carl Edwards Jr. Thus, it’ll likely be another long season in the pacific northwest.

The Playoff Hopefuls

Chicago White Sox 

The Chicago White Sox had a big offseason as they added much needed veteran talent to a young team that features many former top prospects.

Chicago started by starting pitchers Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez to a rotation featuring one of baseball’s top young arms in Lucas Giolito. They then added power to their lineup by trading for Nomar Mazara and signing both former Yankee Edwin Encarnacion and all-star catcher Yasmani Grandal.

While the White Sox still have question marks in their bullpen, the lineup is among the AL’s best on paper, and the starting rotation is formidable, which should give them a shot at reaching the postseason for the first time since 2008.

Cleveland Indians

Despite trading away Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer over the last six months, the Cleveland Indians still have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs in 2020.

Their lineup still features one of baseball’s best infield duos Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, and has some pop with sluggers Carlos Santana and Franmil Reyes. The rotation is also still among baseball’s best as Mike Clevenginer, Carlos Carrasco Shane Bieber and Adam Plutko will all return in 2020. Finally, the bullpen features one of the games best closers in Brad Hand and set-up men in Adam Cimber.

While losing Bauer and Kluber will hurt, the Indians’ playoff hopes are still fairly high as they have plenty of talent still around to make a run.

Los Angeles Angels

The Los Angeles Angels have the best player in the world in Mike Trout on their roster that automatically makes them at least a playoff-hopeful every season.

Heading into 2020, the Angels offense figures to be improved with former Washington National star Anthony Rendon on board to protect Trout in the lineup. The problem for Los Angeles is their pitching depth lacks in both the rotation and bullpen and the front office hasn’t done much to improve it this offseason.

While their offense will give them a shot to make a postseason run, the Angles will have to add an arm or two later this offseason or at the July trade deadline.

Texas Rangers

After a short rebuilding period, the Texas Rangers figure to be back in the postseason hunt in 2020.

Texas already has one of the AL’s better lineups with Joey Gallo and Sin-Soo Choo but now have a forbidden rotation led by two time Cy-Young award winner Corey Kluber. Behind Kluber, the Rangers have quality starters in Mike Minor, Lance Lynn, Kyle Gibson and Jordan Lyles, which should help their win total improve from a year ago.

The one question mark for the Rangers is their bullpen that lacks much experience, but regardless, this should be an improved ball club from a year ago who can make a run at a wild card spot.

Toronto Blue Jays

Like Texas, the Toronto Blue Jays are exiting a mini rebuilding process and are closing in on contention.

Toronto has one of baseball’s best young offensive cores that the game has seen in several years. The lineup will be full of second-year players who were once highly-rated prospects guided by Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette. To pair with a dynamic lineup, Toronto bolstered their starting rotation this offseason with the additions of last year’s all-star game starting pitcher Hin Juin Ryu and reliable veterans Tanner Roark and Chase Anderson. The Jays will also have Ken Giles returning to the closer’s role to lead a bullpen that improved throughout the 2019 season.

The Jays may still be a year away from being serious contenders, but 2020 should see them at least get back in the wild card hunt.

The Contenders

Boston Red Sox

2019 was a disappointing season for the Red Sox as a year after winning 119 games and the world series in 2018, they missed the postseason and won just 84 games.

Despite this, it’s hard to count Boston out of the contender category unless they end up trading away Mookie Betts to cut payroll.

As of now, Betts is still a Red Sox, as are several other of the games’ best players in J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.

While the Red Sox has a talented offense, there is reason to speculate if the team has the pitching needed to get back to the postseason. Chris Sale is one of baseball’s top starting pitchers, but injuries effected him all of 2019. The Sox also lost Rick Porcello to free-agency and may trade David Price.

Last season, the Red Sox Achilles heel was their bullpen. With limited payroll, there haven’t been any additions to that group, which is another reason to be suspicious of Boston.

Regardless, Boston has too much talent to be completely counted out and will be considered world series contenders.

Houston Astros

If it weren’t for the Houston Astros, the Yankees would’ve been playing in the world series two out of the last three seasons.

Despite losing Gerrit Cole to New York, Houston still has as much talent as anyone in baseball.

The Astros will return their entire lineup that has been among baseball’s most dangerous the last three seasons, their bullpen will be back intact and outside of Cole and Wade Miley will still have Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and a healthy Lance McCullers in the rotation.

Houston will be again a tough out in 2020 and are perhaps still the Yankees biggest threat in the AL pennant race.

Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota Twins took the baseball world by storm in 2019 with a surprise 101 win season to win the AL Central.

While the Yankees swept the Twins aside in the postseason, Minnesota still figures to be a threat in 2020.

Minnesota will return their entire lineup, which was one of baseball’s most powerful last season and has a young and talented bullpen still completely intact.

Perhaps Minnesota’s biggest hole is in the starting rotation. The team did add veteran arms in Rich Hill and Homer Bailey but lost Kyle Gibson and failed to add a true front line starter despite their efforts.

If Minnesota’s rotation can rise above expectations and the offense stays powerful, the Twins will have another successful 2020 season and will be a world series contender.

Oakland A’s

The Oakland A’s have put together back to back 97 win seasons but have paid the price of playing in the same division as the Astros as they’ve lost in the wild card game in back to back seasons.

With the Astros losing their ace, the A’s will have their best chance yet to win the AL West. Oakland’s lineup led by Matt Chapman and Matt Olsen is among the deepest in baseball. In the rotation, the A’s will have ace Sean Sean Manaea for a full season after he missed almost all of 2020 and veteran Mike Fires returning. The team also has an outstanding bullpen with a lockdown closer in Liam Hendricks, Lou Trivino, and Joakim Soria.

Oakland could probably use another starter to bolster their rotation even further but are still on paper one of baseball’s most complete teams, making them a contender again in 2020.

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay is coming off back to back seasons of winning at least 90 games. In 2019, the Rays won 96 ball games, defeated the A’s on the road in the AL wild card game, and took the Astros to game five of the ALDS.

While the Rays traded away Tommy Pham, their lineup still features plenty of talent with 2019 all-stars Austin Meadows and Brandon Lowe along with newly added slugger Hunter Renfroe.

As seemingly every year, Tampa’s pitching staff, figures to be one of baseball’s best in 2020 with a three-headed monster in the rotation of Charlie Morton, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow and hard-throwing bullpen arms in Jose Alvarado, Diego Castillo and Emilio Pagan.

The Rays will again be dangerous in 2020 and will likely prove to be the Yankees biggest challenger for the AL East crown.

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