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American League team-by-team previews

A team-by-team look at the American League in 2015. Listed in predicted order of finish.

EAST

1. Baltimore

They’ve lost Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, and Andrew Miller, but a consistent pitching staff is in place. Although Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy will start the season on the disabled list, Wieters and Chris Davis are in team-beneficial walk years. Third baseman Manny Machado also is returning from injury and may be one of the best in the game. The Orioles need righthander Kevin Gausman to emerge as a No. 1.

Clubhouse leader: Adam Jones. The Orioles pass it around with Wieters, Hardy, and Darren O’Day, but Jones is the most vocal.

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2014: 96-66, 1st. Manager: Buck Showalter (6th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
LFAlejandro De Aza120841.252.700
3BManny Machado911232.278.755
CFAdam Jones1812996.281.780
1BChris Davis882672.196.704
DHSteve Pearce992149.293.930
C*Matt Wieters32518.308.839
SS*J.J. Hardy142952.268.682
RFTravis Snider851338.264.776
2BJonathan Schoop951645.209.598
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHChris Tillman13-63.346.51.230
LHWei-Yin Chen16-63.546.61.228
RHBud Norris15-83.657.61.216
RHMiguel Gonzalez10-93.236.31.296
RHKevin Gausman7-73.577.01.315
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
LHZach Britton371.657.30.904

2. New York

Healthy spring for their bounce-back players, so the Yankees will start healthy and old, but talented. Keys are CC Sabathia returning from knee surgery, Michael Pineda taking that next step, and a healthy elbow for Masahiro Tanaka. Strong bullpen with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. A healthy Mark Teixeira and emerging shortstop Didi Gregorius are keys.

Clubhouse leader: With Derek Jeter gone, catcher Brian McCann could step up.

2014: 84-78, 2d. Manager: Joe Girardi (8th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
LFBrett Gardner1421758.256.749
CFJacoby Ellsbury1561670.271.747
1BMark Teixeira952262.216.711
RFCarlos Beltran941549.233.703
DHAlex RodriguezSUSPENDED FOR 2014
CBrian McCann1152375.232.692
3BChase Headley1141349.243.700
SSDidi Gregorius61627.226.653
2BStephen Drew44726.162.536
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHMasahiro Tanaka13-52.779.31.056
RHMichael Pineda5-51.897.00.825
LHCC Sabathia3-45.289.41.478
RHNate Eovaldi6-144.376.41.332
LH*Chris Capuano3-44.357.81.387
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHDellin Betances11.4013.50.778

3. Boston

A potent lineup, with the additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to help David Ortiz, and Mookie Betts at leadoff, should be atop the league in runs. The starting rotation lacks an ace. The bullpen could be problematic if Koji Uehara struggles again. The Red Sox have all the pieces to make a significant trade deadline deal.

Clubhouse leader: Dustin Pedroia remains the heart and soul of the team.

2014: 71-91, 5th. Manager: John Farrell (3d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFMookie Betts55518.291.812
2BDustin Pedroia153753.278.712
DHDavid Ortiz13635104.263.873
LFHanley Ramirez1271371.283.817
3BPablo Sandoval1641673.279.739
1BMike Napoli1031755.248.789
RFShane Victorino33212.268.685
SSXander Bogaerts1291246.240.660
CRyan Hanigan49534.218.642
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHClay Buchholz8-115.347.01.386
RHRick Porcello15-133.435.71.231
LHWade Miley8-124.348.21.401
RHJoe Kelly6-44.206.21.349
RHJustin Masterson7-95.888.11.632
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RH*Koji Uehara262.5211.20.917

4. Toronto

Marcus Stroman’s season-ending injury really eats into their pitching depth. A lot will be placed on the shoulders of youngsters Aaron Sanchez and Daniel Norris. The Jays will have six rookies on their Opening Day roster. The Jays have a decent lineup and their defense should improve with Josh Donaldson at third. The Jose Bautista/Edwin Encarnacion dynamic in the middle of the lineup is potent.

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Clubhouse leader: Bautista still sets the tone for this team on and off the field, but catcher Russell Martin could take that over.

2014: 83-79, 3d. Manager: John Gibbons (3d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
SSJose Reyes175951.287.726
CRussell Martin1101167.290.832
RFJose Bautista15835103.286.928
DHEdwin Encarnacion1283498.268.901
3BJosh Donaldson1552998.255.798
LF*Michael Saunders63834.273.791
1BJustin Smoak50730.202.614
2BDevon TravisMINORS IN 2014
CFDalton Pompey914.231.738
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHR.A. Dickey14-133.717.21.229
RHDrew Hutchison11-134.489.01.262
LHMark Buehrle13-103.395.31.356
RHAaron Sanchez2-21.097.40.697
LHDaniel Norris0-05.405.41.500
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
LHBrett Cecil52.7012.81.369

5. Tampa Bay

Pitching will take an early blow with Drew Smyly and Alex Cobb out for the first month or more. By June, when Matt Moore returns and closer Jake McGee is back, we may see a team that can stay in contention. But the Rays will continue to have problems scoring. They need former Nationals farmhand Steven Souza to add a power dimension.

Clubhouse leader: Evan Longoria remains the leader. He was only one of three players in the majors to play all 162 games last season.

2014: 77-85, 4th. Manager: Kevin Cash (1st year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
DHJohn Jaso81940.264.767
2BLogan Forsythe67626.223.616
SSAsdrubal Cabrera1331461.241.694
3BEvan Longoria1582291.253.724
1BJames Loney174969.290.716
CFKevin Kiermaier871035.263.450
LFDesmond Jennings1171036.244.697
RFSteven Souza322.130.622
CRene Rivera741144.252.751
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RH*Alex Cobb10-92.878.11.136
RHChris Archer10-93.338.01.279
LH*Drew Smyly9-103.247.81.163
RHJake Odorizzi11-134.139.31.280
RHNathan Karns1-14.509.80.917
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHGrant Balfour124.918.21.444

CENTRAL

1. Chicago

OK, I’m buying the hype. Chris Sale (out with a foot fracture to start the season), Jeff Samardzija, and Jose Quintana are a good front three, and Hector Noesi and John Danks are so-so at the end. Need rookie lefthander Carlos Rodon to step up. Jose Abreu should continue to be one of the top sluggers and Melky Cabrera and Adam LaRoche will add to a decent lineup ignited by leadoff man Adam Eaton. David Robertson can be an inconsistent closer, but the results are there.

Clubhouse leader: Eaton is emerging.

2014: 73-89, 4th. Manager: Robin Ventura (4th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFAdam Eaton146135.300.763
LFMelky Cabrera1711673.301.808
DHJose Abreu17636107.317.964
1BAdam LaRoche1282692.259.817
RFAvisail Garcia42729.244.718
SSAlexei Ramirez1701574.273.713
3BConor Gillaspie131757.282.752
2BMicah JohnsonMINORS IN 2014
CTyler Flowers981550.241.693
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LH*Chris Sale12-42.1710.80.966
RHJeff Samardzija7-132.998.31.065
LHJose Quintana9-113.328.01.243
LHJohn Danks11-114.746.01.441
RHHector Noesi8-124.756.41.369
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHDavid Robertson393.0813.41.057

2. Detroit

Losing Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello can’t be good. David Price is entering his walk year and Alfredo Simon may fool ’em in the AL for a while. Yoenis Cespedes needs to stay healthy. Ditto for Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers, per usual, have to come up with the right mixture in the bullpen. They need reinforcements from Bruce Rondon and Joakim Soria if Joe Nathan declines.

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Clubhouse leader: Victor Martinez is undoubtedly the team leader.

2014: 90-72, 1st. Manager: Brad Ausmus (2d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFRajai Davis130851.282.721
2BIan Kinsler1881792.275.727
1BMiguel Cabrera19125109.313.895
DHVictor Martinez18832103.335.974
RFJ.D. Martinez1392376.315.912
LFYoenis Cespedes15622100.260.751
3BNick Castellanos1381166.259.700
CAlex Avila851147.218.686
SSJose IglesiasINJURED IN 2014
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHDavid Price15-123.269.81.079
RH*Justin Verlander15-124.546.91.398
RHAnibal Sanchez8-53.437.31.095
RHAlfredo Simon15-103.445.81.207
RHShane Greene5-43.789.31.398
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHJoe Nathan354.818.41.534

3. Kansas City

Replacing the performance and leadership of James Shields will be an ongoing issue. The Royals are depending on Edinson Volquez, Danny Duffy, and Yordano Ventura to make up Shields’s 220 innings. The Royals have an elite bullpen and added Luke Hochevar, who missed all of last season. The lineup and defense is fast and effective and Kendrys Morales should replace Billy Butler at DH. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, and Lorenzo Cain should continue to get better.

Clubhouse leader: Hosmer appears to be the new leader of the Royals.

2014: 89-73, 2d. Manager: Ned Yost (6th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
SSAlcides Escobar165350.285.694
LFAlex Gordon1501974.266.783
CFLorenzo Cain142553.301.751
1BEric Hosmer136958.270.716
DHKendrys Morales80842.218.612
RFAlex Rios138454.280.709
CSalvador Perez1501770.260.692
3BMike Moustakas971554.212.632
2BOmar Infante133666.252.632
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHYordano Ventura14-103.207.81.295
LHDanny Duffy9-122.536.81.112
RHEdinson Volquez13-73.046.51.230
LHJason Vargas11-103.716.21.273
RHJeremy Guthrie13-114.135.51.303
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHGreg Holland461.4413.00.914

4. Cleveland

A few prognosticators are picking the Indians as the surprise team. I think it would be a surprise if they won the division. They have one of the best young pitching rotations in the league, though righthander Danny Salazar was disappointing in the spring. Their team defense and ability to score runs are in question. Unknowns are comeback years from Nick Swisher and Jason Kipnis. Brandon Moss should help if healthy.

Clubhouse leader: Corey Kluber is becoming that leader. He has much more cache now with his AL Cy Young Award in hand.

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2014: 85-77, 3d. Manager: Terry Francona (3d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFMichael Bourn114328.257.674
2BJason Kipnis120641.240.640
LFMichael Brantley2002097.327.890
1BCarlos Santana1252785.231.792
RFBrandon Moss1172581.234.772
CYan Gomes1352174.278.785
3BLonnie Chisenhall1341359.280.770
DHNick Swisher75842.208.608
SSJose Ramirez62217.262.646
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHCorey Kluber18-92.4410.31.095
RHCarlos Carrasco8-72.559.40.985
RHTrevor Bauer5-84.188.41.379
LHT.J. House5-33.357.11.324
RHZach McAllister4-75.237.71.442
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHCody Allen242.0711.81.062

5. Minnesota

The Twins aren’t going to be pushovers, but they need a strong comeback year from Joe Mauer and success from top free agent Ervin Santana. They need to keep introducing some of their excellent prospects, such as Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. Center field, until Buxton is ready, is a concern.

Clubhouse leader: Torii Hunter will assume the role and that’s the biggest reason they acquired him as a free agent.

2014: 70-92, 5th. Manager: Paul Molitor (1st year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
SSDanny Santana129740.319.824
2BBrian Dozier1452371.242.762
1BJoe Mauer126455.277.732
RFTorii Hunter1571783.286.765
DHKennys Vargas59938.274.772
3BTrevor Plouffe1341480.258.751
LFOswaldo Arcia862057.231.752
CKurt Suzuki130361.288.727
CFJordan Schafer50115.238.615
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHPhil Hughes16-103.528.01.130
RHErvin Santana14-103.958.21.306
RHRicky Nolasco6-125.386.51.516
RHKyle Gibson13-124.475.41.310
LHTommy Milone6-44.195.71.398
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
LHGlen Perkins343.659.61.184

WEST

1. Seattle

The Mariners have become the chic pick. They added offense — (Nelson Cruz and Seth Smith). The key is Austin Jackson as leadoff hitter/center fielder after a terrible couple of months last season. The Mariners also need another solid season from closer Fernando Rodney, who was 48 for 51 in save opportunities last season. It was the second time he’d saved 48 or more games, making him just one of six relievers to do it. No reliever has done it three times.

Clubhouse leader: Robinson Cano for the positional players and Felix Hernandez for the pitchers. Cano’s impact has been huge on the field and in the clubhouse.

2014: 87-75, 3d. Manager: Lloyd McClendon (2d year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
CFAustin Jackson153447.256.655
RFSeth Smith1181248.266.807
2BRobinson Cano1871482.314.836
DHNelson Cruz16640108.271.859
3BKyle Seager1582596.268.454
LFDustin Ackley1231465.245.692
CMike Zunino872260.199.658
1BLogan Morrison881138.262.735
SSBrad Miller811036.221.653
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHFelix Hernandez15-62.149.50.915
RHHisashi Iwakuma15-93.527.71.050
LHJames Paxton6-43.047.21.203
LHJ.A. Happ11-114.227.61.335
RHTaijuan Walker2-32.618.11.289
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHFernando Rodney482.8510.31.342

2. Los Angeles

The Angels were dealt a blow when Josh Hamilton had shoulder surgery, then admitted to a drug relapse. Matt Joyce/C.J. Cron will platoon at DH, with Joyce/Collin Cowgill platooning in left. Ace Garrett Richards is unlikely to see the mound until late April/early May after knee surgery. Andrew Heaney (acquired in the Howie Kendrick deal with the Dodgers) and Nick Tropeano add depth to rotation.

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Clubhouse leader: No doubt it’s Albert Pujols. Word is Mike Trout is emerging and Erick Aybar’s leadership is underrated.

2014: 98-64, 1st. Manager: Mike Scioscia (16th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
RFKole Calhoun1341758.272.776
SSErick Aybar164768.278.700
CFMike Trout17336111.287.939
1BAlbert Pujols17228105.272.790
LFMatt Joyce106952.254.732
DHC.J. Cron621137.256.739
3BDavid Freese1201055.260.704
CChris Iannetta77743.252.765
2BJohnny Giavotella815.216.593
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHJered Weaver18-93.597.11.209
RH*Garrett Richards13-42.618.81.038
LHC.J. Wilson13-104.517.71.446
RHMatt Shoemaker16-43.048.21.074
LHHector Santiago6-93.757.61.359
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHHuston Street411.378.60.944

3. Oakland

The A’s will enter the season with fragile players at key spots: Coco Crisp in center, Josh Reddick in right, and Brett Lawrie at third, who replaces Josh Donaldson (traded to Toronto). They’ll start the season with closer Sean Doolittle on the DL. In Jesse Hahn (via San Diego) and Kendall Graveman (via Toronto), the A’s might have better pitching than anyone expects. Don’t count them out.

Clubhouse leader: Not too much to chose from here. Crisp because of his veteran presence and Stephen Vogt because of his grit.

2014: 88-74, 2d. Manager: Bob Melvin (5th year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
LF*Coco Crisp114947.246.699
CFSam Fuld84436.239.663
2BBen Zobrist1551052.272.749
DHBilly Butler149966.271.702
1BIke Davis841151.233.722
3BBrett Lawrie641238.247.722
RFJosh Reddick961254.264.763
CStephen Vogt75935.279.752
SSMarcus Semien54628.234.673
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHSonny Gray14-103.087.51.192
LHScott Kazmir15-93.557.81.161
RHJesse Hahn7-43.078.61.214
RHKendall Graveman0-03.867.70.857
RHDrew Pomeranz5-42.358.31.116
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
LH*Sean Doolittle222.7312.80.734

4. Houston

Certainly it’s a team trending upward. The Astros aren’t doormats anymore. They seem to have their bullpen fixed with the additions of Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson. They need four huge breakout guys — AL batting champ Jose Altuve, DH Chris Carter, and starters Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh to have repeat or better seasons. Outfielders George Springer and Evan Gattis have to have healthy seasons.

Clubhouse leader: It’s unusual that pitchers would be the leaders, but starter Scott Feldman and reliever Chad Qualls seem to be just that.

2014: 70-92, 4th. Manager: A.J. Hinch (1st year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
2BJose Altuve225759.341.830
3BLuis Valbuena1191651.249.776
RFGeorge Springer682051.231.804
1BChris Carter1153788.227.799
DHEvan Gattis972252.263.810
SSJed Lowrie125650.249.676
LFColby Rasmus781840.225.735
CJason Castro1031456.222.651
CFJake Marisnick55319.249.607
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
LHDallas Keuchel12-92.936.61.175
RHScott Feldman8-123.745.31.303
RHCollin McHugh11-92.739.11.022
LHBrett Oberholtzer5-134.395.91.378
RHRoberto Hernandez8-114.105.71.391
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHLuke Gregerson32.127.31.009

5. Texas

The Rangers are in big trouble. They lost ace Yu Darvish for the season to Tommy John surgery. Prince Fielder and Shin-Soo Choo, their two high-priced players, are returning from injuries. And they lost Jurickson Profar for the second straight season early in camp. Home run threat Joey Gallo is knocking on the door.

Clubhouse leader: That would be Adrian Beltre, the 36-year-old third baseman who shows no signs of regressing.

2014: 67-95, 5th. Manager: Jeff Banister (1st year).

LINEUPHHRRBIAVG.OPS
SSElvis Andrus163241.263.647
RFShin-Soo Choo1101340.242.714
3BAdrian Beltre1781977.324.879
1BPrince Fielder37316.247.720
DHMitch Moreland41223.246.644
LFRyan Rua31214.295.740
2BRoughned Odor100948.259.698
CFLeonys Martin146740.274.689
CRobinson Chirinos731340.239.705
ROTATIONW-LERAK/9WHIP
RHYovani Gallardo8-113.516.81.295
LHDerek Holland2-01.466.11.054
RHColby Lewis10-145.187.01.521
LHRoss Detwiler2-34.005.61.413
RHNick Martinez5-124.554.91.461
CLOSERSV.ERAK/9WHIP
RHNeftali Feliz131.996.00.979

Follow Nick Cafardo on Twitter at @nickcafardo.