With just days before games that count, nearly every fan is hoping for a big season from their team. Then again, “fan” is short for “fanatic.” So, it should come as no surprise that many fans have unreasonable expectations for their team. With that in mind, instead of making specific predictions regarding records, awards, or playoffs, let’s consider what kind of expectations each fan-base ought to have. Understanding, of course, that it’s a fool’s errand to expect fanatics to be reasonable. So, fans, be prepared to be offended!
- Baltimore Orioles (89-73 in 2016; t-2nd in division; lost AL Wild Card game) – This is a team that seems to just be getting older. Nearly all their regular position players are 30+, and the starting rotation leaves a lot to be desired (especially with Tillman looking like he’ll miss the start of the season). An exciting year for the Orioles would be another 85-90 wins, and a playoff appearance. But, more reasonable expectations likely have this team hanging around .500.
- Boston Red Sox (93-69 in 2016; 1st in division; lost ALDS) – Don’t underestimate the loss of Ortiz. I’m not sure anyone else in this lineup is legitimately feared by opposing pitchers. And, this team was 4 games under .500 last year in one-run games, while 30-11 in blowouts. But, the addition of Sale, and the hope that Price’s injury doesn’t have a big impact on his season means this team just got harder to score on, while no one else in the division took significant strides forward. Reasonable expectations: 90-ish wins & playoff appearance; possibly a playoff run.
- New York Yankees (84-78 in 2016; 4th in division) – Definitely a team on the rise, while their average age continues to drop. Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Greg Bird could be the next Jeter/Posada/Williams core. Sizeable holes in the pitching staff, so it isn’t championship time again. Yet. Reasonable expectations: compete for a Wild Card spot, maybe even the division.
- Tampa Bay Rays (68-94; last in division) – Very good, young pitching staff. One that will likely have contending teams drooling at the trade deadline. But, other than Longoria (and Kiermaier at times), the offense isn’t stout. And their better position player prospects are still a year or two from having a big impact on the team. This team would be better if they were in a different division (losing record against all but Toronto last year). Reasonable Expectations: Get closer to a .500 record (75+ wins?), make smart trades, and draft well.
- Toronto Blue Jays (89-73; t-2nd in division; lost ALCS) – Back-to-back ALCS losses has to sting for a team whose average age suggests they need to be in “win now” mode. Even with the loss of Encarnacion, this offense has all the fire-power you would need to go deep into the playoffs. A full year with Liriano in the rotation will be a nice complement to Stroman, but does the bullpen have what it takes? We’ll see. Reasonable Expectations: Compete for the division; make a playoff run. BUT, don’t be surprised if age/injuries catches up with this team, and they fall down to around .500.
- Chicago White Sox (78-84; 4th in division) – Just two off seasons removed from what appeared to be going “all in,” the White Sox have completely reversed course and are selling off every part of their team that they can. Sale is gone, Eaton is gone, and Frazier and Quintana aren’t likely to finish the season in Chicago. Don’t be surprised if Melky Cabrera and Brett Lawrie don’t at least get consideration from contenders near the trade deadline. 90+ losses is virtually inevitable. Reasonable Expectations: Top 10 (maybe top 5) draft pick in 2018.
- Cleveland Indians (94-67; 1st in division; lost World Series) – Edwin Encarnacion, a full season of Andrew Miller, healthy Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco, and Michael Brantley (maybe). All signs point toward a team that was within a win of a championship being even better. But, one could also point out that several Indians had the best season of their career in 2016, including most of the starting rotation, the closer, Jason Kipnis, Rajai Davis, and Carlos Santana. Is it reasonable to expect repeat performances? I say not. Reasonable Expectations: 85-90 wins; compete for the division.
- Detroit Tigers (86-75; 2nd in division) – A second half surge had them in the hunt for a Wild Card spot last year. This is definitely an older team that has had injury issues lately. But, if they can avoid the injury bug, this offense is a force, and the starting rotation is very solid 1-4. The big question mark is the bullpen, which was 24th in MLB last year with a 4.22 ERA, and has remained untouched this offseason. That could come back to bite them. Reasonable Expectations: barring injuries … compete for a Wild Card spot.
- Kansas City Royals (81-81; 3rd in division) – A very disappointing follow-up to back-to-back World Series runs. But, injuries were a huge factor last season. And, with several core players in their contract year, this may be the last time we see this group together. They may have the Rookie of the Year playing 2nd base (Mondesi), and even with the loss of Davis, this bullpen is excellent (remember the name Matt Strahm). Reasonable Expectations: bounce back year – 85-90 wins, and compete for the division.
- Minnesota Twins (59-103; last in division) – Remember when the Twins seemed to be one of those teams that knew how to compete while playing in a smaller market? Well, you probably don’t if you aren’t at least in high school. It’s been 13 years since they won a playoff game, and 15 since they won a playoff series. At least they play in the same division as the fire-sale that is the White Sox. Reasonable Expectations: 70+ wins would be something to be proud of.
- Houston Astros (84-78; 3rd in division) – After an abysmal April (7-17), the Astros were playing catch-up all season, and the one team they just couldn’t seem to beat (4-15 vs. Texas), won the division. Just a .500 record against Texas would have put the Astros in the Wild Card picture. The acquisition of McCann behind the plate is a major upgrade. A full season of Bregman, and a healthy starting rotation has this team poised to do big things. But, the Rangers aren’t just going to hand over the division. Reasonable Expectations: 90-win range, compete for division, possibly play deep into October.
- Los Angeles Angels (74-88; 4th in division) – What a lot of people didn’t notice was how much better the Angels played in the 2nd half last year. They were on pace for 95 losses at the All-Star break, but actually played a game over .500 the rest of the way. One big factor was their pitching staff – they allowed 4.75 runs per game in the first half, and only 4.16 per game in the second. If they can build on that momentum, and stay healthy, they could turn things around. Though, they still play in a very competitive division. Reasonable Expectations: .500 record, maybe compete for a Wild Card spot, if things fall just right.
- Oakland A’s (69-93; last in division) – Well, as bad as things were last year in Oakland (25th in team ERA; 28th in team OPS), it doesn’t look like it’s getting better soon. A starting lineup that consists of mostly castaways from other teams (Lowrie, Plouffe, Alonso, etc.), and a rotation headed up by the one trade-chip this team had until he had a horrendous 2016. And, the farm system isn’t what it used to be – no prospects in the top 50 in baseball. Reasonable Expectations: anything less than 90 losses would be a victory. But, don’t count on it.
- Seattle Mariners (86-76; 2nd in division) – For a team that doesn’t have any real standout names (other than King Felix), they played extremely well a year ago. Seattle finished 3rd in the AL in runs scored, and 3rd in the AL in team ERA. Though, a blistering hot September (18-9) played the biggest roll in their final record – a September that included 2 series each against Oakland and LA, and a series against the Twins. And, a strength of theirs from a year ago – the bullpen – has lost some key pieces. Reasonable Expectations: in a competitive division, I think a Wild Card spot is the best hope for this team.
- Texas Rangers (95-67; 1st in division; lost ALDS) – Similar to the 2015 Astros, the Rangers were incredible at home (.654 win pct.) and mediocre on the road (.519). They also had an unbelievable record in one-run games (36-11), which you just can’t count on repeating. But, they have all the offensive firepower you could ask for, and if Darvish can stay healthy, he’s a part of a nasty 1-2 punch with Hamels in the rotation. Reasonable Expectations: drop back to the pack a little; compete for the division.