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Previewing the American League Races

For many years, the battle for the American League has been seen more as a competition within the A.L. East. Will that all change? Recently many teams outside of the East have made moves that could make them contenders. At the same time, perennial powerhouses such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Tampa Bay Rays have been surprisingly quiet during this offseason.

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A few weeks ago, the Detroit Tigers signed slugging first baseman Prince Fielder to a nine-year, $241 million contract. Now, with a pitching rotation led by Cy Young winner and MVP Justin Verlander, the Tigers have also added depth to their lineup. Detroit will now have a batting order consisting of Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Brennan Boesch, and Austin Jackson.

On the other side of the country, the Angels have also made some big moves. During the offseason, they signed World Series champion Albert Pujols and All-Star pitcher C.J. Wilson. Now the Angels will have Torii Hunter and Pujols to generate power this season. One move the Angels made that got less attention was their trade for pitcher LaTroy Hawkins. Last season Hawkins was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers and had an era of 2.42; in 52 games he allowed only 15 runs. The Angels had bullpen troubles last year and they may have found just the set-up guy they were looking for.

Just because the Texas Rangers lost Wilson, it doesn’t mean they are out of contention. They recently added Japanese pitching sensation Yu Darvish, who had a sensational career ERA of 1.99 in Japan. The Rangers also held on to Derek Holland, who they could rely on heavily to try to get back to the World Series. Holland pitched in two WS games with an ERA of 0.87. On the offensive side, the Rangers are led by Josh Hamilton (.298 batting average in 2011) and Nelson Cruz, who had eight home runs in the 2011 playoffs.

Here are my prediction for final standings in the American League.

A.L. East: New York Yankees. Just because the Yankees haven’t made any offseason moves doesn’t mean they won’t be a good team. They still have players like CC Sabathia, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez. I think that it will be another close year in the East but the Yankees will ultimately prevail.

A.L. Central: Detroit Tigers. The Tigers made a big move signing Prince Fielder and I believe it will pay off big-time for them. With an ace like Justin Verlander and a Home Run Derby champion like Fielder, I think the Tigers will easily win the Central.

A.L. West: Texas Rangers. The Rangers have a strong pitching staff and have made a great new addition in Yu Darvish. Their offense is still thriving with stars such as Nelson Cruz. All of this should contribute to a very successful first-place finish.

Wild Cards: Los Angeles Angles and Boston Red Sox. If the Angels played in any other division, I would have them winning. But because they have the Rangers to compete with for the A.L. West title, I am putting them as a Wild Card team. I think that because, with all the recent changes made to their club, it will take a few seasons before they start to really become a team. For the other wild card pick, I’ll go with the Boston Red Sox. Returning with one of the best rotations in the majors and new manager Bobby Valentine at the helm, I think this will be a very promising season for the Sox.