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  • David Cytryn

2022 AL Preseason Predictions

This past MLB offseason was one of the most chaotic, frustrating, and entertaining spectacles in baseball history. Free agency was divided into two separate periods because of the first MLB lockout since 1990, which led to a frenzy of moves being made in a relatively short period of time. Many teams have made significant signings or trades, leaving some teams with a completely new look heading into this season. Others have fallen behind the curve by failing to make any splashes in the market. Here’s how each AL division looks to play out this upcoming season.

AL East

1. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays had an off-season for the ages. Despite losing Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to free agency, they signed Giant’s standout and all-star Kevin Gausman (5 years, $110 million), resigned former Twins all-star José Berríos (7 years, $131 million), and signed Mariners’ all-star Yusei Kikuchi (3 years, $36 million). This means they now have 4 all-stars in their rotation (Hyun-jin Ryu as well) with Alek Manoah, a young and talented prospect, at the back end.

On the offensive side they lost AL MVP candidate Marcus Semien, but have replaced his infield presence with perennial all-star and gold-glove third baseman Matt Chapman. Cavan Biggio is another promising player who looks to fill Semien’s shoes at second in one of the scariest infields in the league for pitchers. Vlad Guerrero Jr. looks to continue off of his monstrous 2021 campaign and Bo Bichette remains one of the best bats in the league at shortstop. An outfield of Teoscar Hernández, George Springer, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Raimel Tapia rounds out a scary Blue Jays lineup.

The team’s two weaknesses are their bullpen and their catcher, with Jordan Romano and Yimi Garcia looking to be their main relievers and Danny Jansen slated to be behind the plate.

Look for the Blue Jays to push towards 100 wins this season in a competitive AL East division.

2. Tampa Bay Rays

After handily winning the AL East last season, the Rays came up short of making a second straight World Series in the 2021 playoffs. While their roster hasn’t changed all that much, don’t count out the Rays this season.

Their biggest free agent acquisition was Corey Kluber (1 year, $8 million) who showed flashes of brilliance with the Yankees despite an injury riddled 2021 season. They also gave, perhaps the next face of baseball, Wander Franco a relatively cheap long-term extension (11 years, $182 million) and reactivated Tyler Glasnow from the 60-day IL.

The Rays are the epitome of maximizing cheap talent and with their future star signed for the next decade, the team has a strong foundation to build pieces around. Don’t be fooled by their quiet off-season. They are more than prepared to take on the new talent in the AL East.

The Rays are poised to be a 90+ win team if their roster can remain healthy.

3. New York Yankees

The Yankees seem to have shifted their focus from years past with their moves this offseason. Long gone are the days of their righty-dominated, power or nothing lineups. By trading for Josh Donaldson, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa, and Ben Rortvedt, and re-signing Anthony Rizzo (2 years, $32 million), the Yankees are moving towards a more high-contact and defensive-minded approach. Shipping away their homegrown product Gary Sánchez and former home run leader Luke Voit sent that message loud and clear. Their outfield of Judge, Gallo, and occasionally Stanton are the last remnants of the Bronx Bomber philosophy.

The Yankees’ rotation looks solid with Luis Severino coming back from injury throwing harder than ever. Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, and Nestor Cortes Jr. are all looking to keep their momentum from last season going. Of course, their ace Gerrit Cole will strive to perform even better than his Cy Young candidate-worthy 2021 campaign.

Their bullpen saw surprise successes last year from Wandy Peralta, Clay Holmes, Lucas Luetge, and Joely Rodríguez, and they are looking for rebound seasons from their established names. Aroldis Chapman and Chad Green are two relievers who saw unusual struggles last year, and Jonathan Loáisiga is one of the most underrated young arms in the league.

The Yankees are an underdog this season, but don’t be surprised if they finish with around 90 wins by October.

4. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox got hot at just the right time last year. Kiké Hernandez was unstoppable in October and their offense was able to carry them to the ALCS against the Astros.

They will be led by their high power offense again this season, starting with their strong infield. Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers will be joined by the recently signed Trevor Story (6 years, 140 million) to form one of the most powerful infields in the league. Their lineup is solid at almost every position with Kiké Hernandez, J.D. Martinez, and Alex Verdugo all looking to build off their impressive seasons as well.

The Red Sox’s bullpen was another strength last year. Matt Barnes had a phenomenal year and Josh Taylor is a solid lefty out of the pen. They will be joined by newly signed Hansel Robles (1 year, $2.25 million) to form a strong relieving core this season.

Their biggest question mark is their rotation. Chris Sale continues to have injury problems, which has left Nathan Eovaldi as their number one starter in the past. Signing Rich Hill this offseason (1 year, $5 million) adds a little bit of depth to go along with Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck.

If the Red Sox’s offense can sustain their remarkable production from last year they may finish higher in the division, but look for them to be about a 90 win team this season.

5. Baltimore Orioles

Unfortunately for the Orioles, they play in the AL East. Their talent just doesn’t come close to the level of their division opponents. They made a few under the radar moves by signing Rougned Odor (1 year, minimum contract) who provided a spark for the Yankees last year and Robinson Chirinos (1 year, $900k) who is a solid hitter for a catcher. However, these moves won’t do nearly enough to prevent them from finishing last in their division.

Their hope lies in the future with promising prospects Adley Rutschman (C) and Grayson Rodriguez (RHP) looking to make an impact at the major league level soon. Their few bright spots from last year Cedric Mullins, Trey Mancini, and John Means will all look to continue their individual success as well.

With four extremely strong competitors in their division, the Orioles will probably lose 100+ games this year.

AL Central

1. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox had a relatively quiet off-season, but the moves they made were solid. They bolstered an already excellent bullpen by signing Kendall Graveman (3 years, $24 million) and Joe Kelly (3 years, $25.5 million), and added a solid utility bat in Josh Harrison (1 year, $5.5 million). The combination of Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendricks lead a now even scarier bullpen, and despite losing Carlos Rodón, Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito headline another solid rotation.

The real strength of the White Sox lies in their lineup. They are led by young superstars Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, Yoán Moncada, and Eloy Jiménez, and have solid veterans like former MVP Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal.

The White Sox have no holes in their game. They excel in every aspect and pose a serious world series threat for this year. The White Sox are poised to win 100+ games this year and dominate the AL Central division.

2. Detroit Tigers

The Tigers had an eventful off-season this winter and are looking to do some damage in the AL Central for the first time in a few years.

Javy Báez (6 years, $140 million) was their big name signing who looks to add some speed and power to a solid infield. They’re also looking for 2020 first overall pick Spencer Torkleson to make the next step in his career by becoming an every-day MLB starter. Akil Baddoo was a pleasant surprise for the Tigers last year after being selected in the Rule 5 draft and looks to build on his momentum from last year. Tucker Barnhart was also acquired early in the off-season from the Reds and will provide solid defense behind the plate.

The Tigers’ rotation is solid as well as new signee Eduardo Rodríguez (5 years, $77 million) looks to earn his new contract. Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal are both young pitchers who are looking to establish themselves as consistent starters this year.

The Tigers’ bullpen poses a few questions, but all-star closer Gregory Soto and new signee Andrew Chafin (2 years, $13 million) are both dependable arms to count on.

The Tigers will look to capitalize on a weak division and should finish with a win total in the mid-80s this season.

3. Minnesota Twins

The Twins can hit the baseball. They’re bringing back a solid core of Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Miguel Sanó, and Max Kepler to their lineup. In the offseason they signed perhaps the most coveted free agent, Carlos Correa (3 years, $105.3 million) who adds elite hitting and defense up the middle. The Twins also made a blockbuster trade with the Yankees where they acquired Gary Sánchez who holds a great bat for a catcher, and Gio Urshela who will give elite defense and solid hitting at third. Their lineup is easily their strongest area and they will look to win in high-scoring contests.

The Twins’ problem comes with their pitching. Although they traded for Sonny Gray who has had a career revival in Cincinnati, the rest of their rotation is unimpressive. Taylor Rogers leads a bullpen without much fire power as well.

The Twins will have to outscore their competition in order to win games, which will happen some nights, but their pitching will definitely cost them many games as well. They will look to compete with the Tigers for the second spot in the division and project to win around 80-85 games this season.

4. Kansas City Royals

The Royals made a few positive moves this off-season. They signed Zack Greinke (1 year, $13 million) back to his former team to lead a sub-par rotation and traded for Amir Garrett who will lead a lackluster bullpen.

The Royals’ lineup is their strength with all-star Whit Merrifield leading the way. Salvador Pérez is one of the best hitting catchers in the league and Carlos Santana and Andrew Benintendi are solid middle-of-the-order bats as well.

The most exciting piece of the Royals’ roster is number one overall prospect in baseball, Bobby Witt Jr. He is expected to play full time this year and will hopefully establish himself as one of baseball’s bright young stars.

The Royals’ record will benefit from their relatively weak AL Central competition, but they should still only win around 70-75 games this season.

5. Cleveland Guardians

While the Guardians have a new look brand, their roster is pretty much exactly the same as last year. They spent a whopping $900k this offseason, the second least of any team besides the Athletics. The Guardians simply stayed put while almost every AL team around them has gotten better.

Their rotation is their main strength, with ace pitcher Shane Bieber leading the way. Cal Quantrill, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, and Tristan McKenzie fill out the rest of their young rotation. None of those pitchers are older than 27, so they may hold the same group for years to come. Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak are both elite relievers who lead a mediocre bullpen core. Pitching will be the crutch that the Guardians rely on to win games this season.

José Ramírez is easily their best bat, as he gives true switch-hitting power, but he will most likely be traded this season. Franmil Reyes also provides some pop, and Amed Rosario and Andrés Giménez have great gloves up the middle. Myles Straw is also a solid outfielder in center. The rest of their lineup is subpar and they will likely not score many runs this season.

The Guardians will be fighting for the fourth spot in their division and will likely win around 70 games this season.

AL West

1. Houston Astros

The Houston Astros didn’t have a great off-season, but they still have a good portion of their World Series roster coming back for the 2022 season. Their biggest losses were superstar shortstop Carlos Correa, and six-time all-star pitcher Zack Greinke. They’ll look for 24 year-old Jeremy Peña to fill his shoes and their rotation still looks strong. Their ace Justin Verlander has aged like fine wine and Framber Valdez is a solid number two option.

The lineup the Astros have depended on for years is still mostly intact. José Altuve, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Álvarez are all elite hitters, and Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker are both established forces in the box.

The Astros’ bullpen lost a few pieces, but still has one of the stronger relieving cores in the division. Ryan Pressly is an established closer who will lead a group of strong arms to close out games for them.

The AL West is going to be much more competitive than in years past, but expect the Astros to finish with 90+ wins this season.

2. Seattle Mariners

The Mariners made it clear this off-season that they are ready to make a push for the playoffs. Last season the Mariners just missed out on the playoffs despite having a -51 run differential, and they have improved in every area this winter.

They lost their all-star pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, but replaced him by signing the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray (5 years, $115 million). The rest of their rotation is solid, with names like Logan Gilbert and Chris Flexen looking to cement themselves as solid starters this season. They also have a well-rounded bullpen with Drew Steckenrider projected to close, and solid relievers Paul Sewald, Diego Castillo, and Ken Giles behind him. Additionally, they took a gamble by signing former World Series champion reliever Sergio Romo (1 year, 2 million).

The Mariners’ greatest strength is their lineup. Mitch Haniger, Ty France, and Abraham Toro all had great years last season, and Kyle Lewis looks to return to his rookie-of-the-year-level play after coming back from injury. They also traded for all-star outfielder Jesse Winker from the Reds and acquired Eugenio Suárez in the deal, who will look to re-establish himself this year. Earlier in the off-season they traded for Adam Frazier, who can play multiple positions and was a coveted name at the deadline last year. He will play up the middle with defensive wizard shortstop J.P. Crawford. Prospects Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodríguez, and Taylor Trammell are all expected to become star players in the near future as well.

The Mariners pose a real threat to the AL West division, so look for them to win around 85-89 games this season.

3. Los Angeles Angels

The Angels made a lot of smaller-scale moves this off-season, but improved in the areas where they needed it the most.

They have obvious star power in their lineup with perennial MVP Mike Trout and reigning MVP Shohei Ohtani. Anthony Rendon will look to return to his all-star caliber play of the past, while Jared Walsh, Max Stassi, and David Fletcher all proved to be reliable bats last year. They will also look for Jo Adell to play at his top-prospect level potential this year. An underrated move they made this off-season was signing Matt Duffy (1 year, $1.5 million), who had a solid year at second for the Cubs in 2021. Their lineup is certainly formidable, but that has never been the Angels’ problem.

Shohei Ohtani leads a revitalized Angels rotation coming into this season. They signed former all-star Noah Syndergaard (1 year, $21 million) and Michael Lorenzen (1 year, $6.75 million) to one year deals looking to bolster their rotation. Patrick Sandoval is also a solid mid-rotation arm for them.

The Angels’ biggest area of improvement is their bullpen. They signed free agents Ryan Tepera (2 years, $14 million), Archie Bradley (1 year, $3.75 million), and Aaron Loup (2 years, $17 million), who all have solid track records. They also brought back their closer Raisel Iglesias (4 years, $58 million), who had one of his best seasons in 2021. Their relieving core transitioned from their greatest weakness into one of their strengths heading into the 2022 season.

The Angels will have to prove themselves this year in a newly established division, but they should contend for second place and win around 85 games this season.

4. Texas Rangers

The Rangers spent $580 million in free agency this off-season, more than double any other team in the league. With that spending, the Rangers now have a fair share of star power in their lineup.

They signed all-star Marcus Semien (7 years, $175 million) who had one of the greatest seasons of any second baseman in 2022. He will be paired up with Corey Seager at short, who has been a superstar for the Dodgers and was one of the most coveted free agents this off-season. They also signed solid outfielders Kole Calhoun (1 year, $5.2 million) and Brad Miller (2 years, $10 million), and traded for an above-average hitting catcher in Mitch Garver from the Twins. Adolis García and Nate Lowe will also look to continue their recent success this season. The Rangers’ lineup is poised to do a lot of damage in the AL West and the Rangers will likely look to win high scoring games this season.

The Rangers acquired a few solid pitchers this off-season as well. They gave Jon Gray a sizable contract to be their ace (4 years, $56 million) and also signed Martín Pérez (1 year, $4 million), who had an average year with the Red Sox in 2021. They will lead an otherwise lackluster rotation for this season.

They also made a few moves for their bullpen by signing Greg Holland (1 year, $2.1 million) and Garrett Richards (1 year, $5.5 million). However, with Scott Barlow projected to be their closer, the Rangers will likely suffer because of a well-below average bullpen this season.

The Rangers certainly have offensive fire-power and will look to compete for the third or even second spot in the division, as they project to win around 80-85 games this season.

5. Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics did not spend a single dollar in free-agency this off-season. Not one dollar. They traded away almost all of their top players and have fallen from a playoff caliber team to one of, if not the worst, teams in MLB. Their ownership has made it clear that winning means nothing to them, and that limiting their payroll is their biggest concern. Athletics fans deserve better than what they were given this winter.

After losing Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and Starling Marte, their lineup is decimated heading into this season. Their bright spots are Sean Murphy and newly acquired Christian Pache, who will look to establish himself after being included in the Matt Olson trade. Also, if Ramón Laureano can prove to be good without steroids, he may provide some much needed offense.

After trading Chris Bassitt, their rotation is lackluster as well. Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas were coveted names in the trade market, but they ultimately decided to keep them for this season. Other than those two, their rotation will likely give up many runs this season. James Kaprelian continues to struggle with injuries, but may prove to be a slight spark for them if he can pitch consistent innings after his return.

Lou Trivino is a solid closer, but other than him, their bullpen is extremely weak. They lost Andrew Chafin, Jake Diekman, Sergio Romo, and Trevor Rosenthal all in the same off-season.

The Athletics will struggle to score runs and prevent other teams from scoring runs this season. Their ownership has embraced tanking and completely decimated their impressive playoff roster from last year. The Athletics will be one of the worst teams in the league and will win around 65-70 games this season.

This off-season was hard on a lot of baseball fans, but the season is now just a couple of weeks away. The AL has competitive divisions this season and should shape up to provide some entertaining baseball this season.

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