To understand baseball’s competitive balance, the American League is a good place to start.
There isn’t one clear favorite in the three American League divisions. Better yet, at least 13 of the 15 AL teams view making the playoffs as a reasonable goal for 2015.
This is the place to come to better understand baseball’s new competitive balance landscape. Expectations abound.
Let’s begin in the American League East. The Red Sox will begin Spring Training favored to make another worst-to-first run.
There’s also a case to be made for the Blue Jays and Rays. Only a knucklehead would count out the Orioles. As for that other AL East team…
The Yankees believe that landscape marked the end of a significant drought for their player development system with Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Shane Greene, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren and Chase Whitley all contributing. Michael Pineda deserves to be on this list as well since he was acquired for Jesus Montero, then the pride of the Yankee farm system.
There’s more on the way: second baseman Rob Refsnyder, left-hander Jacob Lindgren, right-hander Jose Ramirez and outfielders Mason Williams, Tyler Austin and Ramon Flores.
Nothing is guaranteed, but this is a longer list of potentially big league-ready prospects than the Yankees have had awhile. And the point is a reminder that while the Yankees might be a logical pick for third, fourth or fifth in the AL East, it would be a huge mistake to overlook them.
The Tigers will be favored in the AL Central, but the Indians, Royals and White Sox are good enough to win. The Mariners and Angels may have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the AL West, but the Rangers believe if they get a healthy and productive season from Prince Fielder, they’ve got a chance to be as good as any team in baseball.
And this is a reminder that it’s never been like this before in baseball. At least 24 teams have realistic expectations of getting to the postseason.
Last September 1st, 17 of baseball’s 30 teams were within 5 1/2 games of a postseason berth. In the last five seasons, 20 of 30 teams have played at least one postseason series, and 12 different franchises have been to the World Series the last 10 seasons.