Ranking the Top 5 American League Powerhouse Teams by Position

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIJanuary 26, 2012

Ranking the Top 5 American League Powerhouse Teams by Position

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    Baseball season is so close, I can just about smell the spring air.

    What an amazing winter it has been with some tremendous free-agent signings and player movements, plenty of happenings that surely were not expected as we embarked on the Hot Stove season.

    At this point, generally speaking, teams know what their roster is going to look like when they enter spring training.  Fans get to pound their chests at their respective team's acquisitions and another year of smack talk begins.

    Is that not part of what makes this game great?

    For fun, I sat down and took a look at the five teams regarded as the American League powerhouses going into the 2012 season—Anaheim Angels, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers—and decided to rank each position by using only those teams.

    I decided to rank each player on the roster in order of which I would personally "take" them if I were putting a team together.  My own mock draft, so to speak.

    This system is purely for fun with some minor placement decided by statistics, but more so the rankings I gave each player came from who I, as a fan of the game, would want in that given position.

    I gave each team a score of one through five.  One being a top choice, five obviously being my last choice.  I then scored each team.  Every "one" achieved in my rankings earned the teams five points where every "five" earned the team one point, and so on.

    Before I give you my final rankings, here is a look at how I ranked each player. Let the debates ensue. 

First Base: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels

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    Why I Chose Him

    Anyone building a team, especially this year, would select arguably the greatest player in the game today. Rookie of the Year, MVPs, Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers—clearly Pujols is the total package.

    Second: Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees

    Third: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox

    Fourth: Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

    Fifth: Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Obviously this is a tough category to run through.  I chose Teixeira second based on his offense and defense, plus the fact he is a switch hitter.  The real debate for me came between Gonzalez and Fielder.  I think Gonzalez is going to have a monster season in 2012 and I'm not saying that Prince won't, but I let my Red Sox loyalty shine through in the end.

Second Base: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

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    Why I Chose Him

    It was a coin toss.  Pedroia/Cano or Cano/Pedroia, and I decided on Pedey.  The Red Sox second baseman is captain of the Red Sox (not in official title, but in heart) and has been a huge cog in the wheel that is the Red Sox.  I love dirt dogs; they tend to win me over every time.

    Second:  Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

    Third:  Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers

    Fourth:  Howie Kendrick, Los Angeles Angels

    Fifth:  Ramon Santiago, Detroit Tigers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    This is a category that I think was either going to be Pedroia or Cano.  I personally believe both of those second basemen to be head and shoulders above the rest.  Kinsler leads that next tier, absolutely.  I'm hard pressed to find anyone making a case for Kendrick or Santiago over the other three.

Third Base: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

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    Why I Chose Him

    Beltre is young, and solid both defensively and offensively.  He's the total package.  He has batted .309 over the past two seasons making an the All-Star team, winning Silver Sluggers and a Gold Glove award as well.  He is showing more and more that his offensive dip in 2009 was just an aberration and he is back to form.  

    Second: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

    Third:  Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

    Fourth:  Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox

    Fifth:  Alberto Callaspo, Los Angeles Angels

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    It was actually good fodder for though in how I wanted to order the remainder of the players.  Cabrera has almost 400 games experience playing third base and his bat catapults him above the others on the list.  He's young and is a solid defensive player, while I don't think A-Rod or Youk are really third baseman at this point in their respective careers any longer.  I think Rodriguez would be better suited to DH or play first, which he won't be doing so long as Texeira is around; Youkilis fits that same bill as well.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees

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    Why I Chose Him

    This decision was a difficult one.  While Jeter's skills have declined some over the past couple of years, it's still Derek frickin' Jeter... right?  Anyone who tells you they wouldn't want Jeter on their team is lying.  I won't lie; last summer when he was a free agent, I wanted him to sign in Boston very badly.  The man can do it all, still, somehow.

    Second: Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers

    Third: Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

    Fourth: Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox

    Fifth: Erick Aybar, Los Angeles Angels

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Looking at the crop of players after Jeter, defensively they are all fairly similar.  Having said that, I based my decision on offensive output and the list you see is how I viewed them thereafter.  

Left Field: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

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    Why I Chose Him

    This is another case of an all-around player who gives it his all every time he's in the field.  The man is a career .308 batter with a career .909 OPS—in other words, my kind of batter.  In five years he's made four All-Star teams with an MVP award and two Silver Sluggers sprinkled in for good measure.

    Second:  Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox

    Third:  Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

    Fourth:  Vernon Wells, Los Angeles Angels

    Fifth:  Ryan Raburn, Detroit Tigers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    I love Brett Gardner; I really do.  I think he is a highly underrated player, but being on a team as stacked as the Yankees, one can understand why he doesn't get a whole lot of attention.  Having said that, while he had a bad year in 2011, I think Carl Crawford is and will again be a better all-around player than Gardner in 2012.  Wells has aged quickly, and Raburn just needs to develop a bit more.

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox

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    Why I Chose Him

    Ellsbury had an MVP-caliber season in 2011 and has truly come into his own as a player.  The same can be said for Curtis Granderson; however his play did see a bit of a decline down the stretch.  While the rest of the Red Sox were busy falling apart, Ellsbury finished strong, coming in second in the MVP voting.  Hard to argue that.

    Second:  Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

    Third:  Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers

    Fourth:  Peter Bourjos, Los Angeles Angels

    Fifth:  Craig Gentry, Texas Rangers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    I think my rationale for Ellsbury edging out Granderson is sound, and also explains why Granderson is my clear choice for No. 2.  On a side note, Granderson might have the best arm on this list.  I digress.  Austin Jackson is a year or two away from being a big star, while Bourjos and Gentry have a little bit of work to put in.

Right Field: Nick Swisher, New York Yankees

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    Why I Chose Him

    Nick Swisher is a fun baseball player to watch.  He is solid defensively and his bat is surprisingly good.  It is often hard to take the man serious because of his fun-loving demeanor, and that is the mistake of many MLB pitchers as he feasts upon them.  Swisher also has been able to put the Yankees on his back when many did not expect it.  During offensive droughts, it is often he who still produces.  That is pretty impressive in my book.

    Second: Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels

    Third: Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

    Fourth:  Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers

    Fifth:  Cody Ross, Boston Red Sox

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    While Torii Hunter is getting up there in age, he still displays the solid play that made him an All-Star several times over.  Cruz is a speedster who is solid defensively and offensively won't hurt you.  Boesch is young and has a ton of potential.  Ross is likely going to be platooning with Ryan Sweeney, so it's hard to give him a nod over others on this list when he likely won't be playing every day.

Catcher: Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

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    Why I Chose Him

    Napoli's star shined bright during the 2011 playoffs.  The man was an offensive beast and held his ground behind the plate.  When Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler were slumping, Napoli was busy driving in runs and getting on base.  While you can't judge a player based solely on his postseason performance his regular season, his batting line of .320/.414/.631/1.046 with 30 home runs and 75 RBI for Texas in 2011 cannot be ignored.  Mike Napoli is a beast.

    Second:  Russell Martin, New York Yankees

    Third:  Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers

    Fourth:  Chris Iannetta, Los Angeles Angels

    Fifth:  Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Russell Martin definitely proved that he still has some gas in the tank with the Yankees in 2011 and performed quite well, as did Avila.  The numbers from Iannetta and Salty were okay to good, but nothing comparable to what Napoli did in 113 games.

Designated Hitter: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

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    Why I Chose Him

    You could make a strong case for David Ortiz being the greatest DH in baseball history.  His 2011 campaign once again provided excellent offense out of Big Papi.  He put up 29 home runs with 96 RBI on the back of a .309/.398/.554/.955 performance.  

    Second:  Michael Young, Texas Rangers

    Third:  Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels

    Fourth:  Delmon Young, Detroit Tigers

    Fifth:  Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Honestly, the only real competition Ortiz faced for me was from Michael Young.  Young fits the mold of the new-age DH, a player that can play multiple positions or DH if need be.  While he didn't have the same power output as Ortiz (only 11 home runs), he did drive in 20 more RBI (116).

No. 1 Starter: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    Why I Chose Him

    He's the best pitcher in baseball.  Period.

    Second:  CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

    Third:  Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

    Fourth:  Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox

    Fifth:  Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Looking at my list above, I just had a quick thought: Imagine if that were the starting rotation for your favorite team.  How many wins would they put up?  Insane.  I digress.

    I really think that Verlander is an upper-echelon pitcher and he proved it in 2011, but CC Sabathia is only a step or so behind him.  Weaver, Lester and Lewis all occupy that next tier of starters—players whom I find to be solid, but not what I would necessarily call an ace.  That label is rare air for me.

No. 2 Starter: Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox

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    Why I Chose Him

    When Josh Beckett is on, there is just no hitting him.  His stuff is nasty.  Of course, as we learned in 2011, he has to want to pitch that way and not be distracted by outside activities.  With that in mind, Beckett is going to have a big chip on his shoulder in 2012.  Nothing is more fun to watch than a big, pissed-off Texan going to work on an opponent.  Just ask Robin Ventura about that.

    Second:  Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels

    Third:  Ivan Nova, New York Yankees

    Fourth:  Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers

    Fifth:  Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Dan Haren started the 2011 season absolutely lights out.  After the first month he did come back down to earth.  While he's still an amazing pitcher, I think it's hard to see anyone being more dominant out of the No. 2 spot in the rotation than Beckett.  Nova, while very impressive last year, is still young and I am timid to label him any higher than that until he gets another year under his belt.  Fister is above Darvish because, frankly, Darvish has a clean slate right now.  He might be good, he might not.  Time will tell.

No. 3 Starter: C.J. Wilson, Los Angeles Angels

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    Why I Chose Him

    Wilson showcased his (regular-season) talents nicely last year.  With Texas, Wilson proved he was a front-of-the-rotation pitcher.  With Anaheim, he doesn't have to be.  Having a pitcher the quality of Wilson as your third-best option is a pretty nice luxury.

    Second:  Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox

    Third:  Michael Pineda, New York Yankees

    Fourth:  Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

    Fifth:  Derek Holland, Texas Rangers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Pineda was almost my second choice.  I really liked what he did in Seattle in 2011.  However, his numbers against the AL East weren't great, so I gave the nod to Buchholz.  Scherzer and Holland both possess elevated ERAs compared to the others.

No. 4 Starter: Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees

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    Why I Chose Him

    Kuroda has a career 3.45 ERA and 1.187 WHIP over four seasons in Los Angeles.  Those figures coming from your fourth starter is pretty impressive and desirable.  The Yankees did well with this pickup.

    Second:  Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels

    Third:  Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers

    Fourth:  Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox

    Fifth:  Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Santana and Porcello were ranked based on their stats as well as the competition they face.  Bard and Feliz were at the bottom of the list because they both will be making the transition to the starting rotation this year and need to cut their teeth.

No. 5 Starter: Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers

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    Why I Chose Him

    I like Harrison a lot.  I think Nolan Ryan has got a great system working with his pitchers and as such, he just keeps churning out quality arms.  Literally, that's all I based this selection on.  Don't sue me.

    Second:  A.J. Burnett, New York Yankees

    Third:  Jerome Williams, Los Angeles Angels

    Fourth:  Aaron Cook, Boston Red Sox*

    Fifth:  Jacob Turner, Detroit Tigers

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    Burnett can be on...or be terrible,  Williams is fairly consistent, Turner is inexperienced.  Cook...well, if he makes the roster, he could be the starter.  Either way, a healthy Cook has better career numbers than what we've seen out of Turner thus far.

Relief Man: Alfredo Aceves, Boston Red Sox

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    Why I Chose Him

    Take a look at Aceves's stats: 55 appearances, 2.93 ERA, 1.105 WHIP with a 10-2 record in just over 100 innings for the Red Sox in 2011...that's why.  You need a man to start?  BAM—call on Aceves.  Oh, you need a long reliever?  BOOM—call on Aceves.  Oh, you need a closer...for the next 15 games in a row?  Aceves is your man.  He literally did everything the Red Sox asked of him.  I'll take a guy with that kind of heart on my team any day.

    Second:  David Robertson, New York Yankees

    Third:  Koji Uehara, Texas Rangers

    Fourth:  Octavio Dotel, Detroit Tigers

    Fifth:  LaTroy Hawkins, Los Angeles Angels

    The Rest of the Order Explained

    For the bullpen, I looked at stats, period. 

Setup Man: Mike Adams, Texas Rangers

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    Why I Chose Him

    Adams was a hot commodity at the trade deadline in 2011.  He went to Texas and bolstered the bullpen, providing a nice arm to get the team to Feliz to finish out games.  Now, he gets to do the same for Joe Nathan.

    Second:  Rafael Soriano, New York Yankees

    Third:  Mark Melancon, Boston Red Sox

    Fourth:  Scott Downs, Los Angeles Angels

    Fifth:  Joaquin Benoit, Detroit Tigers

Closer: Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

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    Why I Chose Him

    He's the best closer the game has ever seen and is still performing at a high level.  Any disagreements?

    Second:  Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers

    Third:  Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox

    Fourth:  Jordan Walden, Los Angeles Angels

    Fifth:  Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers

Conclusion

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    Based on my arbitrary numbers, it looks as though the New York Yankees are still the class of the American League going into the 2012 season.  

    The Yankees appear to have the most even approach across the board.  Being that balanced should bode well for them.  In my grading system, they earned a total of 65 points.

    In second place: the Boston Red Sox with 54 points.

    In third place: the Texas Rangers with 51 points.

    In fourth place:  the Los Angeles Angels with 46 points.

    In fifth place:  the Detroit Tigers with 39 points.

    Obviously this was something I put together for fun.  I don't take this list very seriously and neither should you, but it is an interesting way to evaluate the talent in the American League this year.

    2012 is going to be an incredible season, that is one thing I am sure of.