Forecast: American League preview

David Schoenfield: The White Sox are coming off a 99-loss season, the worst in franchise history since 1970. The offense scored just 598 runs, 150 fewer than in 2012, so the front office spent the offseason remaking the lineup. Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu was the biggest addition, and the projection systems see a hitter who could hit .280 with 30 home runs. Center fielder Adam Eaton and third baseman Matt Davidson were acquired from the Diamondbacks, bringing some more youth, and right fielder Avisail Garcia will get his first shot at a full season in the majors. It's probably not enough to make the offense playoff-caliber, but it should be a big improvement over 2013. Underrated Chris Sale is one of the best starters in baseball, coming off a 3.07 ERA while averaging more than a strikeout per inning. He is a legitimate ace, but the rotation is counting on rookie Erik Johnson and John Danks returning to his 2008 to 2010 form. They are a lot more interesting than last year, but the Sox are still short of a playoff team.

Jerry Crasnick: General manager Rick Hahn has quietly done a nice job of changing the long-term outlook in Chicago. The Sox have improved their farm system and upgraded their international scouting operation. They've also begun the transition from an older, station-to-station team to a younger, more athletic group with the addition of Garcia, Abreu, Eaton and Davidson over a five-month span. But White Sox fans hoping the moves help the team make an immediate impact in the AL Central will have to exercise patience. The Sox need someone to emerge from the Danks-Johnson-Jose Quintana-Felipe Paulino quartet to become staff ace Sale's primary wing man, and manager Robin Ventura entered the waning days of spring training trying to decide whether Nate Jones or Matt Lindstrom would begin the season as the team's closer. Barring lots of pleasant surprises, the Sox will finish fourth in the division.

5. Minnesota Twins

Jim Bowden: The best part of the 2014 season for the Twins will come in July when they host the All-Star Game. The Twins are destined for another last-place finish. However, they will be a lot more competitive with a starting rotation capable of going deeper in games thanks to the free-agent signings of Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey. Outfielder Byron Buxton, the Twins' top prospect, could make his debut in September, but it will be 2015 before he and their other top prospect, third baseman Miguel Sano (sidelined this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery), will be ready to make an impact.

Christina Kahrl: Joe Mauer's move to first base fuels hopes he can be an MVP-caliber player again, and buying two midrange starting pitchers in Nolasco and Hughes will keep them in games. They will be more competitive, but it's a warm-up for top-tier prospects like center fielder Buxton and right-handed pitcher Alex Meyer in the second half and third baseman Sano next year.


American League West

1. Oakland Athletics

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