As per usual, the American League in the MLB is looking like the more impressive league out of the two, spoiled with talent and youngsters that are making waves through the sport of baseball. While the powerhouses, like the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, are mowing down their competition, the likes of the newcomer and upstart, like the Tampa Bay Rays and the Minnesota Twins, are staking claims for themselves to make it back into the postseason.
World Series champion Boston Red Sox have undergone a big struggle to open up the 2019 season and currently sit in third place, behind the American League East-leading Yankees and the upstart Rays, who seem to be finally putting it together and making the state of Florida believe in the sport of baseball again (sorry Marlins fans).
Leading the East are the Yankees, the West leaders are the Astros and the Central leaders are the Twins. Close behind are the Rays (East), Oakland Athletics (West) and Cleveland Indians (Central), although both the West and Central are not all that close between first and second place.
Although each of these listed teams is excelling so far this season, there are still improvements that can be made, some that focus on giving certain players fresh starts on other squads.
New York Yankees – Brett Gardner, OF
While shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, designated hitter Kendrys Morales and first baseman Greg Bird have all been common names mentioned in who the Yankees should dump, incumbent and long-time Pinstripe wearer Brett Gardner takes the cake in this piece.
Now on his 12th season with the same club, Gardner’s 35-year old legs cannot keep up with this game, and his bat has always been a few steps behind league average. While having a solid offensive season up to this point, actually having slugged 10 home runs, Gardner is a replacement-level player in the outfield that still has a job due to the long list of injuries that keeps plaguing this squad.
Needing to free up some outfield playing time at some point with the eventual return of slugger Aaron Judge, Gardner could see himself stuck to the bench or even out of a job once the right fielder makes his return from the injury list, where he currently is out with left oblique strain that forced him to miss time on the 21st of April.
Not necessarily a fan favorite but definitely a fan-known name, Gardner’s time with the Bronx Bombers may be drawing to a close.
Houston Astros – Tyler White, 1B
For one of the most structurally-sound teams in the entire league this season, the Astros are built like a big-time favorite to win the whole damn thing. Spearheaded by their rotation, the team has been excelling, even with Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve missing a considerable amount of time due to injuries.
The one glaring issue, however, for this team is at first base, where Tyler White and Yuli Gurriel split time. With Correa out, Gurriel is the starting third baseman now, giving White more playing time over at first, which has not turned into more production from the big man from Western Carolina College.
Needing to move on and find someone who can be a game changer at first base, the team may look to moving on from White to clear that needed roster spot. Someone like Edwin Encarnacion would be a great addition to the Astros, a slugging first baseman who still has some defensive abilities left in the tank.
While releasing White outright would be a bit strange, White’s best bet to see consistent playing time (once an addition is made) may be to not be on this team anymore.
Minnesota Twins – Outfield Depth
One of the shining spots in the American League this season has been the emergence of the Twins, who came into this season riding on the coattails of the Indians and expected to finish runner-up to the Tribe. After an offseason that saw the Twins go forward with their player acquisitions and the Indians go backward, it is easy to see why the Twins have an 11.0 game lead over the Indians almost halfway through June.
While not necessarily having one player that needs to change uniforms, this team needs to get rid of their outfield depth, more specifically their lack of outfield depth. Currently, from left to right field, Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton, and Max Kepler are the penciled in starters, with super utilityman Marwin Gonzalez listed as the lone MLB-level backup for all three positions.
The issue here lies in the fact that due to their lack of production at first base, Gonzalez is the everyday starter there, making the depth situation a bit harder to handle for this team. C.J. Cron handles first base too, in more of a backup role, but he is more suited as a DH, which currently is controlled by the slugger Nelson Cruz.
Needing to get more help in the outfield is the final piece to this team’s puzzle as they look to get back to the playoffs in a deserving manner.