Now that team’s have broken camp, how many have fixed what was broke on their rosters heading in.
How the 15 American League teams answered our pre-spring questions the last six weeks, and the big question each now faces entering the season:
Spring question: Do the O’s have enough starting pitching to take the pressure off the bullpen and take another step toward the top of the division?
That remains the question heading into the season for a team with one of the best-looking young lineups in the game, despite newly acquired veteran Kyle Gibson looking good enough in camp to earn the Opening Day start. Top pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez was considered a potential addition to the rotation until a rough finish in camp. He’ll open in the minors, and if he gets off to a strong start could get the chance to yet make an impact this year. John Means, the Opening Day starter two years ago, could be back from Tommy John surgery sometime in July, barring a setback.
Next question: Will the O’s have enough starting pitching in the second half to boost last year’s surprise success story into this year’s surprise playoff team.
Boston Red Sox
Spring question: Will the real Boston Red Sox please stand up?
Well, Chris Sale’s healthy, so there’s that. And Rafael Devers is safe and secured in the Red Sox fold for the next decade thanks to a $313.5 million extension. But nothing that happened this spring suggests the Red Sox aren’t right where most believed they were in the AL East when camp started: pulling up the rear. At least they added closer Kenley Jansen as a free agent.
Next question: What did this team need a closer for?
Spring question: That’s it?
They didn’t do much in the offseason after winning the 2022 division title, but the Guardians front office did dive deep into extension talks with a lot of their talented, young core, getting at least one done with second baseman Andrés Giménez (seven years, $106.5 million), reportedly closing in on another with reliever Trevor Stephan and engaging with shortstop Amed Rosario, starter Tristan McKenzie and outfielder Steven Kwan.
Next question: Can they stay healthy enough and back up enough of their 2022 young-core performances to hold off the charging Minnesota Twins in the AL Central?
Chicago White Sox
Spring question: Can Eloy Jiménez handle a glove-less existence in the lineup?
The big-slugging, bigger part of the middle of the White Sox’ lineup sure looked happy and healthy during WBC play as an outfielder and, ultimately, as the projected DH in camp — despite bristling at the hitting-only role when it was brought to him ahead of spring training. Given the raft of injuries he and other members of the lineup experienced the last two years — and his sizable deficiencies in the field — the move is all but a must for the Sox to contend.
Next question: Will even the best health for the entire José Abreu-less lineup be enough to put the White Sox back into contention with the Twins and Guardians, never mind the playoffs?
Spring question: Javy Báez bounce-back or bust?
Maybe his inspiring WBC performance (.368 with a 1.050 OPS and that impossible swim slide safely into third base for Team Puerto Rico) is more a harbinger than his 12-game, meh performance in Tigers camp. But, then, that’s been part of Báez’ career story: He feeds off big crowds and rises on the biggest stages. In short, the $140 million, Gold Glove shortstop is built for a big-market team with an engaged fan base and something to play for. Not so much a Tigers team in flux with a first-year team president (Scott Harris).
Next question: Will the second highest-paid guy on the roster start strong enough that Harris feels compelled to leverage the start and trade the last four-plus years of Báez’ contract to a contender thirsting for middle-infield help?
Spring question: What’s the catch?
It appears that, yes, the Astros are actually willing to go into the season with less catching than they had much of last year, with 36-year-old Martin Maldonado and his .184/.276/.333 slash line the last three years getting the lion’s share of playing time. Rookie Yainer Diaz, with eight games of big-league experience, is the backup for the reigning champs.
Next question: How much will the absence of José Altuve (broken thumb) at the top of the order for the next two or three months impact their ability to hold off the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers in the AL West?
Kansas City Royals
Spring question: What’s Zack Greinke got left in the toolbox — and is it enough to help build a ballpark on his way to the Hall of Fame?
Greinke’s healthy spring and Opening Day assignment are a step in that direction as the team keeps on track its efforts for a private-public funding plan to build a new ballpark in the city. Brady Singer’s continued development as a frontline starter, right behind Greinke, wouldn’t hurt and might even make the Royals worth an occasional ticket in the meantime.
Next question: Will Greinke get the 118 strikeouts he needs this year (73 last year) to become the 20th pitcher to reach 3,000? And how much will the milestone watch be an added driver for fan interest and goodwill toward the stadium issue?
Los Angeles Angels
Spring question: What’s that sound?
Yes, the clock is still ticking on superstar unicorn Shohei Ohtani’s career with the Angels, and the spotlight only got brighter when the two-way phenom almost singlehandedly won the World Baseball Classic for Team Japan, finishing it off by striking out Angels teammate Mike Trout. If anything, that performance makes him look like an even greater, shinier, more valuable trade piece for the ages this summer.
Next question: Can the rest of the Angels perform well enough in the rough-and-tumble AL West to make a long-shot case for keeping Ohtani through the deadline and extending him at all costs?
Spring question: Doctor who?
One star with a frustrating injury history (Byron Buxton) and another who lost two free agent deals last winter because of an old leg injury that raised questions during physicals (Carlos Correa) look great coming out of camp and will be the keys offensively for a team with plans to return to the playoffs after a two-year absence.
Next question: Can the return of Kenta Maeda from Tommy John surgery and the offseason addition of rotation frontman Pablo Lopez cover all those much-needed innings the Twins didn’t get from starters last season and lift them past the formidable Guardians in the AL Central?
New York Yankees
Spring question: Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio?
The Yankees’ modern-day DiMaggio — newly ordained, $360 million captain Aaron Judge — enjoyed a fine spring training and looks prepared for a robust defense of his 2022 MVP. The Yankees’ pitching staff, not so much. Three-fifths of the projected rotation opens on the IL, with the hope that Carlos Rodón (elbow) and Luis Severino (lat) might be able to return at some point in April. Frankie Montas (shoulder) looks like he’ll be out at least half the season. The feel-good story of camp: Rookie Anthony Volpe earned the starting shortstop job, the first rookie to open the season for the Yankees at that position since Derek Jeter in 1996.
Next question: Where have you gone, Whitey Ford?
Spring question: Who cares?
Nothing that happened this spring suggests the answer is going to be much better for the A’s than last year, when their MLB-worst attendance was the team’s lowest since the 1970s — though left-handed prospect Ken Waldichuk looks worth watching after earning a rotation job. He’s the big arm that went to Oakland from the Yankees last summer in the Frankie Montas trade. Beyond that, good luck even recognizing most of the roster after nearly everyone of value from the 2021 contender was shipped out since then.
Next question: Who are these guys?
Spring question: Remember that stud prospect whose service time was manipulated so publicly by the M’s two years ago that a top executive was fired?
Look who had the eye-popping spring of Mariners camp. That’s right, Jarred Kelenic, the athletic, lefty-slugging former elite prospect who face-planted for parts of two big-league seasons after exec Ken Mather boasted about the manipulation. If this guy’s ready to deliver, alongside 2022 rookie sensation Julio Rodriguez and a boatload of pitching, last year’s first playoff appearance in more than two decades might be just the start of bigger things for the M’s.
Next question: Is this the year the only franchise in the majors to never reach the World Series finally get there?
Tampa Bay Rays
Spring question: Hey, Kevin Cash, now that your boys made the playoffs four straight years for the first time in franchise history, where are you going next?
This was supposed to be a reference to their vagabond spring after Hurricane Ian heavily damaged their Port Charlotte facility. But the answer might be a fifth straight trip to the playoffs the way Randy Arozarena looked in the WBC, the way Wander Franco came back so quickly from a gimpy quad late in camp and the way the pitching shaped up — with the one, big exception of Tyler Glasnow, who appears to be sidelined until sometime in May by yet another injury, this time an oblique.
Next question: After returning from Tommy John surgery and looking so good in a pair of late-season tuneups and a playoff start last year, will Tyler Glasnow ever get healthy enough to help this team for even 15 starts in a season?
Spring question: The more powerful force: the almighty dollar or Bruce Almighty?
The best pitcher in the world, $185 million Jacob deGrom, got through the spring in good shape and is ready to lead the front-loaded Rangers with the newly-inked Hall of Fame manager (Bruce Bochy) into a season Bochy promises will involve “contending.” Heads up, Astros and Mariners, if deGrom stays healthy all year.
Next question: Can deGrom stay healthy all year? And make more than 15 starts for the first time since back-to-back Cy Young seasons in 2018-19?
Toronto Blue Jays
Spring question: Who’s taking the fifth?
An impressive spring won left-hander Yusei Kikuchi the fifth-starter job in an otherwise loaded rotation, behind Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, José Berrios and Chris Bassitt. If he can quell some of the command issues he’s had in his career, he can be a big part of making the Jays a bona fide threat to knock off the Yankees atop the AL East.
Next question: Will 2019 All-Star lefty Hyun Jin Ryu return from Tommy John surgery this summer, as hoped, strong enough to provide a boost down the stretch for a team that plans to play a lot of games in October?
Gordon Wittenmyer covers Major League Baseball for Sportsnaut. You can follow him on Twitter at @GDubCub.