By: Alan Payton
When the Kansas City Royals lost ace pitcher James Shields to free agency this off season after Shields helped lead the Royals to the 2014 World Series, losing to the San Francisco Giants in seven games, many so-called experts wrote off Kansas City’s chances of even getting back to the playoffs this year.
Well, the Royals obviously don’t care what the experts think and with Major League Baseball on its All-Star Break, they are the 4.50 favorites to repeat as American League champions. Kansas City has the AL’s best record at 52-34 and lead the Central Division by 4.5 games over second-place Minnesota. The Royals are 1.33 favorites to win the division for the first time since taking the AL West in 1985, which is the last time they won the World Series.
Royals Will Miss Gordon
Expect Kansas City to be active ahead of the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are looking for starting pitching and an outfielder. The latter because All-Star left fielder Alex Gordon, easily the team’s best player overall and one of the best outfielder defenders in the majors, will miss eight weeks with a severely strained groin. Gordon was hurt making a spectacular catch against Tampa Bay last Wednesday. Gordon is hitting .279 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs with a .394 on-base percentage that is one of the better marks in the AL. Really his impact goes beyond numbers, however.
Halos Seize AL West Lead
The second-favorites for the pennant are the Los Angeles Angels at 6.00. They lead the AL West by a half-game over Houston, which led the division most of the season but ended the first half on a six-game losing streak. The Halos are 1.90 to win the West for the second year in a row. Of course they were swept by the Royals in the 2014 divisional round of the playoffs. Expect the Angels to be active ahead of the deadline too as they could use upgrades at designated hitter, left field and/or second base. Houston is definitely going to make a move, most likely for a starting pitcher. The Astros have the money to spend and a treasure trove of prospects as they look to make the playoffs for the first time since losing the 2005 World Series. They haven’t finished with a winning record since 2008.
Finally, in the AL East Division the Yankees are somewhat surprisingly leading, with a 3.5-game edge over second-place Tampa Bay. The Bombers are 2.50 to win the division and 8.50 to win the pennant. I’m not high on their chances to take the East because they have some veterans who are rather injury prone, namely Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury, who has already spent a while on the disabled list this season.
The spring training American League betting favorite was Boston, but the Red Sox have been huge disappointments at 42-47 and last in the AL East. Still, the Sox are only 6.5 games behind New York. Don’t be surprised if those Cole Hamels-to-Boston rumors start up again. The Red Sox certainly can afford Hamels and have the prospects to send Philly to get a deal done.