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Where will the American League losses come from?

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Anticipated improvement from below-.500 teams like the White Sox clouds divisions

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

A couple weeks ago on Twitter, our pal pnoles threw this question out there:

To which I responded:

This is the most compelling argument for pessimistic White Sox fans -- the league is too deep for a 73-win team to buy the progress it needs to climb into contention. That could very well be the case, but I don't think that worst-case scenario is all that bad. They had money to spend, and it looks like they haven't overinvested themselves into a corner. If it doesn't work out in 2015, Marcus Semien is the only casualty.

But fans of other teams are noticing the improved American League depth, on the South Side and elsewhere, and are confronting that same undercurrent of doubt. They're taking the White Sox seriously after all their upgrades, and they're seeing possible large leaps from the Red Sox, Rangers and Astros, too. Assuming AL teams don't win 85 percent of interleague games, there are going to be a few teams that fall short of expectations.

It's just hard to feel especially certain about a majority of the clubs, because most of them have go-to doubts for those so inclined.

Steps back, unless analytics...
  • The Rays, because their rotation is thinner than usual, and it doesn't look like there's offense to compensate.
  • The A's, who have lost Josh Donaldson, Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester, and have only added complementary pieces.
Pure regression cases
  • The Angels, because it's tough to win 98 games.
  • The Orioles, because it's tough to win 96 games, and they've lost some talent this offseason.
  • The Royals, because they squeezed a lot of wins out of that bullpen, and no longer have James Shields.
Rickety rosters
  • The Yankees, although they seem poised to make a huge signing.
  • The Tigers, although they usually surprise with a splash at this point.
  • The Rangers, because even half the amount of injuries they suffered in 2014 would pose problems.
  • The Blue Jays, who also have a troublesome team health record.
  • The Red Sox, because Clay Buchholz is either their first or second starter.
A leap delayed
  • The Twins, who have young hitters, but a thin rotation and even less of a defense.
  • The Astros, who are banking on young, high-K hitters.

That just leaves the Indians and Mariners as teams I can't peg to be demonstrably worse for any one reason. Neither team made the postseason last year, so stagnation will be a big-enough blow, but a total flop seems harder to anticipate with them.

The great equalizer? An injury to a star. Big swings of talent could be possible before Opening Day, but assuming the sense of parity remains, then team health will have a greater say in the postseason races than it already does. I'd throw the White Sox in with that "rickety roster" group, which means Adam Eaton better listen to the warning track this time around, because the division figures to be less forgiving than the outfield wall.