For the fourth time in six years, the Houston Astros represented the American League in the World Series, winning the 2022 World Series in six games against the National League champion Philadelphia Phillies for their second title in that span. It’s no secret that the Astros cream of the crop in the American League for some time now, but throughout those six years, multiple teams have challenged their AL crown. That begs the question, which American League squads are the biggest threats to stealing the Junior Circuit from the Astros in 2023? Let’s take a look at the top three…

1. New York Yankees

The Astros have been the Yankees’ kryptonite throughout their six-year reign in the American League. The Bronx Bombers have made multiple runs at the World Series since 2017, and have fallen to Houston in the American League Championship Series three times to end their season, the most recent ending in a sweep in 2022. Despite all of this, there is something to be said that they are consistently in the American League Championship Series. Even if Houston has taken them out all these years, the fact that New York is the team they’ve mainly seen on their way to the World Series has to put the Yankees at the top of this list. Even besides the postseason rivalry dynamic, the Yankees are a great team in their own regard. The Bronx Bombers won 99 games in 2022, winning the American League East for the second time since 2019. They re-signed the 2022 American League MVP in Aaron Judge (and named him captain), re-signed Anthony Rizzo, brought back Tommy Kahnle, and a signed top-10 starter in Major League Baseball in Carlos Rodon. Their bullpen has always been a strength, and they now have a top-3 rotation in baseball. The only question is can they hit? After getting off to a historic start last season, the Yankees struggled post-All-Star Break up until September. However, if the Yankees make the right decision to start DJ LeMahieu at third base, with Oswald Peraza at shortstop, Gleyber Torres at second base, with Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the bench or elsewhere, they should receive a boost in the lineup. Add in the fact that top prospect Anthony Volpe could be ready come May, New York will have a formidable lineup that sets them up as the biggest threat to Houston.

 

2. Seattle Mariners

The Mariners have the unfortunate pleasure of playing in the same division as the Astros, so their division chances, and therefore an opportunity to receive a bye into the Division Series already take a hit off the bat. Despite that, Seattle has had an amazing progression over the past couple of years to turn them into a contender. After snapping a 21-year postseason drought, the Mariners have added to an already strong roster with the additions of Teoscar Hernandez, Kolten Wong, and AJ Pollock. They have Luis Castillo for a full season for the first time in what should be a well-above-average rotation. The bullpen? The one that includes Andres Munoz, Paul Sewald, and Diego Castillo? One of the best in the American League. You can also expect a rebound season from a poor second half of 2022 for Ty France. And oh, the last point? They have one of the brightest young stars in the game in the 2022 American League Rookie of the Year, Julio Rodriguez. There aren’t a lot of teams that can challenge the Astros, but the Mariners are one of the few for sure.

 

3. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays are actually the only American League Postseason team from last season to not have a run-in with Houston in the past. Toronto was definitely a disappointment to tons of fans last season, as many expected them to win the AL East prior to the season, and even had a couple of believers pick them to represent the American League in the World Series. They added Chris Bassitt to an already strong rotation that includes Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Jose Berrios. Their bullpen has been formidable for a few seasons now, but their lineup is what attracts so much attention. They return Vladimir Guerrero Jr, Bo Bichette, George Springer, Matt Chapman, and Alejandro Kirk. They’ve added Brandon Belt to provide some lefty pop, and Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho to shore up their outfield defense. If their lineup can live up to expectations, the Blue Jays will be in the running to take the American League pennant from the Astros.

 

(Photo via MLB)

 

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