Bold predictions: Trout belts 50 HRs, A's deal Gray

A day after some bold calls for the National League in 2016, it's the American League's turn in the spotlight. What do our experts see coming for your team?

AL East

Baltimore Orioles

A year after hitting a career-high 35 home runs (two more than he had in his first three seasons combined), Manny Machado belts 44 bombs to lead the American League. The addition of Korean free agent Hyun-soo Kim allows Machado to move full-time into the 3-hole, where he leads the league in RBIs, too. He also hits .300 for the first time, but falls just short of the Triple Crown, finishing third in the AL batting race. -- Eddie Matz

Boston Red Sox

With one full season under his belt, 2016 is the year Mookie Betts becomes an All-Star and top-five MVP candidate. His final line in 2015 was impressive enough -- .291/.341/.479 with 18 home runs, 42 doubles, 21 steals and solid defense in center field -- but there are reasons to expect improved results. He was hitting .221 through May 17 before taking off, hitting .315/.360/.509 the rest of the way. He's just 23, he has surprising pop with good contact skills, and he can run and play defense. He'll be the best player on a team that can win the AL East. -- David Schoenfield

New York Yankees

The Yankees will fly out of the gate quickly before faltering around June, forcing GM Brian Cashman to contemplate going for the wild card or reshuffling the deck. In another un-Boss-like move, the Yankees will choose to disarm, trading Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner at the deadline for top, high-level minor league prospects. The Yankees, around five games back in the wild card, will claim they are not giving up on 2016, but it will be clear they are trying to reload for 2017, when Luis Severino, Greg Bird and Aaron Judge could be fully leading the way. -- Andrew Marchand

Tampa Bay Rays

Chris Archer finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting in 2015, but in 2016 he does even better: He wins it. In a season in which he posted a 3.23 ERA and struck out 252 batters in 212 innings, Archer's electric fastball/slider combination limited batters to a .220 average. Expect him to start using his changeup more often in 2016. To win the Cy Young, he just has to eliminate the blowup outings: He had two games in 2015 in which he allowed nine runs and one with eight. -- David Schoenfield

Toronto Blue Jays

The major concern about the Blue Jays is their rotation and, while the return of a healthy Marcus Stroman will help, journeyman lefty J.A. Happ could be the sleeper acquisition of the offseason. He went to Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, where he tweaked his mechanics, developed a more consistent release point, started throwing his four-seam fastball more often and with better command, and went 7-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts. So here's the bold prediction: Happ has the best year of his career, winning 15 games and posting an ERA under 3.50. -- David Schoenfield

AL Central

Chicago White Sox

It is far from bold to say the White Sox's starting pitching staff will be the club's strength in 2016, so we will ramp that up a notch by predicting that the rotation turns into one of the American League's best. The decision not to trade Jose Quintana figures to be rewarded, and the prediction here is that the rotation comes close to being a half-run better in ERA for the upcoming season. It will be a tall order. The rotation's 4.12 ERA was middle-of-the-pack among all 30 MLB teams, but a 0.45 improvement suddenly gives it a 3.67 ERA, which would have been second best in the AL last season behind Tampa Bay (3.63). -- Doug Padilla

Cleveland Indians

I'll cheat and make more than one prediction here. In four years as a regular, Jason Kipnis has seen his seasonal OPS zigzag from .714 to .818 to .643 to .820; 2016 will be the season he finally breaks that unhappy pattern and puts up consecutive seasons' worth of awesome at the plate. You can add that and a full season from shortstop Francisco Lindor to a big year from a breakout-bound Carlos Carrasco, giving the Indians the kind of rotation depth to win now. So the boldest prediction? The Tribe will win the AL Central in 2016. -- Christina Kahrl

Detroit Tigers

Justin Verlander will post at least 15 wins. The 32-year-old pitcher will reclaim his role as the Tigers' resident ace after a frustrating 2015 season that began with him on the disabled list. After some early hiccups, Verlander re-emerged with a strong second half that portends well for his 2016 campaign. The right-hander seemed to regain consistency, command and confidence on the mound -- one of the few positive developments amid an otherwise tumultuous season rife with disappointment. Overall, his fastball velocity has dipped in the past two seasons, but he has proved he can still reach back deep into games and hit the mid-to-high 90s. With a high-octane offense that should provide plenty of run support, look for the former Cy Young winner to at least triple the amount of wins (5) he recorded last season. -- Katie Strang

Kansas City Royals

All that big-game experience is not what will push the Royals in 2016. The bold prediction here is that the Royals will sustain their edge, thanks primarily to one player who wasn't even a regular starter last year: Jarrod Dyson. Not only will Dyson make over 100 starts in the outfield for the first time in 2016, as a new regular he will provide the spark that some teams might lose after winning it all. He can give manager Ned Yost more of a traditional and disruptive leadoff presence or be a nice transition to the top of the order from the No. 9 spot. He also will make an excellent defensive outfield even better, which is good news for KC's starting staff. -- Doug Padilla

Minnesota Twins

On Monday, I picked Miguel Sano to win the AL home run crown in 2016, but recycling that prediction might seem too easy, not to mention ... predictable, since forecasting tools are already putting him into that picture. So let's make a different bold prediction, which is this: Center fielder Byron Buxton is going to win the American League's Rookie of the Year Award after putting up an electrifying All-Star-caliber season to beat out teammate Jose Berrios for the honor. -- Christina Kahrl

AL West

Houston Astros

In his rookie season in 2014 and then his injury-stunted 2015, George Springer has displayed all the tools that made him a first-round pick and then a top-rated prospect. His most important improvement last year was cutting his strikeout rate from 33 percent to 24 percent, helping him to raise his average from .231 to .276. With that in mind, it all comes together for Springer in 2016 and he becomes the majors' first 30-30 guy -- home runs and steals -- since Mike Trout in 2012. -- David Schoenfield

Los Angeles Angels

Mike Trout will once again be the best player in the American League. He'll probably once again finish second in the MVP voting because the Angels won't make the playoffs. So here's the bold prediction: Trout hits 50 home runs. That's certainly reasonable considering he hit 41 last year -- and that included his August slump when he hit just one home run in 29 games. -- David Schoenfield

Oakland Athletics

When the A's stumble out of the gate and sit in last place in late July, Sonny Gray is traded to the Yankees for a package that includes outfielder Aaron Judge, catcher Gary Sanchez and second baseman Rob Refsnyder. -- David Schoenfield

Seattle Mariners

Taijuan Walker's first full season was full of mixed results: a 4.56 ERA and 25 home runs allowed, but an excellent 157-40 strikeout/walk ratio in 169.2 innings. Keep in mind, however, that he had a 7.33 ERA through nine starts. After that he posted a 3.62 over his final 20 starts, walking just 17 batters and allowing a .228 average and .264 OBP. The biggest reason for optimism about the Mariners' playoff chances: Walker improves upon that second half and wins 15 games with an ERA in the 3.25 range, providing a terrific No. 3 starter alongside Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. -- David Schoenfield

Texas Rangers

There are many good second basemen in the majors, but 2016 is the year Rougned Odor becomes the best, or at least the best offensive second baseman. Sound crazy? He actually led second basemen with a .465 slugging percentage in 2015 -- and that was after a slow start got him sent back to the minors in early May. Upon his return to the Rangers in mid-June he hit .292/.334/.527 with 15 home runs in 91 games the rest of the way. And he'll be just 22. -- David Schoenfield