AL Preseason Power Rankings: Yankees, Tigers Take Top Two Slots, Royals Moving Up

Kansas City Royals' shortstop Alcides Escobar

The New York Yankees get the preseason nod as the team to beat in the American League pennant race in 2012. The Kansas City Royals rank ninth out of the 14 AL teams.

We're a good three weeks away from the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season. The 30 MLB teams are still going through their preseason preparations and player evaluations in Florida and Arizona, but before we know it, the curtain will rise and the annual rite of spring will be in full bloom for baseball fans everywhere to enjoy.

Spring training is basically a time to work on fundamental skills, for the roster players to get into game shape and, more than anything, for the manager and front-office personnel to get a good look at new players and the young talent coming up through the farm system. Because the veteran players and position starters don't see much game action beyond the third or fourth inning in most spring training games, it's difficult to draw any rock-solid conclusions on how a team will do over the course of a long 162-game season.

It's been shown over and over that how a team or teams perform in spring training, based on games won and lost, is not necessarily a good measure of how things will turn out when the season starts for real. More often than not, the teams that excel in the exhibition season are not the ones that contend for division titles and league pennants in September. That just seems to be one of the oddities of the game.

Nevertheless, baseball writers and other members of the media, are compelled to make season predictions at the top of every year that take into account the previous season, offseason developments and that early look during spring training that gets everyone's juices flowing in anticipation of "next year" that is finally here.

Who are we to be left out of all the fun. Here is how, and a few words on why, yours truly sees the power structure in the American League as the time in waiting draws down on the start of the 2012 MLB season.

2012 Preseason American League Power Rankings

1. New York Yankees - With an improved rotation, Yankees now have all the pieces in place and are the team to beat, not just in the AL East, but in the American League.

2. Detroit Tigers - Almost a lock for the Central Division crown. You can start printing playoff tickets.

3. Los Angeles Angels - If not for Yankees and Tigers, Angels would be AL's best.

4. Texas Rangers -Missed out on Pujols sweepstakes, but still loaded.

5. Boston Red Sox - Beantowners have some image rebuilding to do. Not as good as they seem to think they are.

6. Tampa Bay Rays - Rays will live and die on great pitching and solid defense.

7. Toronto Blue Jays - Jays have been fourth in AL East for four years running. Make it five.

8. Cleveland Indians - Indians have the talent, a sound rotation, but little margin for error.

9. Kansas City Royals - Lineup finally coming together, but starting pitching continues to be the team's Achilles heel.

10. Minnesota Twins - It's all about the health of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. The Twins need both in the lineup to do well.

11. Chicago White Sox - White Stockings are paying out more than they're receiving in return through wins. Too many players past their prime.

12. Seattle Mariners - Too many problem areas (pitching, offensive production) to contend in top-loaded AL West.

13. Oakland Athletics - Massive roster overhaul makes A's season a big question mark. What else is new?

14. Baltimore Orioles - O's have made some roster changes, but not nearly enough.

Watch for the 2012 Preseason National League Power Rankings in SB Nation Kansas City on Tuesday

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