Last season in the AL East, a team that was 24 games up in the division race, made a monumental collapse and eventually missed out on the wild-card spot by 1 game. Another team won the division title handedly thanks to their strong pitching and consistent offensive firepower. Two other teams ran into problems with their bullpen, and one other team showed signs for the future, but still may be miles away.
Here are my projections for the AL East division this year:
New York Yankees: 1ST IN AL East
Reasons why: They have a great rotation and a good offense. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are still good bats, and players like Nick Swisher, Curtis Granderson, Mark Tiexiera and Robinson Cano made significant contributions as well. I’d be a little concerned about the back end of their pitching rotation, because the players they got in free agency are untested at their new roles. I see them making the playoffs again this year, but having a very early exit as they have done in many years past.
Tampa Bay Rays: 2ND IN AL East
Reasons why: They have a good enough offense to get the job done on most nights, but they don’t have a deep enough pitching rotation. Don’t get me wrong, James Shields and David Price are great for their rotation, but after that everybody else is just average or below. Their bullpen is also suspect as well. Kyle Farnsworth can still throw heat, but how many nights will he be available? They’ll play good enough baseball to compete for a wild-card spot this year, but I don’t see them winning the division.
Boston Red Sox: 3RD IN AL East
Reasons why: This team is going through a serious transition phase. After a monumental collapse last year, they fired their General Manager and their Manager after the season and tried starting over from scratch. David Ortiz is committed to helping this team stay in the playoff hunt, but I only see that happening if he can stay healthy and out of batting slumps. Their rotation is still good at the top with Josh Beckett, John Lester and Clay Buckholz, but losing John Lackey for a significant amount of time will hurt them in the early run. Their bullpen also has question marks. Bobby Jenks doesn’t look like the closer of old anymore, plus he’s battling nagging shoulder injuries. I don’t think he’ll be a huge factor this year. I look for this team to at least play .500 baseball and be in the middle of the pack when it’s all said and done.
Baltimore Orioles: 4TH IN AL East
Reasons why: This team came on strong at certain points of last season. Buck Showalter is a good manager. He’ll get the players to work on numerous days. I feel that they have a good enough team to compete on most days, but they’ll have a rough time hanging with the powerhouses within the division. Look for them to compete with the Blue Jays just to stay out of the division cellar.
Toronto Blue Jays: 5TH IN AL East
Reasons why: Pitching, Pitching, and more pitching. They say you can’t have enough pitching in baseball, but obviously no one told these guys. They don’t have anybody who can stay healthy on a consistent basis. With the exception of Jose Bautista (who I think may be traded before the season’s over) their offense scares no one. Their bullpen is one of the worst in the major leagues, because they lead the league in blown save opportunities. Don’t be surprised if this team finishes with 100 losses to top it off. This could easily be one of the worst teams in baseball this year.