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Thursday, March 13, 2008

AL East Preview

Every year, at about the middle of March, I break down the divisions in baseball and pick how I think they will finish. As always, I will start in the AL East and finish in the NL West.

1st Place, Boston Red Sox

Lineup:
CF Jacob Ellsbury
2B Dustin Peroia
DH David Ortiz
LF Manny Ramirez
3B Mike Lowell
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
C Jason Varitek
SS Julio Lugo

Rotation:

RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
RHP Tim Wakefield
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Bartolo Colon
SU: Hideki Okajiema
CL: Jonathan Papelbon

DL: RHP Curt Schilling

The Red Sox return practically the same exact team that cruised to an easy World Series tittle just five months ago. Their bullpen is second to none in all of baseball and their offense is always going to be among the leagues best. The lineup should be even better than last years' if they can get bounce back seasons from J.D. Drew and Manny Ramirez who both performed way below their career standards last season. Their starting pitching is very solid, but still has some question marks. They need their ace Josh Beckett healthy all season, and are counting on Curt Schilling coming back strong by June. I expect Matsuzaka to be even better his second time around this year with the Sox and possibly contend for the AL Cy Young award. Keep an eye out for top prospect Clay Buckholtz and young lefty Jon Lester as they should strengthen an already deep starting rotation.

2nd Place, Toronto Blue Jays
Lineup:
SS David Eckstein
1B Lyle Overbay
RF Alex Rios
DH Frank Thomas
CF Vernon Wells
3B Scott Rolen
2B Aaron Hill
LF Adam Lind
C Greg Zaun

Rotation:
RHP Roy Halliday
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Dustin McGowan
RHP Shawn Marcum
RHP Jesse Litcsh
SU: Jeremy Accardo
CL: B.J. Ryan

If the Blue Jays can stay healthy all year (Scott Rolen, Roy Halliday, B.J. Ryan and A.J. Burnett especially) they should be right there with the Red Sox and Yankees all year long. They have so much talent, but their talent is very fragile. I think the Blue Jays will actually take the next step this year and finish in front of New York for the first time in over a decade. Their lineup is nicely balanced, and they have depth in their bench. I'm expecting a nice rebound from Vernon Wells and watch for Alex Rios to continue to develop as he has over the past 2 seasons. I wouldn't be surprised if both of those names were mentioned at the end of the year regarding AL MVP honors. Also If Adam Lind comes on to be anything like he's touted to be, the Blue Jays will have their outfield set for years to come. An overall healthy year in Toronto could easily put them into the postseason.

3rd Place, New York Yankees
Lineup
LF Jonny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
RF Bobby Abreu
3B Alex Rodriguez
DH Hideki Matsui
2B Robinson Cano
C Jorge Posada
1B Jason Giambi
CF Melky Cabrera

Rotation:
RHP Chin-Ming Wang
LHP Andy Pettite
RHP Phillip Hughes
RHP Mike Mussina
RHP Ian Kennedy
SU: Joba Chamberlain
CL: Mariano Rivera

The Yankees are getting older, and older each year. Outside of Chin-Ming Wang, I'd be surprised if the Yankees 30 starts out of any starter this season. Mussina and Pettite seem to be on their last legs and 2008 could easily be the final season for both. Pettite had a nice season in '07 but will need to stay extremely tough mentally to succeed with the spotlight on him this summer in New York. The Yankees are hoping Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain will breakout this year and provide the team with much needed pitching depth. Like in Boston, the offense will score a lot of runs. I really like Robinson Cano, and Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter still form the best left sided infield (offensively) the game has ever seen, but I don't think the teams pitching is strong enough allow them to win the division or even compete for a wild card birth.

4th Place, Tampa Bay Rays
Lineup:
2B Akinori Iwamura
LF Carl Crawford
CF B.J. Upton
1B Carlos Pena
3B Evan Longoria
RF Jonny Gomes
DH Cliff Floyd
C Dioner Navarro
SS Jason Bartlett

DL: CF Rocco Baldelli

Rotation
LHP Scott Kazmir
LHP James Shields
RHP Matt Garza
RHP Andy Sonnenstine
RHP Edwin Jackson
SU: Al Reyes
CL: Troy Percival

The Rays are always an intriguing team at the start of the season just because of all the potential they have. That lineup consists of 4 guys who could easily be all-stars and it seems like just about every year they pump out a new young star. B.J. Upton broke onto the scene last year and it looks like it will be Evan Longoria's turn this year. Their top player, Carl Crawford, is still looking to have that one breakout season that showcases him as one of the best all-around players in the game. He's realized his speed potential and is one of the better contact hitters in the game, but he has the power to hit 30 home runs a year and hasn't hit more than 18 yet. I like the top of the Rays' rotation a lot with Kazmir, Shields and Garza, but the bottom half needs to contribute something or else it will be another long year in Tampa. Their bullpen is their weak spot this year. It's tough to build a successful bullpen around when you have 39-year old Troy Percival and 38-year old Al Reyes leading the way.

5th Place, Baltimore Orioles
Lineup:
2B Brian Roberts
3B Melvin Mora
RF Nick Markakis
DH Kevin Millar
1B Aubrey Huff
C Ramon Hernadez
CF Adam Jones
LF Luke Scott
SS Luis Hernadez

Rotation:

RHP Jeremy Guthrie
RHP Daniel Cabrera
LHP Adam Loewen
RHP Steve Trachsel
LHP Brian Burris
SU: Jamie Walker
CL: George Sherril

One again, the Orioles have very low expectations, but unlike the Rays, they don't have a lot of young talent that fans can look forward to watching. In all liklyhood, their best player, Brian Roberts, will be dealt by opening day, so their lineup should even be weaker by the time the season starts. Center fielder Adam Jones, obtained in the Erik Bedard trade, should be one guy to keep an eye on. Nick Markakis is also becoming a decent right fielder. The starting pitching is in shambles though after the Bedard trade. Guthrie is a very solid number 3, but in the weak Oriole rotation, he'll be asked to be a number 1. That alone tells you how thin they are in the rotation. The bullpen isn't much better. George Sherrill should be a solid presence for the ninth inning and Jamie Walker isn't bad setting him up, but then things get very unstable.
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10 Comments:

  • At 4:19 PM, Anonymous JR Lives said…

    Great job here.

     
  • At 4:38 PM, Anonymous Tyrone Briggs said…

    It seems that Boston fans are getting an earlier jump on Yankees fans with these previews! ;)

    Think I will "root" for the Jays to win this division.

    BTW: Now that the Bills will be play 1 game a year in Toronto, wouldn't it only be fair that the Jays play a few games in Buffalo?

     
  • At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Bobbyjim45 said…

    Boy, Yanks in third? Jays in second?

    Toronto isn't a bad team, but they have to face those Yankees and Red Sox lineups way too many times. Plus, the Yanks may not have much for pitching, but that lineup alone should be good for high 80s-90 something wins.
    Permalink | Reply
    Tyrone BriggsHall of Famer

     
  • At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Tyrone Briggs said…

    Now that the Rays and Yankees are going to destroy themselves for 18 games and the Red Sox have two starting pitchers injured (while the rest of the team eats itself into oblivion) and Baltimore AAA Orioles hanging around, I'd say the Jays are looking great to contend for winning the division.

     
  • At 3:23 PM, Anonymous Falcon02520 said…

    Switch around Tampa Bay and Toronto and this list might actually turn out to be correct...

     
  • At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Yakob878 said…

    ya the divison is bound to have a shake up like that some time

     
  • At 3:36 AM, Anonymous RollingWave said…

    how exactly is Zuan (who was also in the mitchells report for those of us who were actually not just filtering out Ex / current Yankee names and also happens to be 4 months older then almost finsihed Jorge.) / Thomas (older then Giambi, was nearly finished just 2 seasons ago, playing with bad knees / feet on turf ) / Wells (shoulder surgery, fell off a cliff last year) / Rolen (all sorts of stuff not to meantion he'll surely get alone reallll well with Jay "ACTUALLY fought with his own players" Gibbons) / Eckstien (all sorts of stuff and not that good to begin with )/ whoever 's playing left (yeah right like Matt 40 year old Stairs is gonna hit 130+ OPS+ again. and I'm sure major back surgery will have no effect on Reed Johnson and his diving ways) while Lind's struggles last year even back in AAA were suerly a fluke / Overbay (wrist surgery) any less of a risk here? the Yankees scored 900 + run with Sheffield and Matsui nearly useless for most of the 06. and 960+ with Giambi giving them nothing and Damon seriously hampered by injury in 07. unless they lose A-rod AND Posada for most of the year. I HIGHLY doubt they'll finish under 900 runs.

    not to meantion I love how Huges / Kennedy / Chamberlian are huge unproven risks but Buchholz / Lester / Marcum / McGowan / Litsch are a good bet to produce.

    The Jay's pitching were insanely good last year. they had almost EVERYTHING break right for them there even consideirng the loss of BJ Ryan. it's possible for that to continue. it's also possible that Litch and Marcuem's soft stuff gets bombed and / or McGowan / Burnett (two clear models of health!) get hurt more again. Doc Halladay's been awsome but he's also 31 with 3 strait year of decling ERA+ K/9 and rising WHIP (that true is even if you take out the injury riddled 04/05 campaigns). he's season last year was essentially Chien Ming Wang + 25 inning.
    I like the Blue Jays . I think they're a legit contender in any other division. but it's truely hard to reasonablly justify them finishing ahead of the Yankees without some seirous colored glasses.

     
  • At 6:19 PM, Blogger Trevor said…

    RollingWave,

    Good points. But yes, Marcum and Magowan are proven at the big league level(double digit winners in '07 with good era's and k/bb ratio). Hughes and Chamberlain are not. I'm not denying that the Yanks will score runs and I'm not basing this on worst case scenario. They have a new manager and have the new boss around. They are going through transition. They have some great offensive players, and a couple young pitching prospects. They will be a lot better next year after Hughes, Chamberlain and Kennedy get a year under their belts. In order for the Yanks to win this division, those guys are gonna have to be as good, or better than advertised and Petitte will have to repeat his surprising '07 season. In other words, a lot of things need to go right.

    The Blue Jays, on the other hand, just need to stay HEALTHY and things should fall into place. If they aren't healthy, then they won't be competing for anything in September.

    And yes, both Boston and New York have aging lineups, but Bostons pitching blows the Yankees out of the water, not even close. Toronto's will to if it stays HEALTHY.
    And whens the last time the Yanks made any noise in the playoffs? They've been on the decline for years while Toronto has been on the rise. No denying that.

     
  • At 8:52 AM, Blogger Free Bet said…

    free bet

    yup, nice job indeed, i love this blog :) go on the giants

     
  • At 12:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the Yanks are still better than Tor., even with the age. The AL East should be a good race this year

     

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