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Monday, March 16, 2009

2009 AL East Preview

Like we've done here at The Giants Baseball Blog over the last few springs, it's time to take a closer look at baseball in general as I will be spending most of the final 2 weeks in March breaking down each team and division in baseball and predicting how I see things turning out this season. So here we go, as always, starting with the AL East and eventually finishing in our very own NL West:

1st Place, Tampa Bay Rays
Lineup-
2B Akinori Iwamura
CF B.J. Upton
LF Carl Crawford
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
DH Pat Burrell
C Dioner Navarro
RF Matt Joyce/Gabe Kaplar
SS Jason Bartlett

Pitching-
RHP James Shields
LHP Scott Kazmir
RHP Matt Garza
RHP Andy Sonnanstine
LHP David Price
SU: Grant Balfour
CL: Troy Percival

The "wonder team" from last year was no joke and they should be even better equipped to take on the tough AL East this season. They made all that noise last season despite getting full years out of arguably their two best players, Evan Longoria(122 games) and Carl Crawford (109 games). Not to mention, they only got the sevices of '07 first round pick David Price in September and October. So, with all these youngsters on board for a full season, and improved health to the bullpen, this team could easily repeate what they did last season. They also added Pat Burrell who doesn't seem like a huge add, but he'll be on base all the time and be right around 30 home runs and 100 RBI for that club as it really was a good fit for them. Also, the starting pitching, with the addition of Price, should be amogst the best, youngest rotations in baseball. Again, they're pen is a little thin and they need to stay strong all season, but if they do, I think Tampa will be the team to beat in the East.

2nd Place, Boston Red Sox (AL Wild Card Winner)
Lineup-
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
DH David Ortiz
1B Kevin Youkilis
LF Jason Bay
RF J.D. Drew
3B Mike Lowell
C Jason Varitek
SS Jed Lowrie

Pitching-
RHP Josh Beckett
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
RHP Brad Penny
RHP Tim Wakefield
SU: Hideki Okajima
CL: Jon Papelbon

The BoSox will still win their 90 plus games and probably end up winning the wild card, but I just don't look at the Sox the same way I did 2-3 seasons ago. Their core is much older now and although they do have some young offensive bright spots (Pedroia, Lowrie and Ellsbury), I think it's safe to say that their offensive anchor (David Ortiz) and the guys surrounding him aren't as good as they were a couple years ago and the lineup is starting to really age. I still do like their starting rotation, as their front 3 could match up with any in baseball and their bullpen is still a strength, led by Papelbon and Okajima, but I don't think this Red Sox team, as is, has any more World Series victories in it. As much as they wanted him gone, Manny Ramirez would still have made this team the favorites in the division if he were here, but instead, it's Jason Bay.

3rd Place, New York Yankees
Lineup:
LF Jonny Damon
SS Derek Jeter
1B Mark Teixera
RF Xavier Nady
DH Hideki Matsui
C Jorge Posada
2B Robinson Cano
3B Cody Ransom
CF Melky Cabrera

DL- 3B Alex Rodriguez (late-May)

Pitching:
LHP CC Sabathia
RHP A.J. Burnett
RHP Chin-Ming Wang
LHP Andy Pettite
RHP Jaba Chamerblain
SU: Damaso Marte
CL: Mariano Rivera

Speaking of teams in decline, the 2009 Yankees are just that. They rebuilt their pitching staff over the winter adding Sabathia and Burnett, but I don't think that will be enough to push them over the top. Like Boston, their lineup is getting older by the year, but unlike Boston, they haven't been able to produce, or keep any of their own homegrown talent lately. The last 2 best position players the Yanks' have developed have been Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano and that's been it this decade. They need to start rebuilding from within a bit rather than dig themselves further in a hole by committing big dollars and big years to free agents which ages a team rather quickly. Believe me, I saw it happen over the last 8 years in San Franciso while they kept trying to build around Barry Bonds. Eventually they just need to start doing what's best for the organization, even if it means a year or 2 under .500. I just think the Yankees are gradually getting worse and in about 2 years, they're really going to be a mess. Oh yeah, they probably won't get ARod back until late May, and I don't think he'll be at full strength at all this year.

4th Place, Toronto Blue Jays
Lineup-
CF Alex Rios
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
1B Lyle Overbay
3B Scott Rolen
LF Travis Snider
2B Aaron Hill
C Rod Barajas
SS Marco Scutaro

Pitching-
RHP Roy Halladay
RHP Jesse Litsch
RHP Casey Janssen
LHP David Purcey
RHP Matt Clement
SU: Brandon League
CL: B.J. Ryan

DL- RHP Dustin McGowan (June)

The Jay's are really hurting in the starting pitching department where they will be without 2 of their top 3 starters for much or all of the season. Dustin McGowan should be back around mid-season, but Shawn Marcum will miss all of it and that will hurt. The Jays are really counting on some of their younger offensive players to help carry the team. Former elite-prospect, Adam Lind, will start the year as the everyday DH with another former top pick, Travis Snider, getting the nod in left. I also like the Blue Jay's bullpen, if healthy, as B.J. Ryan is one of the better closers in the league and Brandon League and Jeremy Accardo are well above average set-up men. Still though, the Jay's are going to have a rough time scoring runs and keeping up with the rest of the division as their starting pitching just isn't there (after Roy Halladay) and their lineup is a little too thin.

5th Place, Baltimore Oriioles
Lineup-
2B Brian Roberts
CF Felix Pie
RF Nick Markakis
1B Aubrey Huff
3B Melvin Mora
CF Adam Jones
DH Luke Scott
C Greg Zaun
SS Cesar Izturis

Minors: C Matt Wieters (will be up in May)

Pitching:
RHP Jeremy Guthrie
LHP Koji Uehara
LHP Mark Hendrickson
LHP Rich Hill
LHP David Pauley
SU: Chris Ray
CL George Sherrill

The O's are starting to build a nice, young versatile lineup, but they continue to lack developement in their starting pitching department. After about 3 years of trade rumors, Brian Roberts is amazingly still at second base and the top of the order for Baltimore, where he's one of the better all around second basemen in the game. The O's also have young outfielders Nick Markakis and Adam Jones who both should have bright futures and baseball's top catching prospect, Matt Wieters, on the doorstep. However, the pitching is lacking. Jeremy Guthrie is solid, and they are expecting big things from Koji Uehara, but after those two, things get real ugly, real quick. Rich Hill and David Pauley were in the minors most of last season, struggling, and the 35 year-old Hendrickson carries a career 5.07 era and a 1.45 WHIP. I do like their bullpen a lot though and I think they might have had something here if they would have landed say, CC Sabtahia and A.J. Burnett, instead of the Yankees.
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10 Comments:

  • At 11:53 PM, Anonymous Rawbeezeitz said…

    So much talent in this division. Halladay, Beckett, Lester, Sabathia, Shields, Papelbon, Rivera, etc.


    I honestly can't come close to a prediction in this division, each of the big three have strengths but also weaknesses that could kill them. Were the Rays one hit wonders? Can the Sox score consistently? Can the Yankees stay healthy?


    It'll be a fun year.

     
  • At 12:36 AM, Anonymous J Billingsley aka J-Bill said…

    I like the Rays as the favorites too, but I think the Yanks will win the wild card. They have too much pitching. I think they have Phil Hughes waiting in the wings too. Is he healthy?

     
  • At 7:25 AM, Blogger Karthick said…

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  • At 9:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I like the order except for the Yanks behind the BoSox. I agree that the Red Sox are done winning anymore series' with these guys they have. The Yankees can be great if they all stay healthy and can get AROD back around May. I think the Yanks and Rays are both playoff bound, I just don't know who will win the division and who will win the ALWC?

     
  • At 9:37 PM, Anonymous JuTMSY4 said…

    Name a Red Sox pitcher you'd trust for a full season... I can't...

     
  • At 9:38 PM, Anonymous Manny Stiles said…

    Sam Malone?

    I'd trust Curt Schilling for a whole season (to irritate me thoroughly with his primadonnaness)...
    BTW Rawb.... You can't be a two hit wonder if you weren't a one hit wonder first! (In other words - Nice breakdown of the reigning AL East champs/ALCS winners/AL Champs)

     
  • At 12:11 AM, Anonymous JuTMSY4 said…

    I dunno, that's my fear if I'm a Red Sox fan. I watch a fair amount of Sox games and the one thing I really don't like about this team is their starting staff (I think they've done the appropriate work on the pen...I like the Saito move more and more).

    You might say Beckett, but he really hasn't been special in Boston besides 2007 (as Rawb Mentioned). Watch Matsuzaka pitch and then tell me you feel ok with him...he's a roller coaster ride and pretty much a guaranteed 5-6 innings of "how the fuck did he get out of that jam?!"

    Wakefield is the same old...but not special

    I like the Penny and Smoltz moves but they're mostly insurance

    Which brings us to Jon Lester...and I'm inclined to say; as Lester goes, so goes the Red Sox this year...
    Kid's pretty legit, but I don't think he's an ace...more of an A1 pitcher who'll get you a solid 200 innings and 16 wins, but isn't an ideal post season kinda guy...still, I'd take him in a heartbeat

     
  • At 12:31 AM, Anonymous Rawbeezeitz said…

    Hopefully Beckett's woes were due to injury last year. If so, and he's healthy, then the rotation suddenly becomes a two headed monster with Daisuke a very good #3. The bullpen should help Daisuke and his 5-6 inning outings.


    I'm not all that confident in the rotation, but it does have potential. And I wonder where Justin Masterson ends up.

     
  • At 1:17 AM, Anonymous JuTMSY4 said…

    Beckett's always injured...of course the one year he wasn't, he went off and they sox won the world series... Seems like you're probably right Rawb...

     
  • At 2:03 AM, Anonymous Manny Stiles said…

    Nice job. Decent objectivity and fair analysis.

    Should be a good year indeed.

    As for the Rays - NO ONE had a "career" year last season and that is likely to change just out of happenstance. Don't forget Scott Kazmir was gone for a month and a half as well! And "Again, they're pen is a little thin " - Dude, the pen was their STRENGTH (along with defense) in 2008! Look at how many one run games they won!

    The Red Sox are a mess about to collapse in on itself. Pedroia played FAR beyond his true capabilities and will be exposed from this point forward. Ortiz is on the edge of the end and the pitching staff could NOT possibly be more over-rated. Don't be surprised if Theo leaves before the ship hits the fan all the way. The "Sawx" need too much out of variables (Drew, Lowell, Tek) and are now suffering for past shortsightedness (Wouldn't Hanely Ramirez look pretty good at Fenway, etc.)

    The Yankees - they could win 120 games, they could win 77 games. They are a proverbial wild card this year. Dysfunctional as ever with a new stadium, new big ticket items on the roster and a damaged A-Rod (and more damaged clubhouse).

    Toronto - scares me! They started playing baseball at the end of last season instead of mathball. There is a ton of talent (Travis Snider is a TOTAL STUD, David Purcey is a future All-Star and J.P. Arencibia - might end up better than both - is soon to follow!)
    At least the Orioles are a little more interesting this year. Matt Weiters, Brian Matusz... there's some glimmer at a hope of a glimmer of a future, at least. Peter Angelos deserves to be on the bottom of a suckier division. Baltimore sports fans DEFINITELY deserve better - a hell of a sports town is getting screwed by a shiphead owner.

     

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