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Friday, March 20, 2015

2015 MLB Previews: AL East

We're a couple of weeks away from opening day, and I figured we'd go ahead and get started on our divisional previews/predictions for 2015. As always, we'll start in the AL East and work our way to the NL West.

Note: We will still be posting regular Giants posts as well in between divisional previews.

AL EAST

1st Place, Boston Red Sox

Projected Lineup:
1. 2B Dustin Pedroia
2. CF Mookie Betts
3. LF Hanley Ramirez
4. DH David Ortiz
5. 3B Pablo Sandoval
6. 1B Mike Napoli
7. SS Xander Bogarts
8. RF Shane Victorino/Allen Craig
9 C Christian Vazquez

Rotation:
RHP Clay Bucholtz
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP Wade Miley
RHP Justin Masterson
RHP Joe Kelly
SU: RH Junichi Tazawa
CL: RH Koji Uehara

Key Reserves:  Allen Craig 1B/OF, Danial Nava OF, Mookie Betts/Rusney Castillo OF

The BoSox just have so much depth this year, and after going out and adding HanRam and The Panda to an already steady offense makes them now one of the best, if not deepest units in the game. It should be interesting to see how HanRam adjusts to playing in left everyday Their big question lies in their starting staff though which is going to be their downfall this year if they have one. They absolutely need Bucholtz to be in ace-like form all year now that Jon Lester has departed. When he's on, he's a true ace, but injuries and inconsistencies have haunted the 30 year-old right-hander his whole career. After the enigma that is Bucholtz, they're not necessarily dominant, but deep and Uehara is as steady as it gets in the 9th.

2nd Place: Baltimore Orioles *AL Wild Card

Lineup:
LF Alejandro De Aza
3B Manny Machado
CF Adam Jones
1B Chris Davis
DH Steven Pearce
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Travis Snider/Delmon Young
2B Jonathan Schoop

Rotation:
RHP Chris Tillman
LHP Wei-Yen Chen
RHP Bud Norris
RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez/Kevin Gausman
SU: RH Darren O'Day
CL: LH Zach Britton

Key Reserves: OF Delmon Young, IF Ryan Flaherty

I really like the roster the O's have put together the last few years. They've really built from within then made a few big additions like Chris Davis (and Nelson Cruz in '14) that kinda put them over the edge. They lost Cruz, who hit 40 jacks for them in 2014, but they still have enough offense, especially if Wieters and Machado bounce back strong as expected (both young players on the up). The rotation is another strength, with Tillman blossoming into a legitimate young ace the last few seasons and Chen becoming a strong 16-game winner in '14, plus they have depth there as well. If Ubaldo Jimenez ever pitches up to his potential again, they could overtake Boston. Their pen is tough too, led by young lefty closer Zach Britton.

3rd Place, Tampa Bay Rays

Lineup:
CF Desmond Jennings
RF David DeJesus
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
3B Evan Longoria
1B James Loney
DH John Jaso
CF Kris Kiermaier
2B Nick Franklin
C Rene Rivera

Rotation:
RH Alex Cobb
RH Chris Archer
RH Jake Odorizzi
LH Drew Smyly
RH Alex Colome/Matt Moore*
SU: RH Brad Boxberger
CL: Grant Balfour
*Moore out until mid-season

Key Reserves: IF Logan Forsythe, OF Steven Souza Jr.

The AL East is a tough division and the Rays are solid, but not quite good enough to beat out the teams ahead of them. They're almost like the Braves of the AL East in a way as that they always seem to be both rebuilding but perennial contenders almost yearly. They have a lot of younger players and question marks in their lineup but that rotation is no joke, especially if they can get Moore back strong by mid-June (early part of time-table). Bullpen is decent, but nothing to write home about. They're gonna need Evan Longoria to have an MVP campaign, DeJesus and Jennings to play at their optimum level all year, that rotation to stay injury-free while nearly every other player in that lineup to basically have career-type seasons in order to really have a shot at anything, but they should stay competitive and in the hunt with that starting 5. If they add a hitter or two, it could put them over the top.

4th Place, New York Yankees

Lineup:
LF Brett Gardner
2B Stephen Drew
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Carlos Beltran
C Bryan McCann
3B Chase Headley
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Garrett Jones/Alex Rodriguez
SS Didi Gregorious


Rotation:
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
LHP C.C. Sabathia
RHP Michael Pineda
RHP Nathan Eovaldi
LHP Chris Capuano*/Ivan Nova*
SU: LH Andrew Miller
CL: RH Dellin Betances
-*Capuano to start year on DL. * Nova out until at least May

Key Reserves: IF Alex Rodriguez, OF Chris Young

The Yankees, once again have all kinds of question marks from team age, to injuries and former superstars becoming all the sudden in-effective and unable to play baseball at the levels they were used too. They added Bryan McCann but it should be interesting to see how this team looks without their former captain Derek Jeter. Rotation has major health questions, major ones, but Tanaka is dominant and a true ace when right, and if C.C. Sabathia ever can get it together and Michael Pineda stay healthy a full season, they could have a decent rotation, but that's a lot that has to go right. Pen looks deep and decent though, that's for sure.

5th Place, Toronto Blue Jays

Lineup:
SS Jose Reyes
2B Maicer Izturis
RF Jose Bautista
DH Edwin Encarnacion
3B Josh Donaldson
LF Michael Saunders
C Russell Martin
1B Justin Smoak
CF Dalton Pompey

Rotation:
RH R.A. Dickey
LH Mark Buehrle
RH Drew Hutchinson
RH Marco Estrada
RH Aaron Hernandez/Johan Santana*
SU: LH Aaron Loup
CL: LH Brett Cecil
*Santana expected back early season, out opening day and no set eta yet though

The Jays' are going to have a tough time competing in this division unless their pitching staff puts it together from start to finish. Even if R.A. Dickey finally figures out the American League for a consistent 6-month stretch (seems to always show flashes but then regresses) and Drew Hutchinson makes that next step, they need guys in that rotation to perform well on a regular basis (A return by Santana would be huge but who knows what he'll be like after not pitching regularly in almost half a decade. They do have some offense, not a great lineup, but a lot a pop in the middle and speed at the top and enough to compete, that's for sure. But their bullpen has question marks and their rotation just isn't all that great. I do like how Brett Cecil has all the sudden become an ace-closer after his career as a starter flamed out though, and they're one of the rare teams that will throw two lefty's at you back-to-back in the 8th and 9th innings.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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