MLB Season Preview – AL East
Well my good buddy Phippsy should be a big fan of this year’s preview. Last year I picked the Sox to finish last in the division despite being a lot more kind to them in my write up than most people outside of “Sox Nation” were, and Phipps threw a fit…at least that’s how I’m telling people the story. Anyway, enough of my real life drama, going into this season I don’t see anyone in this division as well rounded as the Red Sox. The Yanks spent a lot, the Rays should be solid, as should the O’s, and last year’s pre season darlings the Jays are going to need the same magic the Red Sox had last year to simply avoid the basement.
And yes it is intentional to go with the older symbols in this year’s previews. Coming off one of the most surprising seasons in MLB history, it is hard to believe that just 12 months ago we were talking about how much of a disaster this franchise had become. Now they’re the defending champs with a consensus top 5 prospect in all of a baseball joining the big club this season who has superstar potential.
Pitching: What was reality, 2012 or 2013? While I don’t believe Clay Bucholtz goes 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA again this season, but I never did buy they were actually as bad as they were in 2012. No Ryan Demptster this season, but I don’t view him as a big loss. That bullpen is solid, but for me the big question mark is weather or not Uehara can come anywhere close to the 2013 stats he put up.
Hitting: A nice blend of experience and youth in this lineup, and I love the way all the pieces fit together. I can’t see Ortiz going .300/30/100 again, and they’ll miss Ellsbury, but they’re a clutch group and really solid 1-9. The hype around Bogaerts bat is just ridiculous. There is a ridiculous amount of pressure on this kid as you would expect out of “Sox Nation”.
Defense: As of writing this I still don’t know who will be the CF, but if it’s Jackie Bradly Jr. and he can stay healthy then he is a pretty big upgrade over Ellsbury. Grady Sizemore when he first came up was elite defensively, but at this point I have no clue what he would give them. Pedroia and Victorino won gold gloves last season. Overall they’re solid defensively with potential to be very good depending on CF and what Bogaerts gives them at SS.
They’ll be right in the thick of it again this season, they always are with Joe Maddon running the show and a seemingly never ending supply of great young pitching. And I’m always willing to bet on a team that has great pitching. You can get timely hitting, but you can’t get timely pitching.
Pitching: Despite not believing he would be back, David Price is still in Tampa, and as long as you have an elite staff ace like Price you’re pitching looks pretty good. But add to him, Matt Moore went 17-4, Alex Cobb might have better stuff than Moore, and Chris Archer went 9-7 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 starts. So that staff is great. Bullpen looks real good too with Grant Balfour closing and Heath Bell added to the mix.
Hitting: I believe the key here is Desmond Jennings. I fully expect Myers to build on his ROY campaign, Longoria had a bit of an off year but I expect 30/.290/100 out of him if healthy. But if Jennings realizes his immense potential than he would give them the speed at the top of the order they need, and that one more big bat that would give this pitching staff some runs to work with.
Defense: Longoria is a gold glove candidate, I don’t have many nice things to say about Escobar but the kid is elite defensively, again Jennings is a 5 tool guy who if he puts it together will be great in CF, Loney is solid at 1st, and just all around the diamond there aren’t holes. As much as pitching, D is also a major staple of the Rays success under Joe Maddon.
They don’t seem to be getting much hype right now, but while the Yanks over spent for their free agents this offseason, it does in fact look like a much improved group. But while they are improved, the pitching staff remains a huge question mark for this ball club. If they can get enough pitching, they’ll go to the playoffs and maybe do some damage.
Pitching: They’ll only have half of C.C. Sabathia this season, but that’s a good thing I would think. They spent big to bring in Masahiro Tanaka, but even Brian Cashman said he only expects Tanaka to be a middle of the rotation guy, yet he’s their number 2 arm. Kuroda did give them 200 innings last season, but he’s 38. Overall I’m not a big believer in this staff. Obviously the bullpen is a huge question mark with the retirement of Mariano Rivera.
Hitting: This is the best lineup in the division in my mind. A great blend of righty and lefty sticks with some switch hitters mixed in. Speed at the top of the order, lots of power in the middle, and yes they’re old but I don’t think they’re too old. I love the Brian McCann pickup. I think the guy is a leader and obviously a real good LH bat at the plate. They won’t miss Cano as much as some may think, and won’t miss A-Fraud at all.
Defense: They’re too old in the field. Ellsbury covers a lot of ground and has won a gold glove, but doesn’t have a good arm. Jeter is in his last year. 2 pretty vital positions to be solid at defensively. They’ll be average at best. This is where they will miss Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez who are replaced by Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson.
Buck Showalter will have this team competitive yet again this season. And while I put them 4th, it would be in no way a shock to see them in a wildcard spot come October. They will likely start the season with Manny Machado on the DL, and the pitching isn’t great, but they’ll compete and have some pretty good pieces on the way.
Pitching: They have been able to overcome average pitching the last 2 seasons. But that is where the good news stops. They lost Scott Feldman and replaced him with Ubaldo Jimenez who is electric when on but is wildly inconsistent. They were hoping Dylan Bundy would be here by now, but Tommy John surgery shut him down last season. Kevin Gausman will likely need a bit more time in the minors. In the pen they traded closer Jim Johnson and I really don’t know who’ll take over as the teams closer.
Hitting: Manny Machado comes in as a total wildcard for them this season after tearing up his knee late last season. As of writing this there is no official word on weather he will start the season on the big club, but why rush him? Take your time with a stud like this. Chris Davis won’t have a season like 2013 again, but .270/30-40/100 would be a big drop off and yet still a great season. Adam Jones is a stud, nothing more needs to be said. They aren’t the Yankees, but I would put there lineup right there with the Red Sox in this division.
Defense: Best fielding team in the division if not the entire AL. Adam Jones won his 3rd gold glove last season, J.J. Hardy won his 2nd straight, and Manny Machado won his first last season. Then you have Matt Wieters who won back to back gold gloves in 2011 and 2012, and Nick Markakis who took one home in 2011. Pretty impressive!
They are a mess right now and Alex Anthopoulos seems to be a dead man walking. Here they are sending Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman down, yet just a year ago weren’t they “all in”? Not that it’s the wrong move to send those kids back, but the term being tossed around describing the Jays is “a little bit pregnant”. In other words, pick a (expletive) direction!
Pitching: The good news is that they have a couple of guys in Dickey and Buehrle who can eat up a TON of innings. But after those 2, Esmil Rogers was the only guy who had over 100 innings (137.2). Morrow has ace stuff but can never stay healthy. IF…big if…he can have that career year, then the staff looks a hell of a lot better, but right now it looks horrible. The bullpen was a lone bright spot last season and they’ll need a repeat performance out of them.
Hitting: Big bats? Yep. But the lineup is terrible as a whole. Way too many free swingers and not enough guys who will either take pitches or simply put the ball in play. As of writing this Jose Reyes hurt his hamstring and so that likely puts him on the DL to start the season. They added Navarro who hit .300 which is more than any other Jay could say for last season, but he won’t hit .300 in the AL East. Obviously they need to be more healthy than last season but I still don’t see them being able to gel.
Defense: This is interesting because you talk about the clubs achilles heal last season, I can’t remember how many times a circus of errors cost this team games early on. If they have even adequate D at the start of last season, maybe this team has a lot better feeling the rest of the way and at least competes for a wildcard spot. Navarro is a big upgrade behind the plate, Goins will be a massive upgrade defensively over what Bonifacio brought, but still a lot of question marks.
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