Today starts a series of posts predicting the upcoming Major League Baseball season. The staff, i.e., me, will predict the division winners, wild cards, and award winners.
Today we pick the winners of the American League East. So without further ado, here we go.
1st- New York Yankees
The New York Yankees took an unorthodox way at improving their theam this offseason. Addition by subtraction.
The weak link of the Yanks rotation last season was, no question, A.J. Burnett. They traded Burnett to the Bucs for next to nothing to the delight of Yankees fans everywhere and aging catcher Jorge Posada finally hung up his catchers mask.
Brian Cashman still made some deals, though. They acquired mariners pitching phenom Michael Pineda and former Dodger Hiroki Kuroda. The rotation is better than last year, but Pineda could be a problem for the Yanks this season. Pineda had a great start to the 2011 season, but tapered off after the All-Star break. Will he wilt under the New York spotlight? Only time will tell.
The rest of the Yankees lineup is pretty much untouched with the exception of Raul Ibanez becoming the new DH for the Bronx Bombers. New York is the defending AL East champions and with the lineup slightly improved, they should repeat as champs again.
2nd- Boston Red Sox
I think I'm giving the Sox too much credit by picking them to finish second in the East, but I'll stand behind it.
I didn't like the hiring of Bobby Valentine and I still don't. Ben Cherington traded away their shortstop and didn't get an everyday right fielder. They lost Jonathan Papelbon. It all has the makings of a disastrous season for Boston, but I think they will finish second.
Carl Crawford, once he comes back from his injury, will have a better season than 2011. John Lackey is out for the year, a plus. This team has a lot of talent and if they can put it all together they can compete for the division title.
Andrew Bailey will take over as closer for Boston this season. Bailey has a history of arm problems, so that is something for Red Sox fans to look out for. Also, can Daniel Bard make a seamless transition from reliever to starter?
The team has a lot of red flags and question marks, but with the talent they do have, I can't see them floundering all season long.
3rd- Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are always a wild card entering every season because of their magic manager Joe Maddon. Maddon, I believe, can win with any team and has proven it with his transformation of a once hapless franchise.
The Rays have an endless supply of arms in their rotation in the Majors and Minors. They have six pitchers that can be quality starters for the team and it is going to be a hard decision for Maddon to pick his rotation.
Matt Moore really came on strong for the Rays in the latter part of last season and will definitely start the season in the Rays rotation. Jeff Niemann will probably be the odd man out for the Rays, but will probably be used as the long reliever for the Rays.
No major moves in Rays lineup. They signed Luke Scott to be their DH after a disappointing, injury shortened season with the Orioles and Jose Molina will probably be the new catcher for the Rays.
The core of the Rays lineup and rotation is still intact, and with Maddon at the controls, a division title is no entirely out of reach.
4th- Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays might have the most talented 4th place team in baseball and could compete in any other division.
The Jays are one of 15 teams since 1998 with a winning record. The Jays, however, are the only ones to have not play in the postseason and that is all thanks to the AL East juggernauts New York and Boston.
The Jays are getting better every season and will have a pretty good season this year, too. J.P. Arencibia didn't have a very high batting average (.219), but is still young and only going to get better. Brett Lawrie still a stud a third and they still have Jose Bautista in right tearing the hide of the ball.
One question is, what Colby Rasmus will so up? Rasmus has had attitude problems, but seems to have a positive attitude in Toronto and is still a promising player despite the down year last season.
The pitching could be the Jays kryptonite. Outside of Ricky Romero, it gets pretty thin in the rotation. The projected number two and three starters, Brandon Morrow and Brett Cecil, both had ERAs over 4.50. The fifth starter, Dustin McGowan, has battled injuries for the past three seasons and is a major red flag. Kyle Drabek, the Jays top pitching prospect, still needs more seasoning in the Minors.
5th- Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles made a couple of gutsy moves in the offseason by signing Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada out of Japan, hoping it will pay off huge dividends.
They did acquire Rockies pitcher Jason Hammel for Jeremy Guthrie, an upgrade. They signed Nick Johnson (low risk, high reward guy) and Mr. Perfect, Armando Galarraga.
New GM Dan Duquette made some risky moves that could pay off huge, but I still don't see a winning season in Baltimore.