Once again, the American League East figures to be the most powerful and interesting races in all of baseball. To break down how the dust will settle, JackmanSports has gotten help from another analyst’s opinion.
American League East (Jackman):
1. Boston Red Sox (95-67) — With the additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, the Red Sox are hoping to be able to score more than their potentially porous rotation will give up. If we see Josh Beckett and John Lackey of last year, the Red Sox could be passed by the Yankees. But I believe one of them will bounce back and give Boston a solid fourth option, something the Yankees haven’t bought yet. Plus, with the addition of Bobby Jenks to a bullpen that already boasts two other powerarms, if this team gets a lead, don’t expect them to give it up.
2. New York Yankees (89-73) — In an off-season in which they saw top pitching free agent Cliff Lee take less money to go to the Phillies, and Crawford sign with in-division rival Boston, the Yankees did not get any better. If anything, with another year on the old bodies of Rodriguez, Jeter, Posada, and Rivera, they got worse. Not only do they have questions about the back end of their rotation, but their bullpen is worse off with the departure of Kerry Wood and the decline of Joba Chamberlain. Don’t expect Rafael Soriano to dominate like he did last year for the Rays, just go back and look at his career stats and tell me if you still think he is worth the money Mr. Steinbrenner.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (83-79) — Not a lot of positive things happened for the Rays over the last few months. Their departure list is so long, I’m not sure if they have enough minor leaguers to fill all the spots on their roster. Yet, they do still have some young talent in David Price and Evan Longoria. They are still better than half the rest of the American League but the additions of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez will not mean they reach 90 wins again, and 80 may not even be a sure thing either.
4. Baltimore Orioles (71-93) — Improvements made over the past couple of months may finally lift the Orioles out of the AL East cellar. Mark Reynolds and Vladimir Guerrero should help them capitalize on more RBI chances and put a little more fear into opposing pitchers. Yet, once again, their pitching staff is ultimately going to be their demise. Maybe they should just bring back Sidney Ponson for old time sake.
5. Toronto Blue Jays (64-98) — Well… They lost Doc Halladay last year, and now they lost their best hitter in Vernon Wells (as sad as that sounds), and they are banking on Jose Bautista hitting about 80 home runs if they have any chance of getting to .500. They are in full out rebuilding stage(kinda like the last 10 years). In my opinion, they are going to become the Orioles of the past five years.
Despite Pitching Woes, Bronx Bombers Win Back AL East Crown
1. New York Yankees (93-69)- The most expensive team in baseball will return to the top of the Al East Standings due to their high-powered offense and strong bullpen. As another year adds onto the ages of Jeter, A-Rod, Rivera, and Posada, the Yankees will once again prove why they belong as the champions of the strongest division in baseball. The main concern for the Yanks this year is their pitching staff. Their fourth and fifth spots will be filled towards the end of Spring Training, but the Yankees have found ways in the past to buy their way into the lead and if that means trading for an ace, there is nothing stopping them from doing so. The bottom line is that their offense will remain atop the AL with MVP candidates Cano, Teixeira, and A-Rod. Newly acquired setup man Rafael Soriano and the man himself, Mariano Rivera, will pick up the starting rotation to close out ballgames at Yankee Stadium.
2. Boston Red Sox (90-72)- The Red Sox are the favorites for most people heading into the 2011 season mostly because of the huge acquisitions of All-Stars Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. The only holes they have in their lineup are Jarrod Saltalamacchia at catcher and Marco Scutaro at shortstop. Aging vetarn David Ortiz continues to prove he can still hit for power. This team was devastated with injuries last year, which is a huge concern this year on whether or not they can stay healthy. Lastly, their pitching staff may be as ugly as the Yankees’. The only reliable pitchers are Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz while on the other hand, John Lackey was simply awful last year, Josh Beckett was even worse, and Daisuke Matsuzaka wishes he had never left Japan. Even closer Jonathan Papelbon had an off year. If some of these guys can return to their previous form, then look out American League because the Sox could be headed back to the Series at Fenway.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (83-79)- The losses of Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Matt Garza will definitely hurt the team, but they may not be as bad as many people may think. Adding Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez could save this team from falling from the top to the bottom. MVP hopeful Evan Longoria remains the only proven player in the infield, which is probably the weakest part of their team. Ben Zobrist, who has moved to the outfield, had a down year in 2010 and could really help the team out with a bounce back year. Lastly, the bullpen has many holes with the loss of Rafael Soriano to the rival Yankees, but Jeremy Hellickson quite possibly could be the next David Price. The Red Sox and Yankees are too strong for the Rays this year unless B.J. Upton finally lives up to his potential, but don’t bank on that one.
4. Baltimore Orioles (76-86)- The Orioles made a number of acquisitions this offseason for once to make it seem like they want to contend in the division. Additions of Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee will provide some power and veteran leadership while J.J. Hardy will provide nothing but quality work at shortstop. Matt Wieters still is looking for the season that will put him among the leading catchers in the league and Brian Roberts wants to prove that he can still play at his top level coming off of a major injury. With no true ace on the team, the pitching staff is young and full of potential. Don’t expect them to jump over the .500 mark, but don’t be surprised if they find themselves in third place at season’s end.
5. Toronto Blue Jays (72-90)- The Jays made it through their first year without Doc Halladay, but now they will have to manage without Vernon Wells. Additions of Rajai Davis and Juan Rivera will provide speed and power in the outfield while healthy Adam Lind and Aaron Hill could spark the team with a return to 2009 form. Many people are doubting Jose Bautista after his major league leading 54 home run campaign. Don’t count on that again, but 40 home runs are very likely. The loss of Shawn Marcum will not hurt the Blue Jays that much as they have potential breakout stars in Ricky Romero and Brandow Morrow, who could lead the majors in k/9. If the Blue Jays could stay healthy and get some bounce back seasons from certain guys, these birds could fly to third place, but certainly not to the promised land.