Monday, March 8, 2010
Feast in the East
The American League East is one of the most jam packed divisions when it comes to talented teams. The AL east has represented the American League in the World Series in each of the last three years, winning two of those series. This year appears that it should be no different as three teams in this division are completely stacked. The Yankees, Red Sox and Rays all have a legitimate shot not only to win this division, but to win the World Series as well. That being said, I'm gonna choose the Evil Empire to take the AL East this year and most likely advance all the way to the World Series.
1. New York Yankees
The World Series Champs made a few alterations to their lineup from last year, and I am scared to say that they could get even better this year. With guys like A-Rod, Teixeira, C.C. and Joba having the pressure of winning a World Series off their back, they might go out and take baseball by storm this year. Seriously, I could see A-Rod just destroying the American League this year and I don't like it. The Yanks still have a few questions though; they need to find a fifth starter, and their outfield is a bit weak. Overall, I like them to win this division and as always be a threat to win it all.
KEY ADDITION: Javier Vazquez. This guy has been a bit of a journeyman for a while, but appears to have found his stuff. If he can survive the A.L. transition, he will be a huge bonus for the Bronx Bombers. J-Roll took him deep today though.
BIGGEST QUESTION MARK: Joba. Are we still abiding by the Joba rules here? Will he be a starter or a setup man? Can he be effective as either anymore? In my opinion, Joba was one of the most mismanaged pitchers I have ever seen. Return him to his role as a set up man and let him regain his jackass-like confidence once again.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Nick Johnson. This guy could put up some really good numbers in Yankee Stadium and with a good lineup around him.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Jesus Montero. This guy could be the future of the Yankees at catcher. He would be a solid call up if Jorge gets injured or finally falls apart.
2. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox really overhauled their roster in the offseason, and appear to have improved. However, with that overhaul comes a lot of questions as to how players will perform in their new environment. One thing is for sure, the trio of Beckett, Lackey and Lester is as good as any. Whether the Sox new hitters are productive or not is up for debate, but their three headed monster at pitcher will definitely be good enough to get them into the playoffs. I see them winning about 90 games and taking the Wild Card.
KEY ADDITION: John Lackey. Lackey is a great competitor and will love the rivalries in the AL East. He will also give the Sox rotation, which appeared so deep last year but turned out to be so shallow, a real shot in the arm. Look for him to win at least 15 games this year.
BIGGEST QUESTION MARK: Jon Bap-bull-bon. Pap's meltdown in the playoffs last year led to the Sox getting swept by the Angels. How will he respond this year, especially with Daniel Bard waiting in the wings to take his job?
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Clay Buchholz. According to Dean the Bartender, Buchholz put 15 pounds of beef on his slight frame this offseason. This should help his durability, add a few mph to his pitches and make him a mainstay in the Sox rotation.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The Dice Man. Daisuke had a terrible and frustrating year last year, fighting injury and ineffectiveness. Now he potentially slides in as the 5th starter with Tim Wakefield backing him up if need be. Look for Dice K to do better this year, relishing the journey he has taken.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
I have the Rays third, but they could just as easily be first in this uber-competitive division. I put them in third because they don't have the pitching like the Sawx and Yanks. What they do have is a potent lineup featuring several men in their contract years. The Rays will certainly prove troublesome for Boston and New York, but I see them falling a bit short again this year with about 85 wins. Don't be surprised if they are huge players at the trade deadline though and try to do everything they can to win now.
KEY ADDITION: Kelly Shoppach. The Rays didn't make many big signings this offseason, but Shoppach has the potential to be an offensive threat at catcher if he can every get consistent playing time.
BIGGEST QUESTION MARK: Closer. Will it be Rafael Soriano? He has imploded in the past. Will the Rays go with a closer by committee again? This could be a big source of controversy in Tampa.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Carl Crawford. If you saw Buster Olney's offseason report, you know that this guy is working his butt off to get better. Plus, he is in a contract year. Crawford is gonna have a really good year.
KEEP AN EYE ON: David Price. He could assert himself as a real #1 this year.
4. Baltimore Orioles
It's a shame the Bodymore O's are in such a tough division because they have a good thing going here, but are doomed to finish in the lower half of the division. Their young lineup is going to get better though, and they could be one of those surprise teams that leads the division in the first half but fades away in the second. Pitching will ultimately undo the O's, but I see them winning about 75 games and building on their success for the future.
KEY ADDITION: Kevin Millwood. Thrillwood is a durable innings eater that can be the #1 starter for this squad. He will also help the youngsters develop their pitching. A great signing for Baltimore.
BIGGEST QUESTION MARK: Starters 2-5. Can Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen and Chris Tillman compete with the big bats in the AL East? As Dean from Dean's Home Furniture would say, "I doubt it."
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Nolan Reimold. This dude was good last year, and I think he will really benefit from a full year with the big club. Look for him to go for about 25 tall jacks and 85 RBIs.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Luke Scott. This dude carries a gun, loves Jesus, hits bombs (he earned the nickname "el monstruo de cuadrangular" which translates to "The Home Run Monster" in the Venezuelan League) and has cool sunglasses. Why would you not keep an eye on him? Don't google image "Luke Scott Sunglasses" with safe search off though.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
The Jays are going to be REAL bad this year. They traded away Doc Halladay and are currently stomaching the worst contract in all of baseball. Did I mention that they are in the toughest division in baseball? The Jays don't have a leg to stand on this year and could lose 100 games in the first stages of their rebuilding process.
KEY ADDITION: Kyle Drabek. The Jays had better hope that this guy is as good as he is hyped up to be. He might be one of their starters this year.
BIGGEST QUESTION MARK: Aaron Hill is about their only player that is not a question mark.
BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: Ricky Romero. This guy has shown potential in the past and this year might be one of the few bright spots on an otherwise poopy team.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Adam Lind. Sophomore slump? I don't know, this team is just really boring.
That's the AL East for you. Be sure to tune in later this week when I go over the thrilling AL Central and West divisions!