Wednesday, February 22, 2012

American League East Preview

       As the Blue Jays hold their first official workouts today we felt it was as good a time as any to examine all 5 teams in the American League East.  It has long been seen as the most competitive division in baseball.  While the AL West is getting up there in talent, I still feel that the East is the hardest division in baseball.  While the Orioles are still improving, the other four teams all have the talent to make it to the playoffs and do some damage.  The Blue Jays will have a tough mountain to climb to make it into the playoffs for the first time since their World Series win in 1993.  So lets take a look at what each team has done in the offseason and what we can expect out of each team.

Toronto Blue Jays - 2011 Record 81-81 - Fourth Place
Jays Closer Sergio Santos
       As the Blue Jays come into the 2012 season they bring a lineup that looks identical to how it finished last season.  It will be in the rotation and the bullpen that fans will notice the big changes.  John Farrell comes into his second season as manager looking to improve on the pitching woes Toronto had last season.  It was the bullpen that consistently let the Jays down last season.  In 58 opportunities the Jays only managed 33 saves.  Meaning they only saved 57% of their opportunities last year.  Not a good number for a team in the AL East.  It was because of this that GM Alex Anthopoulos did not make any big changes to the lineup, but made big changes to the bullpen.  Out are the likes of Frank Francisco and Jon Rauch.  In are the likes of Sergio Santos, brought over in a trade with the White Sox.  In is Francisco Cordero who signed with the Blue Jays after being a consistent closer in the Reds organization.  Add in the additions of Jason Frasor and Darren Oliver mixed with the returning Casey Janssen, and Carlos Villanueva the Blue Jays bullpen rivals any in baseball.  The pitching staff will be led by Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.  It is a young staff but it has talent.  It will be up to them to realize that talent.  The lineup will be dangerous as always being led by the two time home run king Jose Bautista.  He leads a lineup that has a ton of potential.  From the 1 spot to the 9 spot Toronto can do damage.  A full season from Brett Lawrie should help the Jays as well as hopeful improvements from the likes of Colby Rasmus and Kelly Johnson.  This is a team that will be able to put up runs but it will be up to the bullpen to make sure those leads do not get wasted.  My Prediction: Second place in the AL East - AL Wildcard

New York Yankees - 2011 Record 97-65 - AL East Champs
The Captain
       When you talk the AL East you always have to talk about the New York Yankees.  With 27 championships and 40 American League pennants the Yankees are the most successful team in baseball.  Usually known for busy winters, the Yankees took a quieter approach to improving their team.  They didn't go after the likes of Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, but make no mistake the Yankees will be competitive.  The biggest news in Yankee land was the retirement of lifetime Yankee Jorge Posada.  This leaves only Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as the last of the dynasty Yankees from the late 90's and early 2000's.  The biggest issue is going to be age.  The Yankees have tried to improve their farm system and have made some steps, but a lot of the core pieces are aging.  Jeter(37), Rodriguez(36), Teixeira(31), and Sabathia(31) are all on the other side of 30 and are entering the past their prime years.  However with young talent such as Robinson Cano the Yankees should still be able to compete.  The strangest move the Yankees made was trading perhaps their best prospect Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Felix Pineda.  Now do not get me wrong, Pineda has ace type stuff and will help the Yankees.  But the Yankees pitching is fairly strong with the likes of CC Sabathia, Hideki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes.  The Yankees must have been sure that Russel Martin is their catcher of the future because Montero has the potential to be a star in this league.  My Prediction:  Fourth Place Finish

Boston Red Sox - 2011 Record 90-72 - Third Place
Carl Crawford
       Last season was one to forget for the Boston Red Sox.  After suffering one of the worst collapses in baseball history, the Red Sox ended up missing out on the playoffs on the very last day.  They also suffered through rumours of beer drinking and chicken eating in the club house during games.  These stories mixed with the collapse caused their manager Terry Francona to retire and their GM Theo Epstein to move on to the Chicago Cubs.  Their long time closer Jonathan Papelbon signed with Philadelphia which caused Boston to go out and get Andrew Bailey from Oakland to replace him.  The Red Sox will not be counting on big offseason moves to help them improve.  Instead they will be hoping moves made last offseason will help them.  The Red Sox will need Adrian Gonzalez to continue his stellar play and they will need Carl Crawford to return to the form that caused the Red Sox to sign him to a 7 year $142 million dollar contract.  After putting up only 11 home runs and 56 RBI's Crawford will be determined to live up to the contract.  New manager Bobby Valentine will have a challenge in front of him but should have a lineup that can still do some damage in the American League.  This team is too good to have a collapse like they did last season and I see them making a statement and winning the division. My Prediction:  American League East Champs

Tampa Bay Rays - 2011 Record 91-71 - Second Place - American League Wildcard
Rays Stud Matt Moore
       The Rays were the beneficiary of the most epic collapse ever seen.  As the Red Sox fell the Rays rose and ended up securing the Wild Card on the last day of the season.  After a fairly quiet offseason the Rays will look to continue making a name for themselves with a low payroll but a high level of talent.  The biggest move made by the Rays was bringing back Carlos Pena, who spent one season in Chicago.  Pena will provide a boost to the Rays lineup and returns to a stadium he always hit well in.  The key to the Rays success will be the continued growth of their incredibly talented pitching staff.  At the top will be James Shields and David Price.  Behind them will be Wade Davis and he will be followed by two studs.  Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore will enter their second seasons and both have number one quality talent.  Matt Moore is listed as the number one prospect in baseball and is perhaps the best number 5 starter in baseball.  Tampa Bay has taken those years of futility and turned it into a farm system that is the best in baseball.  Every time we think they are going to have an off year they end up making the playoffs.  They will be perhaps the Blue Jays biggest obstacle in making the playoffs.  Both are young teams looking to take the giants of Boston and New York off the top of the mountain.  With perhaps the best manager in baseball in Joe Maddon the Rays will be a force to be reckoned with.  My Prediction:  Third Place Finish

Baltimore Orioles - 2011 Record 69-93 - Fifth Place
       Manager Buck Showalter enters his second full season leading the Orioles hoping his young team takes another step in their development.  They did not make any major moves during the offseason and will be depending on their young stars to help them compete in the tough AL East.  It will probably be a long season for them but they will play every game tough.  The key to their success could be the development of Matt Wieters.  Entering his third season Matt will look to turn into the star the Orioles know he can be.  Other then that the Orioles will rely on Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds to provide the offense.  Tommy Hunter leads an unproven pitching staff and will need their offense to provide as many runs as possible.  My Prediction:  Fifth Place Finish

       It should make for an interesting season and we will all be watching with excitement as we hope to see this exciting Blue Jays team emerge as a contender.  It would be nice to see the Rogers Centre full and rocking like it was back in the 90's.

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  1. The Yankees have one of the best farm systems in the majors and do not see Martin as their "catcher of the future", they are loaded with catching prospects in the minor leagues such as Gary Sanchez. They are not going to finish in fourth place.... The way I see it, its a three way race between the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox with the Blue Jays contending next year and the Orioles still rebuilding. Btw, a players prime years usually are from 27 - 32 years old.

    1. Thank you for the comment. To clear up my point I said the Yankees farm system is improving which it is. And I said that Tex and CC are entering the years past their prime. Not that they are not in their prime. They are getting older. I did say fourth but in this division there is not much separation anymore from fourth to first which is what makes it so fun to watch. I will take back my comment about Martin being their "future" catcher. Bad choice of words. Just with the pitching they have in the majors and in the system I may have held on to Montero because he is going to be a stud. Thanks again for the comment.

    2. Boom...lawyered.

  2. Lol he mentions 2 players that are both 31 and this guy nit picks that a players prime years are until they are 32 lol classic.