So this will also be posted in the Whit, Rowan University’s paper. I will be doing both the AL and NL previews and when the season starts, I will be doing weekly recap/previews. Here is the uncut version of my post. A link will be posted when the article comes out:
The AL East used to be a two team division until the Tampa Bay Rays finally showed up and won the division and the A.L. pennant last season. But the New York Yankees are back in business with an unbelievable offseason and the Boston Red Sox revamped to still be competitive. The Central should feature the Detroit Tigers while the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox try to keep up. In the West it should just be the Los Angeles Angels. Here’s a look at the key teams in the A.L.
In the East, the Rays are bringing back some major parts to their A.L. championship team such as Rookie of the Year winner Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Dioner Navarro. Their rotation features James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza. The Rays like to play small ball but a power hitter is what Tampa Bay needed. They got that in Pat Burrell, their big offseason signing who will become their DH, a fitting role for him due to his lack of skill in the outfield. This balances out the team, making them more dangerous offensively.
The Yankees re-tooled dramatically in the offseason. Their key signings included pitchers C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and the resigning of Andy Pettitte. They also signed first basemen Mark Teixeira who will instantly boost an offense that was 10th in runs scored last season. Those are just the signings though. The offense still features Alex Rodriguez, who despite the steroid saga and hip injury is still one of the best in the game. They also have captain Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui at the DH. The five-man rotation is filled out with Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain, giving the Yankees the most dangerous rotation in baseball. With five pitchers like that, they should win on pitching alone. Mariano Rivera is still one of the best closers in baseball. They simply have the best team in baseball again.
The Red Sox are still one of the best teams in baseball. Tampa Bay and New York have improved and Boston wasn’t going to sit around and let them have all the fun. The signings of John Smoltz and Brad Penny give them six good starting pitchers. Smoltz will probably see bull pen action which isn’t a bad thing for Boston since he is an ex-closer. Speaking of the pen, it’s anchored by closer Jonathon Papelbon and set-up man Hideki Okajima. The offense is nothing short of amazing either. It features reigning A.L. MVP Dustin Pedroia. He is supported by an excellent offensive cast of Kevin Youkillis, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz. The outfield also features young centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Bay and JD Drew.
In the Central, the Detroit Tigers look to be the strongest team. They moved Miguel Cabrera to first base due to a lack of glove but he is still a fine hitter. The outfield is very good with Carlos Guillen, Curtis Granderson, and Maglio Ordonez. Marcus Thames is a great bat off the bench and can play the outfield in the late innings. The rotation features great pitching in Justin Verlander, Armondo Galaragga, Jeremy Bonderman, and Dontrelle Willis. They should be good enough to win the division but Chicago and Minnesota are always in the mix.
The White Sox are a shell of the 2005 World Champion team. They lost Joe Crede, Orlando Cabrera and Ken Griffey Jr. in the offseason and didn’t make any vast improvements. They do still have Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye, their two best bats. Gavin Floyd and Mark Buehrle emerged as their two best pitchers and will have to post better numbers to keep Chicago in the mix. The Twins missed the playoffs by a game last year. They added Crede from the White Sox to go with the young stars in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Pitching isn’t all that awesome this year and could be a problem for them. The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals should not factor into the race too much this year.
In the West, the only team that truly stands out is the Angels. They lost record-breaking closer, Francisco Rodriguez to the New York Mets but won’t have to worry about him blowing saves this year. Instead they added a steady Brian Fuentes who will not blow games. They also a great bat in the outfield in Bobby Abreau to go along with Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter. Pitching is also a strength for the Angels with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and Jered Weaver as the main guys in the starting rotation. The Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics don’t really impress and the Seattle Mariners brought Griffey Jr. back but still won’t see much of an improvement.
The Yankees will take the East, the Tigers will win the Central, and the Angels will again run away with the West. The Wild Card will be very interesting as the Red Sox and Rays will battle it all year for the final playoff spot. Next week we will have the National League preview.