Expectations: Better than the Yankees
Key Addition: 1B Carlos Pena (signed from Chicago Cubs)
Key Loss: OF/DH Johnny Damon (free agent)
Projected Record: 103-59
Summary: The odds on favorite to win the division, the Rays have it all: great young hitting, great young pitching, solid veteran presence. With guys like Evan Longoria, BJ Upton, and Desmond Jennings anchoring the offense along with key players like Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez, it will power them to a division crown.
They can also pitch with any team. David Price (my pick for CY Young in 2012) combined with James Shields and youngster Jeremy Hellickson can pitch with the big boys any day of the week. Most exciting prospect to watch is in their rotation too: Matt Moore. The kid has electric stuff.
With an all around solid bullpen that will keep this team in games and hold down leads, this why the Rays are one of the most dangerous teams in the American League. They don’t call James Shields “Big Game James” for nothing, in 33 starts 25 of them were quality starts with 11 complete games and 4 shutouts. Don’t be surprised if this team goes far into October.
Expectations: C.C. Sabathia to eat as many innings as he does Big Macs.
Key Addition: SP Michael Pineda (acquired from Seattle)
Key Loss: C Jesus Montero (traded to Seattle)
Projected Record: 98-64
Summary: So, the Yankees finally dealt AJ Burnett. After years of trying and waiting for him to adjust to pitching in the Big Apple and pitching like he was worth $80+ million, they traded him to Pittsburgh for a couple of nobody prospects.
That said, the Yankees really didn’t improve an already stacked team. They traded prized, highly-touted hitting prospect Jesus Montero for rookie sensation Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners. This Yankees team also bolstered an already strong bullpen with pitchers like Aardsma and are once again testing out the Japanese pitching experiment in Hiroki Kuroda.
The lineup that the Yankees are sending out everyday is another year older, but still includes star power hitters Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and the always dangerous Robinson Cano. Not to mention, they still have Yankee staples Derek Jeter and the “Sandman” himself, Mariano Rivera closing games.
Overall, the team is questionable defensively (still). Speedster Brett Gardner anchors the outfield in left and stud first baseman Teixeira anchors the infield at first. Other than that, the rest of the infield is questionable or overrated. Final thoughts: the Yankees can do two things: hit well and pitch well. This will win you a ton of games.
Expectations: New manager Bobby Valentine to be ejected from a game, and secretly watch from the clubhouse hallway with a fake moustache on… at least four times this season.
Key Addition: RP Andrew Bailey (acquired from Oakland)
Key Loss: RP Jonathon Papelbon (signed with Philadelphia)
Projected Record: 87-75
Summary: Where to begin, where to begin. After last season’s late season implosion, collapse, [insert noun for going BOOM here], there were sweeping changes. First, old manager Terry Francona was out and new manager Bobby Valentine is in. Second, traded their GM Theo Epstein to the Cubs for a PTBNL (Chris Carpenter, no not that one).
They saw the departure of Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield to retirement, JD Drew to free agency and a host of other young hitting prospects to trades (Lowrie, Reddick). All that said, I just do not see this team being a contender, at least this season despite their talent.
Carl Crawford is still recovering from wrist surgery and is in jeopardy for Opening Day. Even with stars like Adrian Gonzalez, Dustin Pedrioa, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, and David Ortiz, it’s just not enough to make up for their lack of starting pitching.
Did you know that in 2011, the Red Sox starters threw 71 quality starts, second fewest in the American League? They pitched 940 innings and posted a collective ERA of 4.49 and a WHIP of 1.37. Horrible.
The key for the Red Sox is to keep their big three of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Clay Buchholz healthy. Still, just don’t see this team making the playoffs.
Expectations: the new “retro” looking uni’s look to power the Jays in October, channeling their inner Joe Carter
Key Addition: OF Ben Francisco (acquired from Philadelphia)
Key Loss: RP Frank Francisco (signed with NY Mets)
Projected Record: 83-79
Summary: same team, new look. The Blue Jays stayed relatively the same over the offseason. They were quiet. They added some relievers and traded for some bench help, adding to an overall average team. Is it possible they could do better than fourth? Yes, but I just don’t see that happening. The Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees make the American League East a top-heavy division. The Jays have really only one key offensive cog, and that is slugger Jose Bautista. That said, they did add OF Colby Rasmus and have young talent like Brett Lawrie and J.P. Arencibia to take over the rest of the offensive roles. Pitching wise, once you get past stud lefty Ricky Romero, it’s a who’s who of pitchers with ERA’s above 4 and WHIP approaching 2. The Jays could be a dark horse for the AL East, but I just don’t see that happening this season. The Yanks, Rays, and Sox are just too stacked and the Jays are too young. Maybe next season
Expectations: The basement.
Key Additions: P Wei-Yin Chen and Tsyoshi Wada (signed from Japan)
Key Loss: SP Jeremy Guthrie (traded to Colorado)
Projected Record: 70-92
Summary: The annual basement dwelling O’s did nothing to improve their team. They traded away the only pitcher to log 200+ innings in Jeremy Guthrie and signed two Japanese pitchers and Dana Eveland. Their rotation last season posted an ERA of 5.39. That is wretched or horrible, your choice.
Manager Buck Showalter has a lot of work to do to turn the O’s from a bunch of nobodies and rabble-arms to championship caliber. That, realistically, is not going to happen. there is just too much work that needs to be done for that to happen.
Granted they have hitters like Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds, and Matt Wieters, it just won’t be enough. On the bright side, Wieters is expected to have a break-out season.
Sorry Baltimore, back to the basement for you… unless you channel your inner Jake Taylor from Major League and “win the whole [redacted] thing.”