April 12, 2016

The AL East Is Wide Open

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For the first time in over a decade the American League East division is wide open. Long gone are the days of Yankee dominance and a ruthless Boston-New York rivalry. The trinity of mediocrity among Baltimore, Toronto and Tampa Bay has ended, as even the Orioles can win the division. Let’s take a closer look at this hodgepodge of talent. I predict Toronto will win the division, and Baltimore will finish in last.

Toronto Blue Jays

With the best offense in baseball, it’s easy to see why Toronto may be the most lopsided team in baseball. Like last year, Toronto is my pick to win the division this season. Of course their glaring hole is the lack of pitching, especially after the loss of David Price. Pitching is their Achilles heel, and it will be their downfall this season. I have little-to-no faith in number one starter, twenty four year old, 5’8” Marcus Stroman. Besides my skepticism about the effectiveness of short pitchers (Pedro Martinez as the exception), Stroman started four games last season. And as much as I love R.A. Dickey after his magical Cy-Young winning season with the Mets, his numbers have slipped since leaving New York. Toronto is banking on the power of Bautista, Donaldson and Encarnacion to carry the team. To guarantee an AL East win this season, the team desperately needs reliable starting pitching. Expect the Blue Jays to be on the hunt around the trade deadline.

Baltimore Orioles

The most underwhelming of teams in the MLB, the Orioles increased their payroll by $150 million last season to go 81-81 and finish in third place. The team’s saving grace, third baseman Manny Machado, is oozing with potential, and the team has reliable batters in Trumbo, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones. Like the Blue Jays, however, Baltimore’s pitching is severely lacking. Yovanni Gallardo is good for at least 13 wins or so, but the limited upside ends there. I’m predicting a fifth place finish for Baltimore this season.

New York Yankees

New York is a peculiar case in 2016. On one hand, the team is full of elderly players far from their prime. But on the other hand, the team still has enough talent to win 90 games. With A-Rod unexpectedly being one of the AL’s better players last season, it will be great to see him join the 700 home run club while, hopefully, providing a productive bat in the middle of the lineup. Injuries have already plagued New York—often-injured Mark Teixeira’s backup, 23-year-old Greg Bird is missing the entire season due to shoulder surgery. Pitchers Tanaka and Pineada have been injury prone in recent years and C.C. Sabathia, coming off a stint in rehab for alcoholism, is far from his old self. Besides a few shines of light in young talented batters and pitchers such as Castro and Luis Severino, I just can’t help but look at New York’s roster and see the 2007 All-Star team.

Boston Red Sox

David Price is by far the biggest acquisition for Boston this offseason. Pablo Sandoval already seems to be on his way out, and the Red Sox, again, have a mediocre offense with no change from last season’s. The best thing the team did was get a new GM on board, as Boston has fallen off the boat since Theo Epstein left for Chicago. Even with David Price, the pitching staff leaves much to be desired. But after finishing in last place last season, I imagine morale is pretty low in Beantown. I see Boston finishing somewhere in the middle of the division, and if all goes well, the team will contend for a wild-card berth.

Tampa Bay Rays

Probably the most even team in the division, I don’t see any particular strengths or weaknesses with Tampa Bay. Evan Longoria is again a centerpiece in the lineup, and centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier may be the best fielder in the MLB. The team has a competitive pitching staff led by strikeout specialist Chris Archer. But with a team that is all-around good, but not great, I don’t see the Rays making a serious dent in the AL East.