MLB 2009 Division-by-Division Preview, Pt. 1: AL East

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MLB 2009 Division-by-Division Preview, Pt. 1: AL East

American League East Division 2009 Breakdown 
No.1 of 7

1. New York Yankees
Key Addition(s): C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, and A.J. Burnett 
Key Loss(s): Wilson Betemit  
Off-Season Grade: A+ 
Projected Lineup: 
Johnny Damon CF 
Derek Jeter SS 
Mark Teixeira 1B 
Alex Rodriguez 3B 
Hideki Matsui DH 
Nick Swisher RF 
Jorge Posada C 
Xavier Nady LF 
Robinson Cano 2B 
Key Backups: Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: C.C. Sabathia 
SP: A.J. Burnett 
SP: Chen-Ming Wang

RP: Edwar Ramirez 
SU: Damaso Marte 
CL: Mariano Rivera

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Austin Jackson, OF

Notes: What an offseason for the Yankees, adding two dominant arms and a powerful bat. The additions of Sabathia, Burnett, and Teixeira will raise the Yankees to the top of the American League East this season—nudging just in front of Boston.

After adding Nick Swisher as well, to an already stacked outfield, outfielders like Melky Cabrera and Brett Gardner may see action as backups. I really don’t see Swisher sitting on the bench, so Damon may move back to center field and Xavier Nady over to left field.

In the pitching department, after that dominant 1-2-3 group that the Yankees have, they may have some struggles at four and five in the rotation. Andy Pettite will most likely fill in for those spots but the final spot is up for grabs.

2. Boston Red Sox 
Key Addition(s):
Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, John Smoltz and Rocco Baldelli 
Key Loss(s): Kevin Cash 
Off-Season Grade: A-  
Projected Lineup: 
Jacoby Ellsbury CF 
Dustin Pedroa 2B 
Jason Bay LF 
David Ortiz DH 
Kevin Youkilis 1B 
Mike Lowell 3B 
J.D. Drew RF 
Josh Bard C 
Jed Lowrie SS 
Key Backups: Mark Kotsay and Rocco Baldelli 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Josh Beckett 
SP: John Lester 
SP: Disuke Matsuzaka

RP: Hideki Okajima 
SU: Takashi Saito 
CL: Jonathon Papelbon

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Junichi Tuzawa, P

Notes: Another team with an awesome offseason to add to their pitching. The rotation for them is absolutely filthy now, as it being Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, and Smoltz, the Yankees will get a run for their money.

The bullpen was bolstered with an addition of former Dodgers closer, Takashi Saito, to get the ball to Papelbon in the ninth. 
With an injury-prone J.D. Drew playing right field this season, Theo Epstein wisely went out and got a backup just in case, his name, Rocco Baldelli. Baldelli after suffering off and on from illness the past few seasons came back with the Rays last year and was a big help down the stretch. 

3. Tampa Bay Rays 
Key Addition(s):
Pat Burrell, Matt Joyce 
Key Loss(s): Dan Johnson, Edwin Jackson, Jonny Gomes 
Off-Season Grade: C+  
Projected Lineup: 
Carl Crawford LF 
B.J. Upton CF 
Evan Longoria 3B 
Pat Burrell DH 
Carlos Pena 1B 
Matt Joyce RF 
Dioneer Navarro C 
Akinori Iwamura 2B 
Jason Bartlett SS 
Key Backups: Gabe Kapler and Willy Aybar 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Scott Zazmir 
SP: James Shields 
SP: Matt Garza

RP: Grant Balfour 
SU: Dan Wheeler 
CL: Troy Percival

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Fernando Perez, OF 

Ah, the Rays! America’s little 2008 sweetheart! Pat Burrell was a great pickup for this Rays ball club, he adds a big, fearful, bat right smack dab in the middle of an already terrifying lineup. To give up Edwin Jackson was really no big deal to Tampa Bay. They received a young, left-handed, hitter with some pop in Matt Joyce. 

I’m glad to see Tampa stick with their core pitchers. The pitching rotation and bullpen is top-notch and will let the Rays compete with big teams like the Yankees and Red Sox this coming up season. 

Hitters 1-5 in this order are simply deadly. The speed of Crawford, mixed with the power of Longoria, Burrell and Pena and the everything in between of B.J. Upton, watch out for the Rays to make the AL East interesting yet again.

4. Baltimore Orioles 
Key Addition(s):
Felix Pie, Greg Zaun, Mark Hendrickson, Rich Hill 
Key Loss(s): Daniel Cabrera, Ramon Hernandez 
Offseason Grade: C-  
Projected Lineup: 
Brian Roberts 2B 
Nick Markakis RF 
Melvin Mora 3B 
Aubrey Huff 1B 
Luke Scott DH 
Adam Jones CF 
Felix Pie LF 
Greg Zaun C 
Cesar Izturis SS 
Key Backups: Ty Wigginton and Ryan Freel  
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Jeremy Guthrie 
SP: Mark Hendrickson 
SP: Rich Hill

RP: Jamie Walker 
SU: Chris Ray 
CL: George Sherrill

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Matt Wieters, C

Notes: The O’s don’t have the money to keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox, but they did what they could to provide for this season and the future. The addition of Greg Zaun was a nice move to help catcher, Matt Weiters, get settled in behind the plate in Baltimore.

A lowly pitching rotation was helped when Mark Hendrickson was signed. But, the losses are bigger than the additions, with the departure of Ramon Hernandez and former No.1 starter, Daniel Cabrera.

If Aubrey Huff can have a season like last the Orioles may have a chance to shock a few people. Core players like Mora, Roberts, Markakis and Scott will provide runs for a otherwise decently weak team.

In my eyes a bad trade to get Felix Pie from the Cubs for Garrett Olson, since the O’s have the depth in the outfield, but not in the rotation. After the loss of Olson and Cabrera, the Orioles are left with mid-level, Jeremy Guthrie and crew.

But, an early February trade moved former Cub, Rich Hill, to Baltimore who could add another dimension to the rotation as a rising lefty. The bullpen should be solid with Chris Ray coming back full strength this season. 


5. Toronto Blue Jays 
Key Addition(s):
Matt Clement and Mike Maroth 
Key Loss(s): AJ Burnett 
Off-Season Grade: F  
Projected Lineup: 
Aaron Hill 2B 
Vernon Wells CF 
Alex Rios RF 
Lyle Overaby 1B 
Scott Rolen 3B 
Adam Lind DH 
Travis Snider LF 
Rod Barajas C 
Marco Scutaro SS 
Key Backups: Joe Inglett and Jose Bautista 
Top Pitchers: 
SP: Roy Halladay 
SP: Jesse Litsch 
SP: Casey Janssen

RP: Jeremy Accardo 
SU: Scott Downs 
CL: B. J. Ryan

Young Player to Keep an Eye On: Curtis Thigpen, C

Notes: Blue Jay fans, bring out the paper bags! After seemingly a stagnant offseason, the Blue Jays will be in my mind—the cellar dwellers of the AL East. I know that the rotation is bad for Toronto, but seriously, Maroth and Clement are your additions?

Aging Vernon Wells and all star, Alex Rios, showcase a powerless Jay lineup. Two players to watch in the future is Adam Lind and Travis Snider—two young players who may have promise in a few years.

The pitching rotation is very poor other then the always great Roy Halladay. Young starter, Jesse Litsch could make an impact in the No. 2 starter position as he held a 13-9 record last season with an ERA of just 3.58 in 176 innings of work.

If the offense can give the bullpen a lead late in the game, it may be enough for two shut-down relievers to close it out, Scott Downs and B.J. Ryan, who could both be all-stars this season. 

Next up…American League Central Division

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