American League East: 10 Bold Predictions for the Upcoming MLB Season
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The American League East has historically been one of the toughest divisions in all of baseball.
With a division that boasts the likes of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays, no team in the AL East is considered safe from a disappointing season—or a lock to make the playoffs.
With Opening Day coming quickly upon us, let's take a look at 10 bold predictions for the upcoming season.
The Toronto Blue Jays Will Finish First in the Division
Jose Bautista has anchored the Blue Jays lineup for the last three seasons.
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With an already solid lineup featuring Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and J.P. Arencibia, the Blue Jays went out this offseason and made a trade for the ages with the Miami Marlins.
The Jays received highly touted shortstop Jose Reyes and a quality utility man in Emilio Bonifacio from the Marlins. Both Reyes and Bonifacio will look to strengthen a Jays lineup that is already one of the best in the league when healthy.
The real story for the Jays may lie in their pitching rotation.
Toronto's starting pitching struggled last season, as their top pitcher, Brandon Morrow, went 10-7 with an ERA of 2.96. While Morrow made for a nice piece in the Jays' rotation, no other pitcher posted more than nine wins on the season for the Jays.
Also included in the trade with the Marlins was young power pitcher Josh Johnson and veteran starter Mark Buehrle.
Johnson, who has had a great career thus far, had a bit of a setback last season.
Despite last year's shortcomings, the 29-year-old is at an age where a bounce-back season is highly probable.
Buehrle has made a name for himself as an innings-eater one season after another. Last year, Buehrle posted his 12th straight season of at least 200 innings pitched.
A player with Buehrle's ability can positively affect bullpens late in the season, allowing them more rest than they would typically get.
Finally, the Blue Jays remained active in the trade market when they acquired 2012 National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey from the New York Mets.
Dickey, who is 38, had his best season of his 10-year career.
What makes Dickey so successful is his knuckleball. Using this unconventional pitch, knuckleballers tend to have lengthier careers—providing that they can use the pitch effectively.
If their lineup can remain healthy for the season and Bautista regains his form, the Toronto Blue Jays could look to ride the bats of superstars and the arms of young talent and veteran leadership to their first AL East crown since 1993.
The New York Yankees Will Finish Third in the Division
Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez is expected to begin 2013 on the disabled list.
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Just as quickly as good fortune seems to be finding its way to Toronto, bad fortune seems to be finding its way to New York.
The Yankees won the division last season, and with the names on their roster, there is no reason to think they couldn't make a run at their third straight.
The problem right now for the Yankees isn't the names on their roster as much as it is the names on the disabled list.
New York currently looks to open the season with sluggers Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Derek Jeter on the DL. Included on that injury list is starting pitcher Michael Pineda, whom the Yankees acquired prior to last season in a trade with the Mariners.
The Yankees will have several bats to replace early this season. With Rodriguez likely out until at least the All-Star break and Granderson expected to miss the first month or two as well, replacing the sluggers will be no easy task.
In addition to replacing Granderson and Rodriguez, the Yankees may be without first baseman Mark Teixeira all season.
Initially expected to be out eight-to-10 weeks, Teixeira could be looking at season-ending surgery for a wrist injury that occurred during a practice with Team USA for the World Baseball Classic.
It may seem foolish to bet against the Yankees—given their history and ability to consistently overcome injuries at any given moment—but with so many key players currently injured for extended periods to begin the season, I can't help but see New York finishing any better than third in such a prestigious division.
Orioles Will Call Up Dylan Bundy by June
The Oriole's Dylan Bundy is the second best prospect this season according to MLB.com.
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The Orioles have likely found themselves a starter for the foreseeable future in 20-year-old Dylan Bundy.
Bundy, the second-highest-rated prospect on MLB.com this season, was drafted by the Orioles in 2011 with the fourth overall pick.
Bundy went 9-3 in the minor leagues last season between three different levels.
He also performed well for the Orioles during spring training, making four appearances and posting a 1-1 record with an ERA of 1.13. Despite his solid spring, the Orioles front office opted to send Bundy down to their Double-A affiliate, the Bowie Baysox.
Don't expect Bundy to be in the minors long, though.
Of the Orioles' five starters, it will likely only take an injury or a poor first two months from one of them to see Bundy get his call to the majors and make his much-anticipated debut.
Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino Will Combine to Steal 100 Bases This Season
Jacoby Ellsbury has made a name for himself as one of the best base stealers in the game.
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With the addition of Shane Victorino this offseason to join Jacoby Ellsbury in the Boston outfield, the Red Sox could prove to have one of the most dynamic base-stealing duos in the game.
However, when healthy, Ellsbury has shown that he is a threat to be reckoned with on the basepaths.
Ellsbury has stolen 39 or more bases three times for the Red Sox, including a season in which he stole 70 bases in 2009.
Similar to Ellsbury, Shane Victorino is another prominent threat running the bases, stealing at least 25 in five of his last six seasons.
Victorino, now 32, may have lost a step in his production at the plate—hitting just .267 over his last two seasons—but his speed appears to have remained intact. The Hawaiian still managed to steal 39 bases last year during his time with the Phillies and Dodgers.
While this prediction is dependent upon Ellsbury and Victorino staying healthy throughout the season, if the duo can manage to do so, they could make life tough for catchers in 2013.
David Price Will Win His Second Consecutive Cy Young Award
David Price showed complete dominance last season winning his first Cy Young Award.
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When the Tampa Bay Rays close out spring training next week, they will do so with an already well-established ace in David Price.
Backing Price on offense will be a solid Rays lineup led by third baseman Evan Longoria.
Price has all of the makings of a true ace. He throws four effective pitches, using the fastball, cutter, curveball and changeup to get hitters out. Price has also pitched 200-plus innings in each of the last three seasons, making him a workhorse for his team's bullpen.
Adding to the mix his 3.16 career ERA and phenomenal strikeout-to-walk ratio, Price is everything a manager could ask for in a pitcher.
Slated to start Opening Day for the Rays on April 2 against the Baltimore Orioles, look for Price to make a repeat run for his second consecutive Cy Young, something that hasn't happened in the American League since Pedro Martinez did so in 1999 and 2000.
The Orioles Will Steal Less Than 100 Bases for the Sixth Consecutive Season
When healthy, Brian Roberts is an offensive catalyst for the Orioles.
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The Baltimore Orioles have been absolutely dismal in terms of stealing bases.
While proving last year that it doesn't take stolen bases to win games, it may help improve on their plus-seven run differential from last season.
The Orioles managed to steal only 58 bases last season, putting them dead last in the league. As a matter of fact, the last time the Orioles even stole at least 100 bases was in 2007, when they accounted for 144, good for second in the league.
Unfortunately, the Orioles did not make enough offseason moves to convince me that this season will prove to be any better on the basepaths.
The Orioles certainly have the potential to improve on their total from last year, however.
Veteran second baseman Brian Roberts finally appears healthy for the first time in almost two years.
Roberts has made a great career for himself out of the leadoff spot for the Orioles. A 12-year veteran with the Birds, Roberts has accumulated a total of 275 stolen bases for the Orioles, including a streak of 23 or more from 2003-09.
The Orioles also re-signed outfielder Nate McLouth to a one-year deal, keeping a key piece from their 2012 playoff run with the franchise. McLouth, 31, is not known to be one of the best base-stealers in the game, but can certainly get the job done when necessary.
All of this being said, look for the Orioles to make it six straight years of less than 100 stolen bases this season.
R.A. Dickey Wins Less Than 15 Games for the Blue Jays
2012 Cy Young winnter R.A. Dickey was traded to the Blue Jays this off season.
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As mentioned earlier, the Blue Jays are my favorite to win the AL East this year, although that does not mean I expect another Cy Young-type performance out of 38-year-old R.A. Dickey.
Dickey has been here before, and no, I don't mean the AL East.
Prior to coming to the New York Mets in 2010, Dickey spent 2001-09 donning an American League uniform. During that span, Dickey posted a 22-28 record and an awful 5.43 ERA as a member of the Rangers, Mariners and Twins.
While Dickey's 2012 season was every bit as impressive as it appears, to expect the aging veteran to repeat a season with those kind of numbers could be asking a bit much.
The American League currently boasts some of the best hitters in the game, with guys like Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Joe Mauer, just to name a few.
Look for Dickey to still make a solid contribution to Toronto's pitching staff this season, but another Cy Young Award seems improbable.
Then again, Dickey's 2012 run appeared a bit improbable before the season began, too.
David Ortiz Will Be Traded at the Deadline
Veteran David Ortiz has been a staple in the Red Sox lineup for the last 10 seasons.
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Sadly enough, it may be time for the Boston Red Sox to finally cut ties with 16-year veteran David Ortiz.
Ortiz, who has been nothing short of fantastic since arriving in Boston, was bitten by the injury bug last season and only played in 90 games. This spring, Ortiz appears to have yet another injury-plagued season in front of him.
The 37-year-old suffered a strained right Achilles in early July 2012 that he never recovered from before seasons end.
Now, he appears to be on his way to the disabled list to start this season with a heel injury that has plagued him for most of the spring.
Assuming that Ortiz can get healthy and show other clubs that he still has something left in the tank, the Red Sox, who do not appear to be playoff contenders this season, could part ways with one of the best sluggers to ever play the game.
Ortiz showed last year that he could still contribute when healthy—hitting .318 with 23 homers in only 90 games.
The only thing that could hamper a trade that would send Ortiz packing this season is the fact that the Red Sox and Big Papi just agreed to a two-year, $26 million contract this offseason.
However, a contender could jump at the chance to make a move for the right price, depending on how much of the veteran's contract the Red Sox would be willing to eat should a trade occur.
Alex Rodriguez Will Not Reach 3,000 Career Hits or 2,000 Career RBI This Season
Alex Rodiguez is 90 hits shy of 3,000 career hits and 50 RBI shy of 2,000 career RBI.
Steroids or no steroids, Alex Rodriguez will go down as one of the greatest players in major-league history.
The Yankees' third baseman is just 99 hits away from 3,000 career hits and 50 RBI away from 2,000 career RBI.
I do not expect him to reach either milestone this season.
Rodriguez will not be in the Yankees' lineup on Opening Day. As a matter of fact, he likely won't be in the lineup until at least the All-Star break, and there is some speculation he may not play at all this season.
With an ailing hip, Rodriguez has spent this spring training in New York rehabbing.
Last season, Rodriguez played in 122 games for the Yankees, hitting .272 with 18 homers and a total of 126 hits, all respectable numbers for a player of A-Rod's age.
However, with half, if not the whole season in doubt for Rodriguez, the idea of him accumulating enough hits to reach either of the hitting milestones does not appear likely.
Rodriguez may have to wait yet another season to reach 3,000 career hits and 2,000 career RBI.
The AL East Will Go a Combined 23-10 Against the Houston Astros in 2013
This season the American League welcomes the Houston Astros to the AL West.
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Last year's worst team in baseball is now a member of the AL West division.
The good news for any fan of an AL East team is that the Astros will have 33 games against your division.
Each team will get a series on the road and at home against the rebuilding Astros. Given the talent that the AL East has to offer each year, I expect those five ballclubs to flourish in this matchup.
Another bold prediction, and the last one to round out the 10, is that the AL East will go a combined 23-10 against the Houston Astros this season.