The American League East has been the best division in baseball since its creation in 1969. This is mainly because of the division's perennial top-two teams, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. These two bitter rivals have had many classic battles in the past, such as the unforgettable 2004 ALCS. This year should be no different.
The Sox and Yankees both made moves this offseason, but for the Yankees, it was their inability to sign Cliff Lee that received the most attention. They did acquire All-Star reliever Rafael Soriano and catcher Russell Martin.
The Red Sox on the other hand, made the two biggest roster changes in the American League by trading for former San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Boston also signed former rival Tampa Bay Ray outfielder Carl Crawford. Both of these players were elected to the All-Star Game in 2010.
The Red Sox lineup should look something like:
- Jacoby Ellsbury (CF)
- Carl Crawford (LF)
- Dustin Pedroia (2B)
- Adrian Gonzalez (1B)
- Kevin Youkilis (3B)
- David Ortiz (DH)
- J.D. Drew (RF)
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C)
- Marco Scutaro (SS)
The Sox lineup should be one of the best in baseball this year. The addition of Gonzalez and Crawford give the Red Sox one of the most dynamic lineups. They have speed at the top with Ellsbury and Crawford who combined for 54 stolen bases last year when Ellsbury only played 18 games (Ellsbury stole 70 bases in 2009).
The meat of the Red Sox order is stacked with power bats. Their No. 4-through-6 hitters combined for 82 home runs. They also have former American League MVP Pedroia projected to bat third after enduring an injury riddled 2010 season.
The Red Sox have some weakness at the bottom of their lineup with Scutaro and Saltalamacchia, who have career batting averages of .267 and .248 respectively. Salty spent a large portion of the 2010 season in the minors.
On the other side, New York’s lineup should look like:
- Derek Jeter (SS)
- Curtis Granderson (CF)
- Mark Texiera (1B)
- Alex Rodriguez (3B)
- Robinson Cano (2B)
- Jorge Posada (DH)
- Nick Swisher (RF)
- Russell Martin (C)
- Brett Gardner (LF)
New York is putting an equally impressive lineup in the field. They have plenty of power in the middle of their lineup with Texiera, A-Rod, and Cano—all of whom are coming off excellent seasons. Cano has a legitimate shot at AL MVP this year.
The Yankees are also solid in their bottom three with Swisher, Martin, and Gardner. Swisher jacked 28 home runs last year while also batting .288—you cannot ask for better production out of the seven spot. Martin is coming off a couple disappointing seasons with the Dodgers, but he's proven he can put All-Star numbers in the past and should improve in this Yankee’s lineup.
New York has two major concerns, Posada in the No. 6 spot, and the top two guys in the order. Posada is coming off a year where he hit only .248. He should benefit from serving as the Yankees designated hitter, but he is still a concern.
The Yankees’ biggest offensive problem is their top two guys in the order, Granderson and Jeter. Both are great players, but they are not ideal for the lead-off positions. Jeter’s OBP was only .340 and Granderson’s was a dismal .324. It is going to be hard for the middle of the lineup to produce when they have no one to drive in.
The Boston Red Sox projected pitching rotation:
- Jon Lester (L)
- Clay Buchholz (R)
- Josh Beckett (R)
- John Lackey (R)
- Daisuke Matsuzaka (R)
CL Jonathon Papelbon (R)
Boston's rotation was disappointing in 2010. Lackey, Beckett, and Dice-K all had disappointing years, especially Lackey and Beckett. Throughout his career, Lackey has been an every-other-year pitcher—I expect him to improve on his 4.40 ERA and 14-11 season. Buchholz was a nice little surprise for the Sox and Lester continued to dominate.
The Red Sox bullpen could be better. Boston's relief corps was 12th in the American League for bullpen ERA at 4.24. They did not address this concern on the offseason, so do not be surprised to see them pick up a reliever via trade sometime before the trade deadline at the end of July.
The New York Yankee’s projected pitching rotation:
- CC Sabathia (L)
- Phil Hughes (R)
- AJ Burnett (R)
- Ivan Nova (R)
- Freddy Garcia (R)
CL Mariano Rivera (R)
The Yankees rotation is very top heavy with All-Stars Sabathia and Hughes. However, its bottom part is a huge concern. Ivan Nova has little Major League experience while Freddy Garcia is 35 and has been inconsistent throughout his career.
On the bright side for New York, it has a great bullpen led by arguably the best eight and nine inning combination of Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera to go along with middle reliever Joba Chamberlain.
Both teams have World Series winning mangers and solid glovemen throughout the diamond. My final verdict is that, if healthy, the Red Sox will take home the AL East title in a close race, while the Yankees battle the Twins for the wild card.