The AL East is a very interesting division, filled with storylines. The AL East has the best rivalry in baseball with the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who look to regain their hold on to the top two AL East spots. The division also contains the new-look Baltimore Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays, who won the division last season, but are looking weaker after losing Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano.
This is part four of a seven-part series predicting the records of all of the teams in baseball and then the postseason. This division is the strongest in baseball, and it is also the hardest to predict. Every single one of the teams in the division has talent and potential, and every team could see some postseason action.
I know that there are hundreds of predictions out there about how each of these teams will do, but these are the most plausible. With so much talent, this division is the one to watch this season, and this is what the most likely results are.
In 2010 the Toronto Blue Jays went a surprising 85-77, and finished fourth in the division.
The Jays were led by a guy named Jose Bautista who only led the league in home runs. He only hit 54. What a bum right?
Bautista was a monster in 2010, and he was the reason for the Jays’ success. But can he do it again in 2011? I do not see Bautista hitting another 54 homers this season, I see only about 30-35 in his future. 54 home runs was almost three and a half times his previous career-high of 16, and he also set career-highs in batting average and RBI, not to mention slugging, OBP, OPS, etc.
With those numbers being so different from previous years, I cannot tell you that he will top any of them and honestly believe it. If and when Bautista performs in a fashion that is not up to par with last season, I see the Blue Jays stumbling without many other experienced bats to pick up the slack. The Jays’ pitching is also a concern now because they traded their ace, Shaun Marcum, to Milwaukee.
I can’t see the Blue Jays doing well against such good competition in 2011 as they did in 2010.
Prediction: The Blue Jays will be buyers shopping for young talent around the trade deadline to match up with their young guys like Kyle Drabek, Brett Wallace and Michael Taylor.
The Rays went a very impressive 96-66 in 2010, and won the division with the second-best record in baseball.
During the offseason the Rays were busy. They lost Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford and Rafael Soriano, but they acquired Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon. The Rays’ new team is incredibly different than their team from five months ago.
So how will this new team perform? Well I can guarantee it won’t be as good as the team did in 2010.
The new team has lost their best outfielder, closer and starting first baseman, and has “made up for it” with a duo consisting of aging stars who are past their prime. Injuries have hit Ramirez recently, and he may not be able to stay away from them, while Damon’s stock peaked in New York and has kept on falling.
The Rays’ starting pitching is still good but not nearly as good as last season, and their bullpen took a big hit when Soriano went to the Yankees. The Rays will not be dominant this season, and they will take a long fall in the talented division from their ownership of it not six months ago.
Prediction: The Rays will keep trying to get better, and they will look for someone to solidify their bullpen at the trade deadline, but they will still struggle.
The Orioles? Sure they’ve been in the bottom two spots of the AL East for six straight years, and the basement for three, but they have changed their entire team.
The Orioles went all out this offseason, making moves to acquire a ton of good hitters that flew under the radar.
The O’s got Mark Reynolds, Derek Lee, J.J. Hardy, Vlad Guerrero and Kevin Gregg. Reynolds is a great power hitter, Lee is an ex-All-Star who still has enough left in the tank for a few good years, Hardy is a young guy who can break out at any moments, Guerrero always live up to his nickname of “Vlad the Impaler,” and Gregg is coming off a career-high 37 saves with Toronto. I’d say that’s pretty good.
Sure, their offense is the main facet of their team, and their starters are mediocre, but they are good enough to give the offense a chance to win every game. The Orioles’ shiny new toys will join Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts in a potent offense which will carry the team effectively.
It is realistic to expect the O’s to go over .500 this season, and for them to overcome the obstacles they face.
Prediction: Baltimore is done making big moves for hitters, and they will try to get a pitcher at the trade deadline, but will probably fail to tie down a big name guy, but they’ll settle for a decent starter.
The Bronx Bombers went 95-77 and finished one game behind the Rays for control of the AL East.
The Yankees were considered losers this offseason, failing to acquire Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke, and failing to convince Andy Pettitte not to retire. The Yankees did get the best reliever on the market in Rafael Soriano, but they already have Mariano Rivera at closer, so Soriano will be a set-up man.
The Yankees’ starting rotation is not what it was last season with the loss of Pettitte, but they still have C.C. Sabathia, Phil Hughes, and the potentially amazing A.J. Burnett (who can also be the worst pitcher in baseball at times).
The Yankees’ lineup is still very solid with Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Jorge Posada and Mark Teixeira. The Yankees also boast the best bullpen in baseball, consisting of Mo Rivera, Soriano and Joba Chamberlain. Overall, the Yanks are still a dangerous team, but they are not the best in the East.
Prediction: The Yankees are always buyers, and they will trade a bullpen guy or two and/or prospects to get what they want when they want it.
The Boston Red Sox finished third in the AL East with a record of 89-73.
The Red Sox acquired Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Dan Wheeler during the offseason, and they didn’t lose much. The Red Sox boast two of the best corner infielders in MLB with Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis.
The Red Sox also have a great starting rotation in Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Sox can pitch with anybody in the league, including the Phillies, and they could dominate solely on pitching.
Lastly, the Sox have the second-best bullpen in MLB with Jonathan Papelbon, Wheeler, Tim Wakefield and newly acquired Okajima. The Sox are lights out after the sixth, and could go far into the postseason because of it.
Prediction: The Sox will be buyers at the trade deadline to try to separate themselves from New York, but they do not have many holes to fill.
AL Central: Friday 3/18
AL West: Sunday 3/20
Postseason: Tuesday 3/22