Last week we took a look at the key player for each National League team and now this week, we will take a look at the key player for each American League team. We will start with the best division in baseball, that being the American League East.
Boston Red Sox
Everyone has already anointed the Red Sox as World Series champions, but I think everyone needs to pump the brakes on that one. The Red Sox have a lot of question marks like every team going into the 2011 season and the biggest question mark might be their starting rotation.
In particular, Josh Beckett.
Which Beckett are the Red Sox going to get? Are they going to get the Beckett that pitched 212.1 innings, had a 3.86 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 2009? Or are they going to get the Beckett that allowed a career high 10.6/9 and had a 5.78 ERA in only 127.2 innings in 2010?
Beckett has a Bret Saberhagen-like odd year-even year thing going, so if history tells us anything, he should once again be solid in 2011, which would give the Red Sox three frontline starters.
New York Yankees
Much like the Red Sox, the Yankees have two very good starters and then a bunch of question marks in their starting rotation. And like Beckett, Burnett is the biggest question mark in New York’s rotation.
Burnett is like March Madness. You never know what you are going to get from game to game with him.
One game, he can pitch seven innings of six-hit baseball without giving up a run like he did in his April 17 start against the Texas Rangers, or he could throw a stinker out there like he did in his June 16 start against the Philadelphia Phillies when he got shelled for six runs in just three innings.
The Yankees will need Burnett to somewhat resemble his 2010 season in order to not wear out their revamped bullpen.
Tampa Bay Rays
Here are the facts about Manny these days…
Yes, his power numbers have declined since he was suspended for performance-enhancing drugs back in 2009.
Yes, his bat speed isn’t what it used to be.
Yes, he only hit one HR off of a fastball last season—in June against the Cincinnati Reds’ Jordan Smith on 93-mph fastball
All of the above is true when it comes to Manny and not to mention he can just go AWOL at any given time. But here is what else I know; the guy still had an .870 OPS last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago White Sox.
His .870 OPS was still better than Ryan Braun‘s, Ryan Howard‘s, David Wright‘s, and Hanley Ramirez‘s. Seventy percent of what Manny used to be is still better than 100 percent of what some stars can give you today.
If Manny can play in over 140 games, there is no reason to believe he can’t produce a .305/.405/.480 slash line with 20-25 HRs. If he can do that, he will be a big boost to the Rays’ lineup and give them someone else as a serious threat besides Evan Longoria.
Toronto Blue Jays
Lind looked like was destined for stardom following the 2009 season when he hit .305/.370/.562 with 35 HRs.
Then 2010 happened and Lind fell flat on his face. He hit just .237/.287/.425 with 23 HRs. Lind K’d a healthy 25.3 percent of the time, which was an seven-percent increase from the year before.
If there were any positives out of last season for Lind, it was that he did have a decent second half. I think the Blue Jays are going to be a tough out and probably the best fourth-place team in baseball.
If Lind bounces back and resembles his 2009 form, they are going to be a very tough out and that much better.
Roberts is clearly the straw that stirs the drink in Baltimore. The Orioles finished 30 games under .500 in 2010, but when Roberts was actually starting, the Orioles were two games above .500 (30-28).
Unfortunately for the Orioles, Roberts’ back is iffy and it limited him to only 56 games in 2010.
The Orioles have taken it slow with Roberts this spring, but all signs point to him being ready for Opening Day. If the Orioles are going to get back to .500 in 2011, which seems to be their ultimate goal, then they are going to need Roberts to play in at least 130 games.
Tomorrow, we will take a look at the key player for each AL Central team.
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