American League Season Previews and Predictions: AL East

With it being opening day, I’m going to take a sneak peek at the other teams in the American League in a series of preview articles. Starting with the team’s best offseason moves, then check out players to watch for in 2014, and finally make a prediction on how every AL team will fair in 2014.  First off will be the American League East.

Boston Red Sox

Best offseason moves:

The day after the Yankees signed Brian McCann, the Red Sox got the next best catcher out there. A.J. Pierzynski brings veteran leadership, excellent knowledge in handling a pitching staff, and won’t cost the Red Sox any offensive production compared to what Jarrod Saltalamacchia produced in 2013 for the Champs. Another attribute Pierzynski brings is a left-handed bat that has the ability to knock the ball off the green monster which could actually help his offensive production. All the above and the fact he’s patient and makes contact often makes him their best move of the offseason. The resigning of first baseman Mike Napoli is a close second for best moves.

Players to watch for:

Starting rookie shortstop Xander Bogaerts will be a fun player to watch this year and to follow long term. At 21-years old, Bogaerts was seen as the future of the franchise and one of the reasons behind the team traded Stephen Drew and trading Jose Iglesias to the Tigers at the deadline last season. Projected to struggle some with his batting average, Bogaerts is expected to still put up high teens in home runs, decent run total and RBI totals. Another player to keep an eye on is 25-year old third baseman Will Middlebrooks who looks to get back to his .288 average and 15 home runs of 2012 after a rough 2013 campaign in which he hit .227.

Crash and Burn Predictions – 90 wins, 72 losses, and first place in the AL East

One of the hardest achievements to accomplish in sports is to repeat as champions. The Red Sox have put themselves in a position to do the best they can to. Behind solid pitching, consistent hitters, and a serviceable bullpen makes the Red Sox armed to get through the marathon of a season and make a serious run in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Rays

Best offseason move:

Getting starting pitcher David Price resigned this offseason was top priority for the club and their best move. The ace of the staff, Price is coming off a nagging triceps injuring from 2013, but should give the Rays a bounce back, Cy Young caliber performance this season to try to put himself in position for a massive contract next offseason.

Players to watch:

Evan Longoria was healthy for a whole season for the first time since 2010. It will be interesting to see if he can stay healthy a second year in a row, and be the catalyst that leads the Rays to the playoffs for second year in a row. Would that be coincidence if a Longoria healthy season and a Rays playoff appearance happen again?

Crash and Burn Predictions – 87 wins, 75 losses, second place in the AL East, and one of the AL Wild Card slots

The Rays young pitching staff and a healthy Longoria will lead a charge for the American League East crown. Unfortunately I think they’ll come up a few games short of their goal. However, I think the Rays will find a way to sneak their way back into the playoffs through a wild card draw.

New York Yankees

Best offseason moves:

The signing of Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year deal was big for the franchise that is starting to see its top pitchers begin to age. The 25-year old will fill the fourth slot in the rotation to keep the pressure and expectations as minimal as possible. He also provides the Yankees a possible ace to replace C.C. Sabathia down the road if he pans out to be as good as he was in Japan.

Players to watch:

The combination of Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann gives the Yankees major upgrades at their respected positions. If either can produce at least their career averages, it’ll boost the Yankees offensive output immensely. That would especially be the case if Jacoby Ellsbury can stay healthy all year and Mark Teixeira can return to form following his 2013 wrist issues.

Crash and Burn Predictions – 86 wins, 76 losses, and third place in the AL East

Once again the Yankees flexed their wallets in an offseason with the goal of trying to buy their way to a championship. Unfortunately the nearly $204 million they’ll spend on payroll in 2014 won’t get them to the playoffs. Offensive side of the ball will have injuries, the pitching staff below Sabathia will have a below average season, and the bullpen and closer David Robertson will blow the end of several games this season.

Baltimore Orioles

Best offseason move:

Nelson Cruz coming to Baltimore could make waves in the American League East. A career .268 hitter, Cruz has averaged 27 home runs in the last five seasons and will be a nice fit alongside Chris Davis, Adam Jones, and J.J. Hardy. He’ll be trying to show Texas and the rest of baseball that it was wrong of them to not sign him to a bigger contract then what he ended up with in Baltimore.

Players to watch:

Last season was a big step for Ubaldo Jimenez in trying to return to his 2010 form where he had a 19-8 record and a .288 ERA. In Cleveland he had a respectable 13-9 record with a 3.30 ERA last season. If he can manage to stay productive, Jimenez will be a good fit behind Chris Tillman, who had a 16-7 record in 206.1 innings pitched last season.

Crash and Burn Predictions – 78 wins, 86 losses, and fourth place in the AL East

The Orioles have a decent amount of offense in Chris Davis, Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, but the pitching will be the reason they will not make the playoffs this season. The strength of their division will always make it hard for the Orioles to compete for the title unless they bump up their spending from the $107 million which would be difficult as a middle market team.

Toronto Blue Jays

Players to watch:

Most everyone on the Blue Jays players hit their career averages last season. It was obviously not good enough in a division that has the champs, Yankees, Orioles, and Rays. I’m going to pick the pitching rotation as the players to watch. Can R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, and the rest of the squad get their normal mid-teens in wins and cut down the losses to 7-9? If they could do that and the bullpen can do a good job bridging the innings between the starters and closer Casey Janssen, they’ll have a shot to compete in the middle of the division.

Crash and Burn Predictions – 72 wins, 90 losses, and fifth place in the AL East

Unfortunately I don’t think they have enough to compete with the other four teams in their division and once again be in the cellar. While they have big names on their roster, I think the quality of pitching is the difference between them and the likes of Boston, New York and Tampa. Would you rather have R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle or the likes of John Lester from Boston, C.C. Sabathia in New York, or David Price in Tampa Bay? It’s that difference that’ll leave Toronto selling off players at the trade deadline instead of competing for the divison.

Up next on the preview of the American League will be the AL West! Could the Angels finally live up to expectations? Find out tomorrow!


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