Search This Blog

Monday, March 11, 2013

2013 MLB Preview: AL East


We are living in a weird age for the AL East. Last year the Boston Red Sox finished last in the division while the Baltimore Orioles finished second and made it to the playoffs. The offseason was even stranger. The Toronto Blue Jays spent money and acquired players like they were the New York Yankees while they Yankkes themselves spent like they were the Oakland A's- with their biggest pick being a seemingly washed up Kevin Youkilis.


1) Toronto Blue Jays

 Line Up & Rotation

The toughest decision the Blue Jays have to make is how to optimize their line up. Strong line up contributors like Jose Bautistsa, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera, and Colby Rasmus lead a strong top of the line up while guys like J.P. Arencibia and Emilio Bonifacio are great complementary pieces. Then you have a rotation that consists of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, Ricky Romero, and Brandon Morrow. What a deep and solid rotation. They even have guys like J.A. Happ which gives this team some great depth..


A bullpen can make or break a team. The seemingly crappy Orioles won so many close games in 2012 due to their bullpen that they made it to the playoffs. A bad bullpen can have the opposite effect. All the talent in the world won't mean a thing if the bullpen collapses. The Jays need former White Sox closer Sergio Santos to be healthy and pitch like he did two years ago and have veterans like Casey Janssen and Darren Oliver pitch well enough to keep leads.

THEY MAKE IT TO THE PLAYOFFS IF: The team performs exactly how we all expect them to.

FANTASY SLEEPER: Emilio Bonifacio

Bonifacio's stock has dropped due to his position eligibility and risk of playing time. I personally think neither are an issue. There is not a doubt in my mind the Blue Jays will find ways to get Bonifacio at bats (really though on the field for his defense) and will get 2B eligibility sooner rather than later. The guy has crazy good speed and will rack the stolen bases and runs for your team.


2) New York Yankees*


The Yankees rotation consists of Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, young phenom prospect Michael Pineda, and veteran Andy Petite with solid depth guys like Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova to pick up any necessary slack. A pitching rotation isn't the usual strength for a typical New York Yankees team, except for this aging 2013 ball club.


I love the Yankees line up much more than I like the Blue Jays line up, but the problem is that you need to be on the field in order to contribute. Mark Teixeira is out 8-10 weeks, Curtis Granderson may be out 10 weeks as well, and Alex Rodriguez is currently walking around in a walker (I'm hoping). While 38 year old Derek Jeter, 39 year old Ichiro Suzuki, and 33 year old Kevin Youikilis are currently healthy, their risk to get injured while playing is pretty high.

THEY MAKE IT TO THE PLAYOFFS IF: That line up can just stay healthy. This is a really good team when healthy and I think they compete no matter who is injured, but being healthy for the vast majority of the season will put the Yankees over the edge to actually win this division.


Despite his age and recent terrible production the past few years in SAFECO, Ichiro has a long, long, long, long track record of hitting for a high average, getting on base, and stealing effectively. Ichiro had a triple slash line of .322 / .340 / .454 with 5 HR and 14 SB in only 227 at-bats since being trading to the Bronx Bombers. I expect great things from him now that he has a full season in that line up and that park.


3) Tampa Bay Rays

: Offense

The Tampa Bay Rays of the past were built on pitching and defense and while the defense is still there, the rotation is not. They have reigning Cy Young winner David Price but after that there are question marks. However, this team added slugger Luke Scott as a legitimate DH, have Wil Myers waiting in the wings, and have proven veterans like Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist at the center of the line up.

POSSIBLE ACHILLES HEEL: Evan Longoria's production/health

Longoria plays some of the best defense in the game but his offensive numbers have been really good but not great. He has had seasons where he steals and hits home runs but doesn't get on base and other seasons where he gets on base with fewer home runs and steals. Longoria also only played in 74 games last year and 133 games in 2011. The Rays need Longoria to both put everything together offensively as well as be healthy to help the Rays topple the Yankees and Blue Jays.

THEY MAKE IT TO THE PLAYOFFS IF: The young prospects reach their potential

Desmond Jennings hit 10 home runs and stole 20 bases with an .805 OPS in 63 games in 2011 but struggled to up numbers in 2012. Pitcher Matt Moore had 15 strikeouts with a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 IP plus an amazing playoff performance versus the Yankees in 2011 but had an ERA close to 4.00 in 2012. If Jennings and Moore reach their potential and Wil Myers contributes in a big way (I fully expect Longoria to get injured forcing Zobrist to move to the infield and calling up Wil Myers to play in the outfield), then this team who has always been really good will become great. The Rays are still a good team and will be extremely tough to play against- it's just a shame they play in the AL East.


Luke Scott is probably the streakiest player in baseball. He is so streaky that whenever players go on a tear we call it pulling a Luke Scott. I expect Scott to be better this year with his new and improved team. This Rays line up is so much better than any of the Orioles line ups that Scott has dealt with in the past that I expect to see a slight uptick in his numbers. And if his number don't get better, he'll still be worth owning when he does eventually go on a two week tear.


4) Boston Red Sox

: Line up

I actually like the Red Sox line up this year. Like a lot. Mike Napoli now moves to first base in a home run friendly park, I'm confident Shane Victorino still has plenty of gas left in the tank, Dustin Pedroia is really good as always, and Big Papi is still Big Papi. Then you still have proven contributors like Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Wil Middlebrooks, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Jonny Gomes. This line up, if healthy, is amazing.

POSSIBLE ACHILLES HEEL: Being the Boston Red Sox

I was going to say their rotation because I think it's pretty weak, but the Red Sox have a recent history of just being bad/collapsing. This big spender powerhouse finished LAST in the division in 2012 and collapsed and missed the playoffs in 2011. There's just something about this Red Sox team that you should not trust. Maybe being Massholes and this magazine cover has something to do with it.

THEY MAKE IT TO THE PLAYOFFS IF: The rotation performs like it can/should

At one point I expected Jon Lester to win a Cy Young, but now I just expect him to have an ERA south of 3.50- and that's probably unreasonable. We have seen Clay Buchholtz perform well, but again, we haven't seen it in a few years. We have also seen Ryan Dempster be really good as a starting pitcher on the Cubs, but he's now 35 years old. I actually really like this Red Sox team but this rotation needs to start pulling its weight to help the Red Sox stop this two year skid it's on.


Gomes has 136 home runs in 880 games. That's .1545 home runs per game. Over a 162 game season, that equals about 25 home runs. Gomes is a platoon man that has hit about 18 home runs a year for the past 4 years. I expect him to hit about 27 if he gets full playing time and stays healthy. His batting average will hurt you but his power, RBI, and run totals should be pretty good.


5) Baltimore Orioles

: Bullpen

Last year, the Baltimore Orioles won 93 games and made the playoffs. They also defied the statistical gods by winning so many one run games. Even though the Orioles actually gave up more runs than they scored going into September, the O's kept on winning games because of their bullpen. As mentioned earlier when talking about the Toronto Blue Jays, a bullpen can make or break a team, and yet nobody thinks about it. I still think the Orioles are a pretty bad team- especially for this new AL East they play in- so I'll still say their bullpen as their strength.


Nick Markakis used to be good but now he is an empty batting average player. Manny Machado is an unproven rookie. J.J. Hardy has streaky years. Adam Jones is borderline elite but has only done it for one year now and Chris Davis has only been a useful baseball player for one year. There are a lot of question marks surrounding this line up.

THEY MAKE THE PLAYOFFS IF: The rotation reaches their potential

Last year, Jason Hammel, one year removed from Coors Field, actually looked like a legitimate Cy Young candidate before injuries derailed his season. If Hamels gives the Orioles 30 starts and performs like he did to start off 2012, the rotation will be in better shape. Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz need to perform like the elite prospects that they were as well as to help round out the rotation. Tillman has a career ERA of 4.73 and a career FIP of 4.97. Matusz has a career ERA of 5.36 and a career FIP of 4.71. These numbers aren't just bad, they're atrocious. These two men need to turn a corner if the Orioles want to compete with the big dogs again.


There is no rhyme or reason why I like J.J. Hardy, but I do. Shortshop is extremely weak and I would rather put my money on a proven veteran like Hardy than risk... basically anyone outside the top five. It's guys like Hardy to bank on that win you fantasy drafts- cheap, unsexy guys that have done it once before and do it again the year you draft them.


* denotes Wild Card birth

Who do you think wins the AL East?


If you would like to comment on this post, please visit our facebook page