AL East Preview

The Red Sox surprised the East and won the division and went on to win the World Series. Can they repeat the magic again in 2014?

Baltimore Orioles

After missing out on the postseason in 2013 , the Baltimore Orioles look to bounce back after adding some pop into their lineup. Nelson Cruz will add to the already powerful lineup, and the acquisition of Ubaldo Jimenez will hopefully bolster their starting rotations. The biggest key for the Orioles will be their power aspect and if it can hide their biggest weakness, which is pitching. The best case scenerio is that the Orioles offense is the best in the league, Manny Machado comes back by the opening of the season, and they win the wild card. However, reality might sink in and playing in such a tough division, will make it an uphill climb and battle for a wild card spot. The Yankees look ramped up for a big year, the Rays have an amazing pitching staff, and the Red Sox are riding the momentum as World Champs from a year ago, so it will be a tough task to challenge any one of these three teams. (Kevin Langner)

Chris Davis made Camden Yards look like a little league park in 2013, does he have a repeat year in that bat?

Boston Red Sox

The reigning World Series champs hope to continue their strong hold on the division. The Sox had a quiet winter just signing A.J. Pierzynski and Edward Mujica to help behind the plate and in the pen. Dustin Pedroia and his pesky hitting approach and gold glove anchor the infield with Mike Napoli and the young phenom Xander Bogaerts. Jackie Bradley Jr or the reclamation project Grady Sizemore will patrol center and post season hero Shane Victorino is in right with the platoon of Jonny Gomes and Daniel Nava in left. Pierzynski replaces Salty behind the plate and brings a more consistent bat. David Ortiz is coming off a monster post season and doesn’t look to be wearing down at all. Jon Lester hopes to continue his postseason success and anchor a solid Boston rotation. Most expect Koji Uehara to come down to earth this season, but even if that happens there is still plenty of depth in the bullpen. They may not repeat the World Series run of 2013, but there is no reason why the Sox should not be playing in October again. (Scott Boutcher)

There are big expectation for Bogaerts in 2014.

New York Yankees

Another year and another farewell tour begins in the Bronx.  The Captain Derek Jeter is entering his final season in pinstripes. Things can only get better for Jeter this year after injuries limited his availability in 2013.  This offseason the Yankees opened their wallets again and brought high priced free agents like C Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury in to the fold as well as veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran. They also won the bidding war for Japanese P Masahiro Tanaka.  3B Alex Rodriguez is suspended for the entire 2014 season but will still make a hefty salary.  P CC Sabathia will be one of many Yankees looking to bounce back from a sub par season.  With Mariano Rivera now happily retired, the back end of the Yankees bullpen could prove to be their undoing.  From a starting pitching prospective, depth could prove to be a serious issue as has been for this team in recent years.  In a loaded AL East contending for division title will be difficult even for a team not afraid to spend money.  Only time will tell if the Yankees can send Jeter out on top. (Glenn Coyle)

Can the Yankees reach the mountain top in Jeter’s final season?

Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays have been one of the most impressively well run organizations in baseball over the past six seasons. They find continued success in one of baseball notoriously tough divisions despite lack of fan and financial support. The Rays will once again send a competitive and potentially playoff contending team to the field in 2014. Despite being surrounded by off-season trade rumors, David Price will once again anchor a quality starting rotation which includes quality youngsters in Matt Moore, Alex Cobb & Chris Archer. Grant Balfour makes his Tampa Bay return to close out games in a bullpen that includes Heath Bell, Joel Peralta and left Jake McGee. Evan Longoria remains the lone super star in the Rays lineup that includes quality pieces such as Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings and David Dejesus. Wil Myers is a player to watch; is he destined for the feared sophomore slump or is this his breakout campaign? The answer has yet to be determined but it could be a key factor in how well the Rays offense rolls. (Mike Orzechowski)

Will Price finish the season in Tampa or head to a contender at the deadline?

T0ronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays are in one of the closest divisions in all of baseball where the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays are expected to be the main contenders. Given the last couple seasons, you can’t count out the Orioles either and while the Blue Jays have not met expectations, still have a team with players such as Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Last year, the Blue Jays had a few injuries and some under performing players. They wound up finishing last. One would think their GM, Alex Anthopoulos, has quite a bit of pressure on him this year to turn things around and get the Blue Jays back into the spotlight. A key with the Bluejays in their lineup is they need to avoid Reyes getting hurt and have him get back to being the threat he was with the bat as a New York Met. They need Colby Rasmus and their new catcher, Dioner Navarro, to come along who is replacing J.P. Arencibia who showed he was capable of providing some pop in the Blue Jays lineup. They also need Melky Cabrera to bounce back and hit like he did with the San Francisco Giants prior to his steroid suspension. The Blue Jays have one of the worst rotations in all of baseball. Their starting five is R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Brandon Morrow, J.A. Happ and Kyle Drabek. Last year, they were 14th in the AL in WAR and ERA. This will likely be the main reason that the Blue Jays will not contend this year. One of the bright sides of Toronto’s team is the bullpen. There’s no standout reliever in the bullpen but they have good depth and a bunch of guys who could have an ERA under 3.50. Their closer is Casey Janssen. Their setup men are Sergio Santos and Aaron Loup. Their middle men are Steve Delabar and Jeremy Jeffress and their long men are Brett Cecil and Dustin McGowan. Last year, they bullpen was 4th in relief ERA and 7th in relief WAR. Prediction: I have a feeling one of the Blue Jays pitchers will do better than expected. I would suspect Brandon Morrow or Kyle Drabek who is coming off on Tommy John surgery, but the bottom line is that Toronto’s first two pitchers in the rotation are 39 and 35. And besides Dickey’s great season with the Mets a couple years ago, neither him or Buehrle have ever really been dominant pitchers that guys like Clayton Kershaw or Justin Verlander have been. They are in one of the most competitive divisions in all of baseball. The division is so tough where even the Orioles who had 85 wins last year and made some great moves could still come in 4th in the division. The Blue Jays hitting will be there for a while with Bautista and Encarnacion being two of the best hitters in baseball, it’s just the starting pitching and division is tough to compete with on a night in, night out basis. Vegas has the over under for wins at 79.5. I would take the under. I expect them to come in last in the AL East and have probably around 76 or 77 wins. (Dan Sohler)

Jose Reyes is the spark of the lineup and leader on defense.


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