With opening day starting in about a month and spring training finally getting underway, I figured I would do an in-depth look at each division before the season comes out. This week, I want to take a look at the AL East.
At the top of the list, we have the New York Yankees.
HITTING: The Yankees made it all the way to the ALCS last year thanks to the help of ace Luis Severino and the emergence of Aaron Judge (all rise). The Yankees seem to be in the World Series contention again this year as they have not lost anyone but added Giancarlo Stanton, making for an amazing outfield with Stanton, Judge and Aaron Hicks. Their infield will consist of Bird, Gregorious, Brandon Drury and catcher Gary Sanchez. The lineup seems to be balanced and the defense will be solid.
PITCHING: On the pitching side, the Yankees staff features:
There are some question marks as to how this staff will pan out and will probably be the biggest determinant as to how far the Yanks go this year. Tanaka has been on and off the past couple years, Gray has also seemed to lost his touch on his secondary pitches and Sabathia is approaching 36 years old this season.
BULLPEN: the bullpen seems to be as strong as ever for the Yanks with the back end loaded with studs in Chapman, Betances and Robertson.
STRENGTH: Middle of the order lineup and bullpen has a lot of depth to make up for starting pitching depth.
WEAKNESS: Back end of the rotation looks shallow and could pose problems for the team.
The Boston Red Sox won the AL east last year before being knocked out of contention in the ALDS but are looking to reclaim their title this year as well.
HITTING: the Red Sox seen to be just as balanced as the Yankees. Their lineup is filled with All Stars such as Mookie Betts, Benetendi, Hanley Ramirez, Xander Bogarts and newly acquired JD Martinez. Their lineup runs deep and with the help of the great defense of Jackie Bradley Jr and Bogaerts, this team seems great on paper.
PITCHING: the Red Sox seem to have one of the best rotations in the AL once again. Their projected rotation looks like:
1. Chris Sale
2. David Price
3. Rick Porcello
4. Drew Pomeranz
5. Steven Wright
Beyond Wright, this rotation looks like it can match up against any rotation in the AL. If Price can improve upon last year’s numbers, it’ll help Boston reclaim another division title.
BULLPEN: The Bo Sox bullpen isn’t what the Yankees have but it still features the elite closer in Craig Kimbrel. They also have Matt Barnes as the middle man as well.
STRENGTH: Strong lineup with great defense.
WEAKNESS: Middle bullpen bridge to get to Kimbrel in those 6-8 innings.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays seem to host a very mediocre team that has some aging veterans and not much upside. The Blue Jays lost Jose Bautista this off-season but traded for Randall Grichuk.
HITTING: The Blue Jays have a very veteran heavy lineup. With guys like Troy (Tulo) Tulowitski, Kendrys Morales, Russell Martin, and Josh Donaldson who are all past their prime. Although they still boast a powerful lineup, injuries are always a concern for the Tulo and their core hitters seem to have had their best days behind them.
The Blue Jays boast a rotation that’ll look like:
1. Marcus Stroman
2. JA Happ
3. Aaron Sanchez
4. Marco Estrada
5. Jaime Garcia
Again, besides Stroman, this Blue Jays rotation looks to have had their best days behind them. It’s a very shaky group behind Stroman.
BULLPEN: Osuna has been an average closer the past several years. However, he does not have much support. This team will need a stronger bullpen to compete for a wild card spot. They lack a true lefty specialist as well.
STRENGTH: For the Jays, their biggest strength is their biggest weakness and that is the veterans on the team. It’ll be a well built team, but their upside is very limited with few prospects or young guys looking to make any impact on the team. Donaldson and Stroman will be fun to watch, but Canada might want to keep watching hockey as long as they can this season.
Baltimore Orioles: The Os have lost their “ace” in Ubaldo Jimenez, but still have their core in Manny Machado, Adam Jones and Chris Davis.
HITTING: The Os are all about power. With Jones, Davis, Trumbo and Macado all capable of having 30 homer seasons. Jonathan Schoop also had a very nice season last year, adding to their offensive production. But as a team with a lot of power, they are also prone to their slumps as well. The Os can basically match up with most offenses in the league, but their lack of pitching is what brings this team down to middle of the pack levels.
Projected rotation looks like:
1. Kevin Gausman
2. Dylan Bundy
3. Chris Tillman
This roation looks better than the last several years, however it is not one that a team going up against them is afraid of. Although Gausman has been better the past year, he is still wildly inconsistent. Bundy still has yet to really improve himself and Tillman has reached his peak. The rest of the rotation looks like a race to whoever can stay healthy and keep them in close games.
The Os usually rely on Zach Britton, but because of an injury, Britton will be out at least half the season. Brad Brach or Darren ODay look to take over the closer role.
STRENGTH: The Os tend to play well in close games. Their high powered offense makes for an exciting team to watch and can give any rotation a headache.
WEAKNESS: pitching depth is an obvious one and now without Britton closing down the 9th, there could be some early season late inning games being blown by the bullpen.
Tampa Bay Rays
Perhaps having one of the most interesting offseasons, the Rays have traced Longoria, Steven Souza, and Jake Odorizzi. This team looks to be in rebuild mode for now.
HITTING: The Rays don’t have much star power. Their one bright spot on the team is Kevin Keirmaier who can also play well defensively. Two former Giants in Matt Duffy and Denard Span will also be in this Rays lineup. Wilson Ramos offers good veteran leadership behind the plate and could be a catalyst on offense if he stays healthy.
PITCHING: The Rays have an ace in Chris Archer. Archer has had problems going past the 6th inning and has been critiqued lately for his lack of a 3rd pitch. Behind him, there appears to be little upside. Blake Snell is the #2 and that should tell you all you need to know about the rest of the rotation.
BULLPEN: Alex Colome has emerged as one of the leagues best closers. He looks to shut down the 9th again this year. The Rays also have another former Giant in Sergio Romo taking the 7th/8th innings. Beyond that, there is a definite lack of depth.
STRENGTH: The Rays have some veterans on the team to lead the way for some upcoming prospects.
WEAKNESS: The team lacks any star power. They have made it clear they are in full sell mode and this makes me believe Colome, Archer and possibly Kiermaier are going to get traded as well.
2018 projected standings:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Tampa Bay Rays
Let me know what you guys think in the comments.