2014 AL Central Preview

By: Jon

The AL Central has experienced a lot of change in the past few years and this offseason was no different. The division leader from a season ago, the Detroit Tigers, were able to make the American League Championship Series before losing to the eventual Champions in the Boston Red Sox.

 

1) Detroit Tigers

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The Tigers were one of the busiest teams during the offseason. Over the last few seasons, the Tigers have been one of the most successful teams, but have not won the World Series. This season, the Tigers have a great chance of winning the title as they may have the best team on paper.

Like other seasons, the Tigers offense should be incredibly effective and dangerous. The leader of the offense is their star third baseman, Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is the best all-around hitter in baseball and is rising on the all-time list. If Cabrera can remain healthy for at least 140 games, he will hit over .320 with 40 home runs, 100 runs, and 125 RBI. Although Cabrera was protected by Fielder the past two seasons, the Tigers traded Prince to the Texas Rangers in return for star second baseman Ian Kinsler. Although Kinsler does not have the same power potential, he is a proven run scorer and should get on base at a high level in front of Cabrera. Although Cabrera will not have Prince to protect him, the Tigers must rely on the skill of Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter. The Tigers should be able to continue their excellence on offense and score enough runs to win a lot of games. In terms of defense, the team will have more problems with the loss of Jose Iglesias. Although Jose is young, he showed last season that he is one of the best fielders in the league because he has great range, hands, and a fantastic throwing arm. The Tigers do not have a great defense, which could ultimately lead to their downfall.

Along with the Tigers’ great offense, the Tigers’ pitching staff is one of the best in the league. The staff will be led by two Cy Young Award winners, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Along with the two stars, the Tigers have Anibal Sanchez, Drew Smyly, and Rick Porcello. Although the trio do not have the star power like Max and Justin, they have great potential and skill. The trio must continue their success from last season if they are going to compete for the best record in the AL and claim home field advantage throughout the postseason. During last postseason, the Tigers showed how dominant their starting pitching would become because of their power and ability to strike out opposing batters. The Tigers would have advanced to the WS and possibly won the championship if they had a better bullpen. During the offseason, the Tigers improved their bullpen by signing Joba Chamberlain and star closer Joe Nathan. Along with Bruce Rondon, the new and enhanced bullpen should make the Tigers an improved ball club.

The Tigers won 93 games last season and should be able to win a similar amount of games this season. The Tigers are by far the best team in the AL Central and should win the division by at least 5 games. Without Doug Fister and Fielder, the Tigers will probably lose more games during the regular season without the power bat and quality pitcher.

Predicted Tigers Record: 91-71

2) Kansas City Royals

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The Royals were one of the surprise teams in baseball last season and almost made the playoffs last year. The young Royals’ offense has an incredible amount of talent and should propel the Royals to success this season in the AL Central.

The Royals will be led on offense by Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Omar Infante, Billy Butler, and Mike Moustakas. The leader of the Royals’ offense is certainly Eric Hosmer. Hosmer took great strides toward the end of last season and became the best player on the team. The Royals are hoping that Mike Moustakas will take the next step forward like Hosmer and become a dominant part of their offense. If Mike and Salvador Perez can become stars and Hosmer a superstar, the team will have a chance to compete in the AL Central with the Indians and the Tigers. The Royals have a lot of good complementary players, but need a superstar to strike fear into opponents and win more games. On defense, the team should be very good and the outfield should be the rock of the team. The combination of Gordon, Aoki, and Cain should produce a great defensive unit because they are quick, have good instincts, and good arms in the outfield. In the infield, the team has a few good defensive players, which will make the team stable.

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In terms of pitching, the Royals have a few questions that must be answered in order to win enough games. The starting staff will be led by “Big Game” James Shields who pitches like an ace and is a good pitcher to build around. If the Royals do not stay competitive throughout the season, the Royals will look to trade Shields because it is unlikely that they will be able to sign him to a long term deal next offseason. Behind James, the team has Jason Vargas, Yordano Ventura, Danny Duffy, and Jeremy Guthrie. The biggest X-Factor of the pitching staff will be Yordano Ventura. Yordano has excelled during the spring season because he can throw heat. Yordano has averaged around 98 MPH during the innings he has pitched this spring. Along with Ventura, Duffy and Vargas will be important for the Royals. Vargas is a consistent pitcher and should be a quality pitcher for the Royals. Duffy has extreme talent and the Royals hope that he can harness his potential and succeed with the club.

If the Royals’ pitchers can meet their expectations, the team will be competing for the second wild card position and win over 85 games. Like last season, the Royals’ bullpen should be consistent and dominant throughout the regular season. Last season, Greg Holland was one of the most dominating teams because he has the ability to throw hard and strike out opposing hitters at an amazing rate. Along with Holland, they have a lot of quality arms in the bullpen that should keep leads. Although the Royals may not outlast the Tigers for a the division championship, they will be in a tight battle with the Cleveland Indians.

Predicted Royals Record: 87-75

3) Cleveland Indians

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The Indians were the biggest surprise last season because manager Terry Francona was able to lead them to the second wild card position. Although they did not have great talent, they came together as a team and went on a great streak toward the end of the season. However, the Indians lost a few players that were important to their late season run and failed to sign people to replace their starters.

Although the Indians do not have any superstars in their lineup, they recorded the fifth most runs in the league. The key contributors for the Indians are Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley. Since the Indians do not have a player that can carry an offense for a month, each player must play at a high consistent level and exceed expectations if they are going to score enough runs to win games. In terms of defense, the Indians have quality defensive players such as Cabrera, Kipnis, Bourn, and Brantley, which will help them stop opposing teams from scoring.

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The Indians’ pitching staff is extremely interesting because they do not have a legitimate ace. The Indians need to replace Ubaldo Jimenez, who had a great stretch toward the end of last season and pitched like an ace. The leader of the pitching staff this season must be Justin Masterson. Masterson pitched well last season, but needs to make the next step and pitch like an ace if the Indians are going to make a run next season. Behind Masterson, the Indian’s have Zach McAllister, Danny Salazar, Cory Kluber, and Shaun Marcum filling out the other four spots in the rotation. The quartet has not achieved much success at the major league level during their careers; however, they must stay healthy and pitch well throughout the season. It is unlikely that they will be able to meet expectations and stay healthy because Marcum was a disaster last year and the other three did not pitch many innings last season. Although the trio had ERAs in the 3s last year, they each pitched under 150 innings and it is unknown if they can achieve the same success over an entire season or the 175 innings each that the Indians are expecting from the three starters.

While the starting rotation may present questions, the relief staff should be the most consistent part of their squad. Although they lost former closer Chris Perez, they replaced him with closer John Axford. Although Axford has not experienced success in the last few seasons, he has experience and should be able to obtain success. The Indians have retained the rest of their bullpen, which includes Cody Allen, Marc Rzepczynski, Vinnie Pestano, and Josh Outman. Each reliever has experienced success in the past and should be able to succeed next season for the Indians. The Indians’ bullpen needs to pitch well because they cannot afford to lose leads. Although they won 92 games last season, it is unlikely they will achieve similar success this season. The Indians are a quality team with many solid players but do not have any stars.

Predicted Indians Record: 81-81

4) Chicago White Sox

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The Chicago White Sox had a horrible season last year as many players had the worst seasons of their careers. The White Sox are in full rebuilding mode and traded a few of their elder, more expensive players last season before the trade deadline. The White Sox have a lot of young talent on their roster and will be starting these young players this season. Although these players have talent, they will go through their struggles and face a few losing streaks during the season.

The White Sox made a big signing this offseason when they signed Jose Abreu, a young Cuban, to a long term deal. The White Sox hope they can build a strong lineup with Abreu, Adam Eaton, Avisail Garcia, Matt Davidson, Tyler Flowers, and Gordon Beckham. The White Sox feel that they have a strong core so they can eventually become a playoff team in a few years. Unless the White Sox are a major surprise, they will probably trade away Paul Konerko, Adam Dunn, or Alexei Ramirez at the trade deadline because it is unlikely that they are part of the White Sox’s future.

On the pitching staff, the White Sox have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, John Danks, Felipe Paulino, and Erik Johnson. The White Sox are led by Chris Sale, a legitimate ace and one of the ten best pitchers in the league. Sale is a young pitcher with great skill and has the ability to strike out over 200 batters in a single season. Outside of Sale, the rest of the staff pose many questions. Danks and Quintana are solid pitchers, but they can be inconsistent and occasionally perform very poorly. The back of the rotation Paulino and Johnson are young starters with little experience. Although they will go through their struggles, the White Sox hope Paulino and Johnson will improve with more experience and exposure and eventually become reliable starters in the rotation.

Like the other parts of their team, the bullpen has a few questions. First, the Sox must find a new closer because they traded Addison Reed to the Diamondbacks this offseason. The White Sox hope Matt Lindstrom can become a consistent closer and achieve success again. Before Robin Ventura will give the ball to Lindstrom, the ball will likely go through Ronald Belisario, Nate Jones, Donnie Veal, Scott Downs, and Dylan Axelrod. Many of these pitchers are unknowns for the White Sox. If the relievers are able to exceed expectations, the White Sox may be able to win a few more games than expected. The White Sox may not win many games, but they will be fun and exciting to watch because they have a lot of young talented players that will be relied on to play a lot this season.

Predicted White Sox Record: 70-92

5) Minnesota Twins

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At the start of the offseason, the Twins were one of the most active teams and signed a few starting pitchers. The Twins, like the White Sox, are in full rebuilding mode and do not have much talent on their roster, especially on offense. Besides Joe Mauer, the Twins do not have many players that the average fan has heard of in the past.

Some of these players include Josmil Pinto at catcher (Mauer has moved to first base), Pedro Florimon at third base, Alex Presley in center field, and Oswaldo Arcia in right field. Although these players have talent, especially Oswaldo Arcia, none of the players are expected to be All-Stars in the future. The Twins’ two best prospects Michael Sano and Bryan Buxton, the best prospect in baseball, are not expected to play with the Twins this season, but should be stars for the next 2 decades. Like the White Sox, the Twins will probably be auctioning some of their elder players during the trade deadline such as Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel, and possibly Brian Dozier or Trevor Plouffe.

In terms of the Twins’ pitching, their pitching staff should be dramatically improved because they signed a few starters to long term deals, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. The Twins have an improved staff, but they do not have an ace or a very deep rotation. Nolasco pitched well last season, but he is not a true number one pitcher. Hughes had trouble in New York, but he should be able to improve because he will not allow as many home runs in the spacious Target Field. Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey are quality, experienced pitchers and should pitch a lot of quality innings. At the fifth spot, the Twins have Vance Worley. Worley is a young pitcher with potential and the Twins hope that he will be part of the rotation for another decade. Worley has been injured since being traded from the Phillies, but he will not be asked to pitch an exorbitant amount of innings. The Twins have some nice pieces in the rotation, but will need to pitch well because the offense will not score many runs.

In the bullpen, the Twins have a few good options like Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, and Anthony Swarzak. Although these pieces may not be on the team the entire season because other teams will trade for them at the deadline, they should pitch well and allow the Twins to hold the leads they are able to gain. The Twins’ fans need to have patience because in a few years the team should be good once their prospect gain experience and mature their bodies and game.

Predicted Twins Record: 69-93

All pics and stats from ESPN

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Phil Jackson and the Knicks: A Recipe for Success

By: Prad

Phil Jackson has previously been associated with the New York Knicks. And it was a winning time for the team. Although not as significant as others on the team, Jackson was a member of the Knicks’ teams that won Championships in 1970 and 1973. He was last affiliated with the Knicks on April 23, 1978 when he played his final game in uniform for the team. Much has changed in the Big Apple since his departure 35 years ago. The team has failed to capture a ring since that ’73 title run and the team up to this point in the season is moving in the wrong direction. 

Can the Zen Master turn things around? Courtesy of Bleacher Report
Can the Zen master turn things around?
Courtesy of Bleacher Report

Last season, the Knicks finished with an impressive 54-28 record and the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They won their first playoff series in a decade and it looked like the Knicks were finally coming back from a decade of turbulence that included front office mishaps and issues with player personnel. It appeared as if the Knicks were building a head of steam and could potentially make another big step by making the Eastern Conference Finals this season. This hope faded quickly though as the Knicks held a 3-13 record by the beginning of December. Head Coach Mike Woodson was blamed for the dismal record, but no single member of the team could possibly have taken full responsibility for the atrocious start. The team was out of playoff contention and the team looked at this season as a failure until very recently.

New York has been climbing itself out of the hole that it dug for itself in the past couple weeks. Prior to the official signing of Phil Jackson, the Knicks were riding a six game winning streak and hitting its stride. The Knicks faced its biggest challenge in the past few weeks when it played Indiana tonight. I don’t know if it was Phil Jackson’s presence at Madison Square Garden, but the Knicks played some of their best ball of the season during that win against a gritty Pacers team. They currently stand four games out of the final playoff spot in the poor performing East. The momentum from the last week and an easy slate of upcoming games may turn things around in New York this season. The Jackson signing can’t hurt either.

More importantly, the five-year $60 million signing of Phil Jackson as President of Basketball Operations provides optimism for the future of the franchise. The Zen master, who holds the highest winning percentage (70.2% at 1155-485) in NBA history, now takes on his first front office position. Nobody knows for certain if his winning ways will translate to him as an executive.  Yet, his signing certainly provides the aforementioned motivation for his players to work harder. And he knows what kinds of things need to be in place for the wins to pile up.

The Knicks can give Melo more money than any other club this offseason Courtesy of Sports Illustrated
The Knicks can give Melo more money than any other club this offseason
Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

At this point, his top priority must be to sign Carmelo Anthony, who is expected to opt out of his current deal. New York can offer him almost $30 million more than any other team this summer at five years for $129 million. It has also recently been reported that Melo is willing to change his role within the offense and even take less money if Jackson believes that it can bolster the team’s performance and chances at a title in the near future.

Past this, Jackson does not seem to have much room to operate. Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler, and Amar’e Stoudemire are all signed until the end of next year at a whopping $50 million. This doesn’t allow for much room this offseason but Jackson will have to make a splash in free agency the following summer. This lack of financial flexibility causes problems for a team that has mediocre role players. No solution is in sight unless Jackson can work his magic by restructuring a few contracts in the next several months.

All signs also point to Jackson dismissing Coach Mike Woodson at the conclusion of this season. It will be interesting to see who Jackson picks to succeed the underperforming Woodson. He might pick someone who implements the triangle offense, a game plan Jackson made popular during his tenures with the Bulls and Lakers. Ultimately, Jackson will be the one shaping the offense for years to come with his acquisitions and shaping of the roster.

Knicks owner James Dolan will give Phil Jackson full freedom with the fate of the franchise Courtesy of NY Daily News
Knicks owner James Dolan will give Phil Jackson full freedom with the future of the franchise
Courtesy of NY Daily News

Nevertheless, the fate of the franchise essentially rests in Jackson’s hands as owner James Dolan will give him unlimited room to operate. This is pretty difficult for Dolan, who’s basically influenced every single decision the Knicks have made since the turn of the century. Jackson has the opportunity to bring a glimmer of hope to a fan base that hasn’t seen much success in quite some time. His recent signing with New York ushers in a new era of optimism and hopefully wins for a club that has been struggling since his departure three and a half decades ago.

2014 AL East Preview

By: Jon

The AL East is definitively the best division in baseball since they have the current champions, the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Orioles, and Blue Jays. The East has a legitimate threat of possessing three of the five playoff teams in the AL. Besides the Blue Jays, who still have a possibility of finishing over .500, the other four teams have a great chance of winning the division.

 

1) New York Yankees

The Yankees want to win one more before the Captain retires
The Yankees want to win one more before the Captain retires

The Yankees regained the title as the most expensive team in baseball after they spent nearly $500 million on free agents this offseason. The Yankees will be starting a completely new club from last season as only one player, Brett Gardner, will be starting Opening Day this and last season. The Yankees have a lot of talent, but they have many questions that may lead to their demise. Although the Yankees outfield should be the catalyst of team with Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, and Jacoby Ellsbury, the infield has many questions because the players, Kelly Johnson, Derek Jeter, Brian Roberts, and Mark Teixeira, are all coming off  injury and have questions about their age. If the Yankees stay healthy, they should be one of the best teams in baseball and will contend for a championship.

On offense, the Yankees have speed, power, and high batting averages. The middle of the order, McCann, Tex, Soriano, and Beltran, should record a good deal of RBIs since they will have many opportunities to drive in runs. Jacoby Ellsbury, Derek Jeter, and Brett Garnder have shown that they have the ability to get on base, steal bases, and score runs at a very high level. In terms of defense, the team should be one of the best in the league, especially in the outfield. Jacoby and Brett are two of the fastest outfielders in the league and should be able to easily cover every ball in the outfield. Although he is old, Beltran is an above average outfielder with a great arm and instincts. On the infield, the return of Tex will be great since he is a premier fielder and prevents errors with his ability to scoop throws. Although Jeter or Roberts do not have great range, they are steady players and will not make many errors in the field.

On the pitching staff, the Yanks have some questions as well. If Tanaka, Nova, and Pineda can continue their success from Spring Training, the team will have a great pitching staff with each player has a lot of talent. Although CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda have experienced poor spring trainings and did not have a good finish to last season, the Yankees need them to return to their old form. The Yankees have a few quality options, Vidal Nuno, Adam Warren, and David Phelps, if injuries hamper their starting five. Unlike past seasons, the Yanks are not expected to have a good bullpen. The Yanks must answer a few questions if they are going win games with their bullpen like they have in the past. The Yankees need to replace the greatest closer of all time, Mariano Rivera, an eighth inning pitcher to replace David Robertson, and a lefty specialist to replace Boone Logan. If the Yankees’ starters fail to get injured, they can use their extra starting pitchers or prospects to man the positions. Although the Yankees have many questions, they have a lot of talent and expectations that their fans hope they can meet this season.

Predicted Yankees Record: 95-67

2) Boston Red Sox

The Sox are hoping to repeat this season
The Sox are hoping to repeat this season

The Red Sox are the defending champion and many believe that they have a great chance of winning the division and repeating as champions. The Red Sox are currently ranked second on this list because they lost a few good players to free agency that must be replaced. The biggest loss the Red Sox endured was Jacoby Ellsbury, who went to the hated New York Yankees for $153 million. Although Jacoby was occassionally injured, he was a great table setter for the Red Sox and was a lock for at least 90 runs a season. The Red Sox are hoping that Jackie Bradley Jr will be able to succeed at the major league level, although he was unable to hit in the majors at the start of last season. Bradley, although an above average defender, will not be able to replace Ellsbury’s defense because he does not have the speed. At shortstop, the Red Sox will have to replace the production from Stephen Drew. Drew was a solid option for the Red Sox because he was a good defensive player and could hit well for a shortstop. The Red Sox hope that top prospect Xander Bogearts will be able to turn his potential into production and replace the void left by Drew. Xander got his first taste of major league experience last season in the playoffs and regular season.

Besides those losses, the Red Sox kept the same team as last year. On offense, the Red Sox have a lot of good sluggers, Ortiz, Pedroia, and Napoli, and other quality hitters, which gives them a balanced offensive attack. The Red Sox have at least five or six players that can hit over .300 this season. Last season, they had three players hit over .300 and five that hit over .294. Like last season, they should rank as one of the best run scoring teams in the league.

In terms of pitching, the Red Sox have a deep rotation even though they do not possess a dominant ace. The combination of Jake Peavy, John Lackey, Jon Lester, Felix Doubront, and Clay Buchholz should give the Red Sox an above average staff as long as they do not have to deal with injuries. If the Red Sox do face injuries, they may have serious issues because they do not have many long men/spot starters on their roster. The Red Sox have a very good farm system with good pitching prospects, but it is unknown if they want to hurry these prospects to the bigs. In the bullpen, the Red Sox have one of the best in the league. If Uehara can give the Red Sox similar numbers to last season, they will be in great shape because they have solid lefties and power arms out of the bullpen. The Red Sox should be a 90 win team and compete with the Yankees and other AL East teams for the division and the Pennant.

Predicted Red Sox Record: 94-68

3) Tampa Bay Rays

The pitching could lead the Rays to the playoff
The pitching could lead the Rays to the playoffs

The Rays have been steady winners over the last five seasons. Before their nice run, the Rays were one of the worst teams in baseball and never made the playoffs. Previously, they would always receive high picks in the draft, which enabled them to build a core and achieve success. Although the Rays have lost stars over the past few seasons, they have a deep farm system to replace their stars with stud prospects.

Although the Rays normally win with their pitching and defense, the Rays offense has improved drastically and should be a strength this season. The middle of the order will be led by Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, James Loney, and Matt Joyce. These power hitters should easily be able to drive in a lot of runs since Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, and possibly star shortstop prospect, Lee, are all good table setters and have the ability to reach base. The Rays should continue playing great defense because Longoria, Myers, Escobar, Loney, and Desmond are excellent defenders and do not commit many errors.

Although the offense is improving, the pitching is the best part of the team. The staff is led by former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price. Along with Price, the Rays have Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Jeremy Hellickson, Chris Archer, and possibly Jake Odorizzi. Besides Hellickson, each starter had an ERA below 3.50. The Rays’ pitching staff should continue stopping opposing offenses and lead the Rays to the playoff as long as Price stays in the rotation. Since Price has achieved a lot of success, the Rays are looking to trade him since it is unlikely they will be able to re-sign him next offseason. Although the Rays would receive a King’s Ransom for Price, the players will not be able to immediately help the Rays, if they trade him at the trade deadline. Like many prior seasons, the Rays’ bullpen is different from last season and has many questions. The Rays have signed a few relievers that are coming off bad seasons and were able to sign them at a bargain. The Rays will rely heavily on Grant Balfour, Heath Bell, Joel Peralta, and lefty flamethrower Jake McGee. Each reliever has experienced success in the past and the Rays hope they can catch lightning in a bottle once again.

The Rays were able to win 92 games last season despite them starting slowly because of poor pitching. However, this season, the pitching should not let the Rays down at the start of the season and should enable them to win over 90 games again this season. The AL East should have a great fight at the top since each of the three aforementioned teams has the ability to win 95 games. The Rays do not have as much depth or offensive talent as the Red Sox and Yanks, so it is unlikely they will beat them during the regular season.

Predicted Rays Record: 92-70

4) Baltimore Orioles

The O's need Crush Davis to have another great season in order to succeed
The O’s need Crush Davis to have another great season in order to succeed

Unlike previous seasons, the Orioles spent a lot of money this offseason to improve their team. Last season, the Orioles won 85 games, but still finished 6.5 games out of the wild card race. The Orioles possessed one of the best and most explosive lineups in the league a season ago. The Orioles are led by the middle of their order, which includes stars Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, and JJ Hardy. Although the lineup was already deep, they signed power hitting outfielder, Nelson Cruz, to a one year deal. Also, the Orioles will be returning Manny Machado from a serious knee injury, which will bolster the squad. In terms of defense, the Orioles have a solid defense because Jones, Hardy, Wieters, and Machado are great fielders and man the most important defensive positions.

Although the Orioles’ offense and defense is very good, the pitching could pose problems for the Orioles as they attempt to make the playoffs. The Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez this offseason and are hoping that he returns to his Rockies’ second half form. The Orioles do not have an ace, but have multiple quality pitchers. The Orioles’ staff, Jimenez, Tillman, Norris, Gausman, and Chen, is deep and should be able to win games against the back of opposing teams’ staff. If the Orioles do experience injuries, they have multiple options that will allow them to continue winning. In the bullpen, the Orioles have multiple weapons that can throw hard and strike out opposing hitters late in games. Although the O’s dumped former closer Jim Johnson, they will be replacing him with Tommy Hunter. Hunter throws extremely hard and has been able to pitch well over the past few seasons as an eighth inning pitcher. Along with hard throwing from the right side, Brian Matusz is a lefty specialist that pitches in the mid to high nineties and has improved over the past few seasons.

Although the Orioles improved their team this offseason, the other teams in this division have improved as well, so it is unlikely they will noticeably improve their win total from last season.

Predicted Orioles Record: 85-77

5) Toronto Blue Jays

The Jays hope they can avoid the East cellar
The Jays hope they can avoid the East cellar

The Blue Jays entered last season as one of the best teams on paper and many thought they would be one of the best teams in the league. However, the Jays did not meet expectations as they suffered many injuries and their players did not play to previous standards.

Like the other American League East teams, the Blue Jays have a threatening lineup. On the infield, the Blue Jays have Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and Maicer Izturius. In the outfield, the Blue Jays will be led by Jose Bautista, Melky Cabrera, and Colby Rasmus. The Blue Jays have one of the best 3-4 hitting duos in the league because Bautista is one of the best power hitters and Encaracion has turned into one of the better hitters after a sluggish start to his career. At the top of the order, the Blue Jays will have Reyes and Cabrera at the one-two positions as they both have great speed and the ability to reach base at a very high percentage. If the duo can stay healthy, they will score a lot of runs and help the Blue Jays score runs because Bautista and Encarnacion should both be able to record at least 100 RBIs. Although the Jays have the potential for a great offense, their defense does not have the same ability.

In terms of pitching, the Blue Jays have many questions in their rotation, which negatively separates them from the rest of the teams. Although the Blue Jays gave up two very good prospects to the Mets, they did not receive great production from RA Dickey last season. Although Dickey should be able to achieve more success this season because he is now healthy, it is unknown if he can return to his Cy Young form. After Dickey, the Jays have Brandon Marrow, Mark Buehrle, JA Happ, and Esmil Rogers in the rotation. Mark Buehrle and Esmil Rogers are steady pitchers and should provide the Blue Jays with consistent quality outings. Although Marrow and Happ have great talent and have shown they can produce at the major league level, they are consistently injured and cannot pitch at their full potential. If the duo can remain healthy, the Blue Jays can compete in the East and win about 85 to 90 games.

Although the Jays may have the worst starting rotation in the division, it is likely they have the best bullpen. The back of the Jays bullpen is very solid with Sergio Santos as the closer and Steve Delbar and Brett Cecil as the set up men. Last year, Cecil and Delbar had great seasons and made the All-Star team. If the Jays can maintain a lead into the 7th inning, they will have a great chance of winning games and competing for the last Wild Card spot. Unless the Jays have a few surprises in the rotation, it is unlikely they will win more than 80 games in the difficult AL East.

Predicted Blue Jays Record: 78-84

 

Pics and stats from ESPN.com