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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

Derek Jeter’s Legacy and his Future Replacement


By: Jon


5 time champion, 4th member of the core four, 3 top 3 MVP seasons,  2 is his jersey number, and 1 legend.


On Wednesday February 12, 2014, Derek Jeter announced on his Facebook page that he would retire after the 2014 season. Jeter’s impact will be felt on and off the field when he leaves the team after the season. Jeter is the 11th captain of the New York Yankees and will be a future Hall of Famer when he becomes eligible in 6 years.

Jeter’s Legacy on the Field:

The Flip Play against Jeremy Giambi Courtesy of MLB.com
The Flip Play against Jeremy Giambi
Courtesy of MLB.com

This season, Jeter will play in his 20th season and this will be his 19th season as the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees. Jeter is part of the new breed of shortstops that are bigger and have more offensive skills than the shortstops that played before the 1970s. When Jeter entered the league, he was compared to Nomar Garciaparra, who retired a long time ago, and Alex Rodriguez, who switched positions when he came to the Yankees. While Jeter never had the power like Ripken or Rodriguez, he had the ability to score runs, get on base, and have a high batting average. Although Jeter will be remembered for his intangibles and leadership skills, he is arguably the best shortstop since Honus Wagner, who retired in 1917.

Derek has a career batting average of .312 and an on base percentage of .381, which are impressive numbers from a position that normally does not provide offensive output. During his career, Derek has batted over .300 twelve times, scored 100 runs thirteen times, accumulated over 200 hits eight times (including leading the league twice), and stole more than 20 bases eight times. In terms of offensive production, Jeter has the highest offensive WAR of any shortstop in the modern era, which includes Cal Ripken, who many believe is the best offensive shortstop. Although Jeter does not have great power like Ripken, he hit over 250 home runs and has slugged .446 during his 19 years. Derek has the 10th most hits in MLB history and the most among active players with 3,316 hits. If Jeter can collect 119 hits, he will move into 6th place. If he can garner 198, which will be difficult and probably unlikely, Jeter can pass Tris Speaker for 5th place on the all time list. Jeter is currently ranked 12th in runs scored, but has the chance to move into the 9th spot, if he can score 73 runs during the season.

After Jeter flew into the stands Courtesy of ESPN.com
After Jeter flew into the stands
Courtesy of ESPN.com

Although Jeter’s offense has made him one of the best shortstops in MLB history, many people have questioned his defensive ability. Throughout Jeter’s career, many scouts and people in baseball have criticized his range and true value on defense. The defensive metrics do not favor Jeter. His Defensive WAR, -9.2, is the reason why he does not rate well compared to other great shortstops in MLB history. Jeter has posted a positive dWAR only 3 times during his career. Although Jeter does not have great range, he is one of the most sure handed shortstops in the league. Many managers and executives have noted that they would not want any other player, but Derek Jeter to make a play with 2 outs in the ninth. Although Gold Gloves have lost their value because many feel the selections are a popularity contest, he has won 5 Gold Gloves during his illustrious career.

Mr. November Courtesy of Newsday
Mr. November
Courtesy of Newsday

While the regular season has made Derek Jeter one of the best players in history, his postseason career has made him a legend and an immortal. Jeter has played nearly an entire season, 158 games, in his postseason career. Remarkably, Jeter’s postseason stats are similar to his regular season stats, which is rare for a great player. Jeter has batted .308 with 20 home runs, 61 RBI, 18 stolen bases, 200 hits, 111 runs, and played in 16 of the last 18 playoffs with the Yankees. He has also played in the most playoff games, which has allowed him to record the most at-bats, plate appearances, runs scored, hits, total bases, doubles, triples, and singles. Jeter is additionally top five in walks, RBI, and home runs. Along with his great numbers, Jeter has had many great moments, the flip play, home run against the Diamondbacks, and home run against the Orioles. These moments validated his nickname as Mr. November and Captain Clutch. If the Yankees meet expectations, he could have a chance to improve his numbers and possibly reach his 6th championship before he retires from the game.

Legacy off the Field:

The 11th Captain of the Yankees Courtesy of the NineRoute
The 11th Captain of the Yankees
Courtesy of the NineRoute

Although Jeter has been at the center of attention since he won the Rookie of the Year and led the Yankees to their first title in 18 years in 1996, he has always said the right things and has never made a major mistake like others in the past. In today’s world with constant media involvement, it is likely we will never see another superstar succeed as much on the field while maintaing a perfect image off the field. As many have noted, Jeter is the perfect captain for the Yankees because he has the ability to absorb all the pressure while maintaining a stoic complexion. Many players look up to Jeter during difficult situation because they know he will not allow his nerves to overcome himself and affect his play on the field. Unlike Alex Rodriguez, who is a superior player and has more talent, Derek has the rare ability to slow down the speed of the game and perform at the highest and most pressure filled situations. Derek has been able to keep his personal life away from the media, which limits the amount of distractions on the team and him. This talent helps explain his crazy .321 average and .384 on base percentage in World Series play. Jeter has a great work ethic which has made him a better player and has inspired his fellow teammates to improve and exceed their expectations. It is interesting that Derek announced his big news on Facebook because many people didn’t even know he had a Facebook page since he rarely posts on Facebook. Although Derek will always be remembered for his skills and talent, he will mostly be remembered as a great person and teammate that helped his teammates win and succeed.


2000 WS MVP Courtesy of Sportingnews
2000 WS MVP
Courtesy of Sportingnews

During Jeter’s great career, he has won numerous individual and team accolades, which adds to his legend. Derek Jeter broke out in his first full season when he hit .314 with 104 runs, 183 hits and won the Rookie of the Year in 1996. Although Jeter will likely never win an MVP, he has finished in the top-3 3 times and top-10 8 times. Derek has competed in 13 All-Star Games and was the first Yankee to win the All-Star Game MVP in 2000. He became the first player ever to win the All-Star Game MVP and the World Series MVP in the same season in 2000. During his career, Jeter has won 5 Silver Slugger Awards at shortstop and won 2 Hank Aaron Awards in 2006 and 2009.


Will Troy Tulowitzki be the next star shortstop for the Yankees? Courtesy of ESPN
Will Troy Tulowitzki be the next star shortstop for the Yankees?
Courtesy of ESPN

Although the future for Jeter looks bright outside of baseball because he is well known and beloved by many, the Yankees may have a difficult time finding his replacement. Currently, the Yankees do not have any viable options on their current roster or in the minor leagues. Eduardo Nunez and Branden Ryan are no full time shortstops and cannot be the shortstop to replace the great Derek Jeter. In the minors, the Yankees tried to replace Derek by drafting CJ Henry and Cito Culver, but neither have shown the ability to make the Yankees’ roster in the future. The Yankees will need to find Jeter’s replacement outside the organization, if they want to continue winning and competing for Division Titles and World Series Championships.

If the Yankees want to continue spending money and draft picks this year, they could sign Stephen Drew to a long term deal. Drew is a competent shortstop who batted .253 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI. If Drew can return to his 2008 form when he hit .291 with 21 home runs and 67 RBI, the Yankees would hit a home run with him. However, Drew’s market is remarkably down and I do not think that the Yankees should sign Stephen Drew because he is not a very good statistical performer and will face a lot of pressure in New York. After this season, the Yankees can sign a shortstop because the class is pretty deep with talent. Currently, there are three shortstops that could play for the Yankees and provide quality production, JJ Hardy, Jed Lowrie, and Asdrubal Cabrera. JJ Hardy will turn 32 during the 2015 season and has been an All-Star twice during his career. Last year, Hardy had a very good season when he hit .263 with 25 home runs and 76 RBI, while winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award. Last year, Hardy posted a WAR of over 4, which is great. Hardy may cost about $30-$36 million over about 3 years because of his recent success. Another option is Jed Lowrie, who will be 31 during the 2015 season. Lowrie has been improving over the last few years since he has been given more playing time. Last year, Lowrie hit .290 with 15 home runs, 75 RBI, and a WAR of 2.8, but a OWAR of 4.3. Although Lowrie does not have a great glove, he can hit for a good average and should be considered by the Yankees next year. Lowrie will probably demand a contract for about 3 years and $21-25 million.  Last of these three is Asdrubal Cabrera, who will be only 29 during the 2015 season. After 2 consecutive quality seasons in 2011 and 2012, when he made the All-Star team and compiled a WAR of over 4, Cabrera had a horrible season last year. Cabrera hit only .242 with 14 home runs and 64 RBI. The Yankees should consider Cabrera next offseason because he will be cheaper than the other alternatives, unless he has a big year, and has more overall potential and talent. If Cabrera can return to his 2011-2012 form, the Yankees would have a shortstop that could bat .275 with 20+ home runs and 75 RBI while playing above average defense at shortstop. Cabrera is also at least 2 years younger than the other shortstops, which means the Yankees will be receiving him during the last of his peak years, unlike the other players. If Cabrera has another poor season, the Yankees may be able to sign him for a deal similar to Lowrie, which could be a steal.


If the Yankees want to make a splash and spend a lot of money through a free agent signing or a trade, they should go after Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, or Troy Tulowitzki. After this season, Hanley Ramirez will be a free agent. In 2015, Hanley will be 31 years old, but is coming off of a great season with the Dodgers. Although he played only 86 games, he showed that he still has the talent that made him one of the best players in the game with the Marlins. During his 86 games, Ramirez hit .345 with 20 home runs, 57 RBI, and 62 RBI while finishing 8th in the MVP voting. If Hanley repeats his performance this season, he will easily make over $100 million in his next contract. Ramirez will be a perfect fit for the Yankees because he would be an improvement at the position and could fit into the middle of the order. Hanley would be able to man the position for a few years before converting to 3rd base. Hanley is a great player and the Yankees should go after him hard next offseason if he makes it to free agency. If the Yankees do not want to sign a shortstop next offseason, they should consider making a trade for one. Jose Reyes is currently on the Toronto Blue Jays, but may become available if the team fails to meet expectations during the season. Like Ramirez, Reyes was limited to only 93 games, but was effective during his time on the field. Reyes, a four time All-Star, batted .296 with 10 home runs, 57 runs, 15 stolen bases, and 37 RBI.  Reyes’ injured hamstring from  last season inhibited his explosiveness and stopped him from stealing many bases. However, when healthy, Reyes has the ability to steal 40+ bases, collect 65 extra base hits, and bat around .300 at the top of the order. However, Reyes is due a lot of money over the next 4 years of his contract. If the Yankees trade for him during the middle of the season or at the end of the year, they will owe him at least $70 – $76 million dollars over 3 – 3.5 years. Since his contract is an albatross, the Yankees may be able to include lesser prospects in the deal.

If the Yankees want to go for the home run, besides Ramirez, they should attempt to trade for Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies shortstop. Like the other stars, Tulo has been hampered by injuries over the past two season, which has limited him to only 173 games. However, Tulo has shown that he is an MVP candidate and the best shortstop in the game, when healthy. In 126 games last year, Tulo hit .312/.391/.540 with 25 home runs, 82 RBI, and 72 runs scored.  Although some of his stats may be inflated because of Coors Field, he has the potential to hit above .300 with 25+ home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs, and slug .540. Like Reyes, Tulo has a ginormous contract. If the Yankees trade for him at the deadline, they will owe him at least $126 million over 6.5 years, plus they can exercise a team option which would push the deal to $136 million. If the Yankees are willing to eat the whole contract, they may be able to facilitate the deal, although their farm system is depleted. If they were to make a deal, they probably would have to part ways with Gary Sanchez, a pitcher, Nova or Pineda, and maybe another prospect.


Pics and Stats from ESPN.com and BaseballReference.com