Tag Archives: Nelson Cruz

Biggest Surprise for each MLB team

By: Jon

 

Arizona Diamondbacks – Chris Owings

The 22 year old rookie shortstop for the Diamondbacks has been one of the few bright spots for the struggling Diamondbacks, who own the fourth worst record in the league. Owings has played in 58 games this season and has been a solid hitter. Owings has hit .276 with 20 extra base hits and 22 runs. On defense, Owings is one of the best shortstops in the major league baseball with a defensive WAR of 1.1. Due to his great defense and efficient hitting, Owings has the highest WAR on the Diamondbacks.

Atlanta Braves – Julio Tehran

Although the Braves were expecting a solid season from their 23 year old starting pitcher, they did not expect him to be one of the best pitchers in the league. Tehran ranks first in MLB in ERA, 1.89, and second in WHIP, 0.93. Unlike his first year in the bigs last season, Tehran has pitched deep into games. Tehran has thrown his only 2 complete games and shutouts this season while placing sixth in innings pitched. Although Tehran has pitched great, he has only six wins, which could hinder his chances at the Cy Young Award, if he can continue his excellence.

Baltimore Orioles – Nelson Cruz

After missing the final 50 games of the season because of his involvement in the PED, Cruz had to settle for a one year $8M deal with the Baltimore Orioles. However, the deal will probably be the best deal of the offseason. This season, Cruz is having a remarkable year, hitting 21 home runs, 55 RBI, 42 Runs, and .307 average. Cruz is leading the entire major leagues in home runs and RBI and ranks second in slugging percentage and OPS. Although he will not maintain his torrent pace of 57 home runs and 149 RBI, he has been an absolute steal for the Orioles and will likely post the best stats of his career.

Boston Red Sox – Clay Buchholz

After winning the World Series last season, the Red Sox are in danger of totally missing the playoffs. Although Buchholz has been frequently injured, he has been a great pitcher when he was on the mound. However, this season, he has not been the ace of the staff, but rather the worst starting pitcher on the team. Before Buchholz went down with a knee injury, he was 2-4 with an ERA over 7.00 and a WHIP near 2.00. During his 10 starts, Buchholz only pitched 7 innings once while pitching less than 5 innings 5 times. Also, Buchholz has allowed at least 10 hits three times and at least 5 runs 4 times.

Clay Buchholz Courtesy of The Boston Globe
Clay Buchholz
Courtesy of The Boston Globe

 

Chicago Cubs – Jason Hammel

The Cubs signed Hammel this offseason in hope that he would pitch well enough to trade at the trade deadline. Hammel has exceeded expectations this season, posting an ERA of 2.53 and a WHIP of 0.88. Hammel’s WHIP is second lowest in the entire Major League. Hammel’s performances have stabilized the Cubs’ rotation and have allowed the Cubs to play good baseball the last two weeks. Hammel has given the Cubs length, seven innings in 7 games. Although Hammel’s pitching has been important, his veteran leadership has permeated through the young Cubs’ locker room.

Chicago White Sox – Jose Abreu

The Cuban rookie has been one of the best players in the league, which has set up a great competition for the AL Rookie of the Year with Masahiro Tanaka. Although Abreu was on the DL for 15 days, he ranks second in the MLB in home runs, 17, seventh in RBI, 47, and third in slugging, .592. During his first month, Abreu set the record for the most home runs by a rookie before May. Although people questioned the White Sox’s decision this offseason, he makes his contract look like a bargain because of his power. Last season, the White Sox ranked 29th in runs scored, but they are currently ranked fifth.

Jose Abreu Courtesy of CBS Sports
Jose Abreu
Courtesy of CBS Sports

 

Cincinnati Reds – Johnny Cueto

Similar to Tehran, the Reds expected Cueto to have a solid season, but he has been one of the three best pitchers in the league. During the first third of the season, Cueto ranks second in ERA, 1.97, first in WHIP, 0.79, sixth in strikeouts, 97, second in innings, 96.0, and fifth in WAR, 3.0. Although Cueto has been great, the Reds have given him no run support, which has resulted in 5 losses compared to only 5 wins. During a 6 game stretch, Cueto pitched 51 of 54 innings, including 3 complete games, while allowing only 5 runs and accumulating 3 wins.

Cleveland Indians – Justin Masterson

Although the Indians made the postseason last year, they are barely above 500 this season. One reason that they have been unable to repeat their success is Justin Masterson’s inconsistency. Last season, Masterson pitched to an ERA of 3.45 and the Indians were expecting another solid season from their ace before they gave him a long term deal. However, his ERA has ballooned to 4.61, while winning only 4 games. Also, his WHIP is .3 points higher than last season. Lately, Masterson has been even worse, only one quality start in the last 6 contests. Over the past 3 seasons, Masterson has averaged 205 innings, but he is on pace to pitch only 190 innings.

Colorado Rockies – Charlie Blackmon

In his first full season in the big league, Blackmon has been a key cog for the Rockies and has a chance to make the NL All-Star team. Before this season, Blackmon played more than 80 games only once because he was behind stuck behind Dexter Fowler in center. Blackmon has done everything for the Rockies on offense because he has speed, power, and contact. Blackmon ranks second on the team in home runs, 11, RBI, 40, runs, 38, hits, 68, triples, 1, oWAR, 1.5, and total bases, 112. Blackmon is a solid base runner as well, the most steals on the team.

Detroit Tigers – Joe Nathan

The Tigers have been receiving quality production from their high priced stars except for Joe Nathan. Last season, the Tigers lost in the ALCS because their bullpen was unable to capitalize on the great performances from their starting rotation. The Tigers hoped that the addition of Joe Nathan would stabilize their bullpen and allow them to take the next step forward to a championship. However, Nathan has been horrible as the closer with an ERA of 7.04 and a WHIP of 1.57. Nathan has blown 4 of his 17 save opportunities, even though he blew only 3 saves last season.

Joe Nathan Courtesy of Detroit News
Joe Nathan
Courtesy of Detroit News

 

Florida Marlins – Giancarlo Stanton

After a horrible season, many questioned his ability to hit without protection and in the Marlins’ new cavernous stadium. Stanton is on pace to put together his best season of his career. On offense, Stanton has hit 17 home runs, first in the NL, 53 RBI, second in the Major League, .301 average, highest of his career, .589 slugging, fifth in the majors, .982 OPS, fifth in the majors, and 4.3 WAR, third in the majors. On defense, Stanton has posted the best statistical season of his career in terms of Defensive WAR. After a combined DWAR of -1.0 over the past three seasons, Stanton has a DWAR of 1.2.

Houston Astros – Dallas Keuchel

For the first time in the last three seasons, the Astros are on pace to lose less than 100 games. The 26 year old starting pitcher has been the ace of the Astros’ staff. During his first twelve starts, Dallas has been incredibly consistent and has put together 10 quality starts. Dallas has accumulated seven wins, 2.50 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and 7 strikeouts. Over the past five games, Dallas has been fantastic and pitched 2 complete game shutouts and one six inning shutout. Dallas should continue pitching at a high level and lead the young Dallas rotation.

Kansas City Royals – Mike Moustakas

The former top prospect for the Royals has not met expectations and is bordering on bust. Along with Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, Mike was set to be a powerful and formidable bat in the middle of the Royals’ order. However, Mike is currently batting .151 with only four home runs, 20 RBI, 10 runs, and .303 slugging percentage. Mike was so bad that the Royals needed to demote him the minor leagues and recently brought him back up to the majors. Overall Moustakas has cost the Royals 0.4 wins this season although he adds 0.3 wins on defense.

Mike Moustakas Courtesy of USA Today
Mike Moustakas
Courtesy of USA Today

 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – David Freese

The former World Series MVP for the St. Louis Cardinals was acquired by the Angels this offseason. However, Freese has not met expectations. Through the first 42 games, Freese has hit only 2 home runs, 15 RBI, 17 runs, .231 average, .299 slugging percentage, and only 6 extra base hits. In terms of WAR, Freese has not added any wins above a replacement player offensive and deducted 0.1 wins on defense. Although the Angels have been playing better this season, Freese is not the reason for the Angels’ turnaround.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Dee Gordon

Last season, the Dodgers expected big things from Dee Gordon because of his great speed and ability to hit at the top of the order. The Dodgers had such little faith in Gordon that they signed a Cuban shortstop to a 4 year $28M deal. However, this season, Gordon showed the potential that excited the Dodgers. Dee is leading the league with 36 steals while batting .284 and posting an OWAR of 1.6. Also, Gordon accumulated 17 extra base hits including 6 triples while recording 33 runs. Although Gordon has great range due to his speed, he has committed 5 errors and has not added any wins in terms of DWAR.

Milwaukee Brewers – Jonathan Lucroy

The 27 year old fourth year catcher has been one of the main catalysts of the Brewers. The Brewers have been a revelation this season because of their offense led by Gomez, Lucroy, and Braun. Although Lucroy does not hit many home runs, he is a very good line drive and contact hitter. Lucroy is second in the majors in batting average with a .335 average. Although Lucroy only has 4 home runs, he has recorded 23 doubles, 28 extra base hits overall, 27 RBI, 28 runs, and a .398 on base percentage. Along with his offensive skill, his DWAR, 1.0, is the highest on the team.

Minnesota Twins – Brian Dozier

Although Dozier is a second basemen, he has impressive power and leads the team in home runs, 13. Along with Brian’s home runs, Dozier has 31 RBI, 11 doubles, .246 average, 13 steals, and .451 slugging percentage. Also, Dozier is leading the whole MLB with 53 runs. In terms of WAR, Dozier leads the team with 2.5. After a few horrible seasons, the Twins have been one of the surprises in the league and has a chance to reach .500 this season. One of the main reasons for the Twins turn around is the emergence of Brian Dozier and an improved pitching rotation.

New York Mets – Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson was the Mets biggest offseason addition because the Mets hoped that his power could give protection for David Wright. However, Granderson has not provided the power or formidable bat that the Mets were expecting when they gave him a long term deal. Although the Mets were expecting Granderson to strike out over 25% of the time and possess a .221 average, they hoped that Granderson would hit more than 8 home runs, drive in more than 30 RBI, and 28 runs. Without the Yankees’ right field porch, Granderson has been unable to reproduce his gaudy power numbers.

Curtis Granderson Courtesy of New York Times
Curtis Granderson
Courtesy of New York Times

 

New York Yankees – Dellin Betances

Although the Yankees had high hopes for Betances when he was in the minors a few seasons ago, he could not locate his pitches and many believed that he would not make a significant impact on the major league team. Although Betances is not a closer, he is incredibly important to the bullpen because he can pitch multiple innings. However, his best attribute is his ability to strike out batters and his nasty fastball-slurve combination. Over 36 innings of work, Betances has struck out 61 batters, 15.25 K/9, which ranks fourth in the majors. Along with his great strikeout numbers, he has an ERA of 1.50 and a WHIP of 0.75

Oakland Athletics – Brandon Moss

After an impressive last year, Moss backed up his quality numbers with great numbers. This season, Moss has shown his ability to hit for average, .279, which leads the team, and power, 16 home runs, which is second on the team. Moss’s biggest asset could be his ability to drive in runs, 53 RBI, second in MLB, and 31 runs. Along with Josh Donaldson, Moss has provided pop to the middle of the A’s rotation, which has allowed them to have the best record in the AL. Although he does not carry a great glove, his bat makes him one of the best players on the best team.

Philadelphia Phillies – Domonic Brown

The Phillies’ young left fielder had a fantastic season last year and showed his power. However, this season, the inability of Brown to add his home run potential to the middle of the lineup has led the Phillies to the worst record in the NL East. Through 59 games, Brown has 4 home runs and 13 extra base hits. Along with his lack of power, Brown is batting .218/.268/.322, which gives him an OWAR of -0.8. On defense, Brown does not make the team better and supports an DWAR of -0.5.

Domonic Brown Courtesy of Phillies Nation
Domonic Brown
Courtesy of Phillies Nation

 

Pittsburgh Pirates – Tony Watson

The 29 year old third year reliever from the Pirates as been surprisingly great for the Pirates this season. The lefty Watson pitches with a 94 mph fastball, but has started using his changeup, which has allowed him to thrive. Before this season, Watson averaged less than one strikeout per inning and an ERA above 2.75. However, he has been great during his 29 innings. During his 29 innings, he has an ERA of 0.93, WHIP of 1.03, 15 holds, 5-0 record, 35 strikeouts, and a K/9 of 10.86. Although the Pirates have not been the same team this season, Watson has enabled them to almost reach 500 and he has a WAR of 1.5.

San Diego Padres – Jedd Gyorko

The Padres recently signed Jedd Gyorko to a long term deal and hoped that he would be part of their core for the future. However, through the first third of the season, Gyorko has been awful and the Padres will not been the darkhouse team to make the playoffs. On offense, Gyorko provides nothing because he is hitting .162 with 5 home runs, 24 RBI, 13 runs, .213 on base percentage, and .270 slugging percentage. His offensive WAR is -0.9. On defense, Jedd has a DWAR of -0.3 and has committed 6 errors.

 San Francisco Giants – Tim Hudson

The former ace of the Braves and A’s is putting together the best season of his career at age 38. During his first 12 starts, Hudson has been one of the best pitchers in the league, even though many teams passed over him during the offseason. Hudson ranks second in MLB in ERA, 1.97 and fifth in WHIP, 0.96, while posting a 6-2 record for the first place Giants. After the Giants experienced a horrible season last year, Hudson has provided veteran leadership and a consistent proven winner to the rotation. Along with the Giants’ improved offense, Hudson has added another reliable pitcher to the Giants’ talented rotation.

Tim Hudson Courtesy of Mercury News
Tim Hudson
Courtesy of Mercury News

 

Seattle Mariners – Fernando Rodney

Last season, Rodney was expected to be a star closer for the Tampa Bay Rays, but blew 8 saves and recorded an ERA of 3.38. His horrendous season left him jobless, but the Mariners took a chance on him this offseason. Unlike previous seasons, the bullpen is not blowing the great starts by their fabulous starting rotation. Rodney has been able to stabilize the Mariners bullpen and they have a chance at making the playoffs. Rodney ranks third in MLB with 18 saves while only blowing 2 saves. Also, Rodney has recorded an 2.19 ERA while striking out more than 9 batters per nine innings.

St. Louis Cardinals – Matt Holliday

Although the Cardinals have a deep lineup, they have not performed at a high level and the Cardinals are barely over 500. One of the main culprits is Matt Holliday. Although Holliday has been one of the most consistent hitters over the past decade, Holliday has been unable to produce at the plate. During the first 62 games, Holliday has hit only 2 home runs, 29 RBI, 31 runs, .368 slugging percentage while compiling only a .264 average. On defense, Holliday does not add any help and he has the lowest DWAR on the squad, -0.4.

Tampa Bay Rays – David Price

This season, the Rays’ rotation has been one of the worst in the league because of the multitude of injuries. Along with the unfortunate injuries, David Price has not pitched like an ace of the staff. After winning the Cy Young two years ago, Price has an ERA of 3.97, WHIP of 1.15, and only 8 quality starts in the last 14 games. Price has lost more games than he has won, which is inexcusable for the ace of the staff. Price has been beaten by the long ball, 13 home runs, which must change if the Rays are going to turn around their season.

David Price Courtesy of Zimbio
David Price
Courtesy of Zimbio

 

Texas Rangers – Alex Rios

The veteran outfielder has been a major surprise for the Texas Rangers, who are struggling to stay alive in the competitive AL West. Rios was acquired last season, but the Rangers are reaping the benefits this season. Rios is leading the AL in average, .335. Along with his high average, he has been a very good line drive hitter, which has resulted in numerous extra base hits, including 8 triples and 14 doubles. Along with his solid average, he has recorded 32 RBI, 29 runs, and 1.1 OWAR.

Toronto Blue Jays – Mark Buehrle

The veteran Blue Jay has been a revelation for the surprising first place Blue Jays. Although the Blue Jays are known for their great offense, the pitching has been the reason why they are playing great baseball. During his first 13 starts, Mark has accumulated 11 quality starts and 10 wins while losing only 2 games. Although Buehrle has a high WHIP, 1.20, he has limited these base runners from scoring and has an ERA of 2.04. Buehrle has been incredibly consistent this season and has allowed more than 3 runs only once. Along with his consistency, he is an innings eater for the Blue Jays, who have a below average bullpen.

Washington Nationals – Rafael Soriano

The Washington Nationals’ closer has revitalized this season and is pitching very well. Last season, Soriano recorded 43 saves, but blew 6 saves, WAR of 0.9, ERA of 3.11, and a WHIP of 1.23. However, this season, all of his stats have improved and he has become one of the best closers in the league. Soriano has recorded 12 saves while compiling an ERA of 1.13, WHIP of 0.96, WAR of 1.2, and has blown only 2 saves all season. Soriano has been through pressure filled situations and should be able to handle the stress down the stretch.

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

How the MLB suspensions will affect the MLB playoff race

By: Jon

Tomorrow, August 5, 2013, will be remembered as one of the best and worst days in MLB history. Bud Selig suspended twelve players for 50 games and one player for 211 games, I bet you could not guess this player. Although it will always be remembered because so many talented players were suspended for such a long time. Some of the influences already occurred during the trade deadline. However, some of these repercussions will affect future outcomes like free agency, teams chances of making the playoffs, and teams chances of winning the World Series.

Commissioner Bud Selig Courtesy of NY Daily News
Commissioner Bud Selig
Courtesy of NY Daily News

The Detroit Tigers were one of the teams affected by the Biogenesis saga because their starting shortstop, Jhonny Peralta, was suspended for the rest of the season. Although the loss of Peralta would not have affected their chances of making the playoffs, the Tigers will not have a solid bat at shortstop during their playoff run. The Detroit Tigers are 65-45 and hold a four game lead over the Cleveland Indians. ESPN predicts that the Tigers have a 95.1% chance of making the playoffs and I agree with the prediction. Jhonny Peralta was having a great year for the Detroit Tigers. Peralta is batting .309 with 11 HR and 54 RBI and was voted to his first All-Star Game this season. Since the Tigers are a win now team and have spent millions on their current team. The Tigers cold not go into the postseason with a bad shortstop, who has little talent. Since the Tigers did not have a replacement for Peralta, the Tigers were forced to give up one of their best prospects for Peralta’s replacement, Jose Iglesias. In a trade that netted the Red Sox Jake Peavy, the Tigers were forced to trade Avisail Garcia, a possible future All-Star. Besides for having to play a worse player on offense, the Tigers needed to forfeit one of their best prospects for Peralta’s replacement. The Tigers can blame Jhonny Perlta and the White Sox should thank Jhonny Peralta if Avisail Garcia fulfills his talent and becomes a future star for the next decade.

Jhonny Peralta
Jhonny Peralta

The Texas Rangers are another team that will be greatly affected by the Biogenesis suspensions.  Besides for the Yankees, the Rangers are the team most affected by the suspensions. The Rangers lost Nelson Cruz, their starting right fielder, for the rest of the season. The loss of Nelson Cruz will be a huge loss for the Texas Rangers because he is a good hitter and a leader of the team. Nelson Cruz is the second best hitter on the team and the best power hitter on the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are two games behind the Oakland A’s and a half a game ahead of the Cleveland Indians for the second Wild Card position. However, unlike the Detroit Tigers, the Texas Rangers did not acquire a back up for the All-Star left fielder. The Texas Rangers will be forced to start Daniel Murphy at right field for the rest of the playoff race. Although Daniel Murphy is a solid fourth outfielder and a good pinch hitter, Murphy cannot be the starter at the corner outfield position for the playoff team. Daniel is currently batting .227 with 12 home runs and 34 RBI. Many people did not think favorably of the Rangers trade deadline activity because they did not acquire a solid outfielder who could play when Cruz was suspended. The Rangers have one of the deepest farm systems in MLB and could have spared a few prospects for a half a year rental. The Rangers could have traded for Hunter Pence and Alex Rios.

Texas Rangers
Texas Rangers

Nelson Cruz was one of the three All-Stars from this year to be suspended for the rest of the season. Unlike the other players, Cruz will be a free agent by the end of the season. The free agent class for the upcoming winter is abnormally weak, which will be great for the few good All-Stars. Nelson Cruz is one of the few All-Stars and was inline for a huge contract. Cruz is having the best season of his career. This year, Cruz is batting .269 with 27 HR and 76 RBI. Nelson Cruz could have received a deal for about $15 million per season over about three or four years. However, the recent steroid news will drop Cruz’s value during the offseason. Many owners and managers would not want to disrupt their team’s clubhouse. Many players have spoken out against steroid users and cheaters, which would create an awkward situation in the clubhouse with Nelson Cruz. Also, GMs and managers will wonder if Cruz can reestablish himself as a player without steroids. As seen in the case of Melky Cabrera, Cruz will probably not be given a long term deal because of the question marks and controversy that follows him.

Nelson Cruz
Nelson Cruz

The team that was and will be most effected by the Biogenesis suspensions was the New York Yankees. Besides for having the most players suspended, the media has been zeroed on the Yankees over the past months because of Alex Rodriguez. The Yankees future is largely uncertain because Alex Rodriguez will appeal his suspension. Although Alex Rodriguez’s suspension will probably be reduced, his suspension will probably last long into next season. As I wrote in my other piece, the Yankees will be given a lot of flexibility and they can sign new players this offseason. (If you are interested in that article just search my name in the search window) The Yankees will continue to be heavily covered by the media as long as Alex Rodriguez is on the field. During Rodriguez’s first game, the Yankees had the best rating of the season because everyone wanted to see A-Rod play. Continue reading our articles and keeping up with the situation because it will become increasingly juicy and capitative.

Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez

More pics and stats from ESPN.com