AL East Preview

AL East Preview

by

Resident Asian Baseball Columnist

Alex Hom

My name is Alex Hom, I live and breathe baseball. I started writing about baseball two years ago, doing season previews and postseason analysis. The blog stopped due to the writers and myself being incredibly busy with work around the height of baseball. Now my good buddy Woody has signed me off the streets to write an article for everyone to enjoy.

The AL East is the toughest division in all of baseball boasting 4 teams that can claim playoff spots and a Toronto Blue Jays team that would probably be a .500 team if not for being in the AL East. Here’s my breakdown of each team:

Tampa Bay Rays (1st Place): 94-68

Projected Lineup:

1. David DeJesus, LF
2. Ben Zobrist, 2B
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. Wil Myers, RF
5. Matt Joyce, DH
6. James Loney, 1B
7. Desmond Jennings, CF
8. Yunel Escobar, SS
9. Ryan Hanigan, C

Not the craziest of lineups in the AL East, but the big name in this lineup to amaze would be Wil Myers. As a 22 year old rookie, in 88 games managed to hit .293 with 13 HR and 53 RBI’s. If extrapolated, his season line would have looked like:

.293 BA, 92 R, 42 2B’s, 24 HR’s, 98 RBI’s, 61 BB

These are amazing numbers for a rookie, considering his age and the surrounding lineup talent around him not named Evan Longoria. With his accelerated progression through the minors and Majors, I expect Myers to have an excellent sophomore campaign. Tampa will finally have that sidekick to Longoria they have been desperately wanting. Enjoy it while you can, he’ll be going to whoever loses in the Mike Trout sweepstakes.

Projected Rotation:

1. David Price
2. Matt Moore
3. Alex Cobb
4. Chris Archer
5. Jake Odorizzi

The bread and butter of this Tampa Bay team. #1-#4 in the rotation can legitimately be an ace on any team. No analysis needed except If Odorizzi falters, Hellickson is in the wings to reclaim his career and rotation spot.

Bullpen:

Not much needs to be said about the bullpen. Some reason Joe Maddon always finds a way to make it work and revive dead careers of once viable relievers (Fernando Rodney, Kyle Farnsworth, Joaquin Benoit, the list goes on). This year’s project is Heath Bell, Good Luck Maddon!

They have a reliable closer in Grant Balfour (I don’t know which god Andrew Friedman prayed to, but it worked!). As a personal bullpen philosophy, if you have a closer, the entire bullpen falls into place. When they fall into place, you have an above average bullpen.

Conclusion:

I believe Tampa Bay has the best overall collection of pitching in the division and with a full season of Wil Myers to help the offense, they will finally score enough runs to overcome the hump as a Wild Card team to division winner.

New York Yankees (2nd) 90-72 (Wildcard Team)

Project Lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. DH Alfonso Soriano
  7. 3B Kelly Johnson
  8. 2B Brian Roberts
  9. LF Brett Gardner

This is probably the worst healthy Yankee lineup I have ever seen by the Yankee standard but its an interesting lineup because other than McCann and Teixeira, everyone can run. For the first time in a while, Girardi has a lineup that can hit and runs and steal bags on a consistent basis. The Yankees will hit their bombs but they were 7th in SB’s in the entire MLB last year I expect that number to reach into the top 3. With a more balanced attack, they can be a more efficient offense, which will be handy come playoff time.

Projected Rotation:

  1. LHP CC Sabathia
  2. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
  3. RHP Masahiro Tanaka
  4. RHP Ivan Nova
  5. RHP Michael Pineda

The best way to describe the Yankee starting pitching is consistent. These guys will not blow you away, but they will be good for a sub-mid 3 ERA and double digit wins. CC has lost an incredible amount of weight to help with body control which will help with his reinvention from a power pitcher to a control pitcher. Kuroda will be good for low double digit wins and a low 3 ERA, he’s as consistent as they come. Tanaka is a wild card here. Looking strictly at his stuff, he’s at best a decent #2 starter. He has a devastating forkball which will help him get outs, but for it to be fully effective he needs to work off the fastball. His fastball has velocity, but does not have the overpowering spin/movement that most aces possess. He also needs to adjust to the American strike zone. In Japan, in my experiences from watching it, it is a wider strike zone. With a flat fastball and smaller strike zone, he’ll most likely have a rocky start to the season. Once he adjusts, he’ll be an effective pitcher, it’s just a matter of when. Is he worth the $175 Million (20 million posting fee included) the Yankees invested in him? HELL NO! I feel he’s a much more conditioned Dice-K and won’t let himself balloon to epic proportions. Nova will be solid as a #4 no more no less. The true wild card in the Yankee rotation is MIchael Pineda. Once heralded as a great young pitcher, shoulder issues have shut him down since. He has pitched well this springs: 16 IP 3 ER, 1 BB, 15K’s. If he continues to pitch like this, the Yankees have an ace and a spot in the most lopsided trades in MLB History.

Bullpen:

Replacing a legend is always tough, but as David Robertson will learn he is not that legend. He’s a great pitcher with great stuff, but will being under the microscope and scrutiny of the New York media knock him out? He’s not automatic like Mo, no one is, but he’ll get outs and saves. Other than Robertson and Matt Thornton, none of the others have shown they can pitch in a bullpen in the MLB. If they can figure it out and become effective pitchers, the Yankees will be a very good team and have a chance to take the division crown.

Conclusion

The offense will score runs whether with the long ball or small ball, they will be effective. The pitching is not on par with Tampa, but they can hold their own and be decent. I hope the Yankees get to the playoffs because who needs A-Rod?

Boston Red Sox (3rd) 83-79

Projected Lineup:

1. Shane Victorino, RF
2. Daniel Nava, LF
3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
4. David Ortiz, DH
5. Mike Napoli, 1B
6. Xander Bogaerts, SS
7. A.J. Pierzynski, C
8. Will Middlebrooks, 3B
9. Jackie Bradley/Grady Sizemore, CF

I’ll be honest, I thought this lineup would be a train wreck in 2013 and proved me wrong. So i’m back on the train wreck bandwagon!  Other than Pedroia, the key core of that lineup is in the twilight of their careers. Grady Sizemore is a talented man, but his body has been giving up on him since his final days in the Cleve, it is only a matter of time before he gets hurt and thus Bradley will most likely get most of the AB’s at center this year. The two guys with high upside are rookies (Bogaerts and Bradley). Middlebrooks was terrible last year. I’m not saying they will become a god awful offense, but they will become above average, which will be tough considering the next section.

Project Rotation

1. Jon Lester
2. John Lackey
3. Clay Buchholz
4. Jake Peavy
5. Felix Doubront

I believe Peavy is better than Dempster, but I think the starting pitching will regress this year especially Lackey. Buchholz has never been healthy a full season. The John Farrell effect was good for one year, but I don’t think it’ll work it’s magic a 2nd year.

Bullpen:

They have a good core: Uehara, Tazawa and Breslow. Look at Uehara stats from last year, it was legendary status, but like all dreams, reality sets in. He’ll have a good year but not an epic one like last year. If the rotation falters like I expect it to, this bullpen will taxed.

Conclusion:

The magical season of 2013 was magic and thus reality sets in. They will not defend their crown.

Baltimore Orioles (4th) 79-83

Projected Lineup

1. Nick Markakis, RF
2. Manny Machado, 3B*
3. Chris Davis, 1B
4. Adam Jones, CF
5. Nelson Cruz, DH
6. Matt Wieters, C
7. J.J. Hardy, SS
8. David Lough, LF
9. Jemile Weeks, 2B

Manny Machado will be out for a little bit before the season starts, but that won’t affect the offense. This was an offense machine last year, 4th in the AL last year in runs scored. With the addition of Nelson Cruz and the looming Jonathan Schoop who could win the 2B job as camp breaks. They won’t struggle to score runs. I expect a recession from Chris Davis.

Projected Rotation:

1. Ubaldo Jimenez
2. Chris Tillman
3. Wei-Yin Chen
4. Bud Norris
5. Miguel Gonzalez

This rotation is not awful, this rotation is not amazing, but it’s average. This rotation lacks a true ace, they have a rotation of guys who will give mid 3 ERA’s, AT BEST! I believe Chen will have a good year, he was hurt a good amount in 2013 after having a decent 2012 adjusting to the MLB. I expect them to be improved from last year’s rotation where they were 27th out of 30 teams in Starter ERA. They have no way to go but UP!

Bullpen

Quick look at the stats of 2012 BAL bullpen! Are you amazed by the stats and how filthy that bullpen was? And in a quick 2 years, only 1 man remains! Darren O’Day is the highlander! Seriously!! 2 years and this bullpen has become a shell of its former self. This bullpen will need a lot of patching, Tommy Hunter cannot continue down the path of excellence and O’Day is not getting any younger. This will be perhaps the weakness of this BAL team.

Conclusion:

The birds have the offense that can go blow for blow with anyone, but with that pitching staff, they will lose a lot of games.

Toronto Blue Jays (5th) 75-87

Project Lineup:

  1. Jose Reyes, SS
  2. Jose Bautista, RF
  3. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
  4. Adam Lind, DH
  5. Colby Rasmus, CF
  6. Melky Cabrera, LF
  7. Brett Lawrie, 3B
  8. Dioner Navarro, C
  9. Ryan Goins, 2B

The lineup was decent last year even with the injuries all across the board. I expect them to be a top 5 offense when fully healthy. They can score, but can they prevent other teams from scoring is the problem.

Project Rotation:

  1. R.A. Dickey
  2. Mark Buehrle
  3. Brandon Morrow
  4. Drew Hutchison
  5. Dustin McGowan

“If it’s broke, don’t fix it” has been the motto for the Toronto GM. This rotation was 2nd to last in rotation ERA. R.A Dickey and Buehrle are both on the wrong side of 30 and continue to be back-end rotation guys disguised as aces. Every year all pundits and observers say, “Brandon Morrow will finally break out, you cannot deny his stuff.” And every year, we look forward to saying that again next year. Drew Hutchinson has won a spot out of camp, but is 1 3/4 years removed from Tommy John surgery, he should be back to his normal self. He is a young pitcher, so I have yet to see him pitch and thus cannot gauge the type of year he will have. Dustin McGowan has not pitched as a starter in the MLB since 2011 and tearing his rotator cuff. Even when healthy, he was not an effective starter. The bottom line, this rotation is terrible and needs to be dismantled, hopefully Hutchinson can be the saving grace.

Bullpen

The only saving grace for the Blue Jay pitching soul. They are built with solid guys that can get outs. No one there is an elite reliever but you can say that everyone will not have an ERA lower than 3.50, not many bullpens can say that.

Conclusion: 

A hitting team with a decent bullpen and a god awful rotation, sounds like the mid 90’s Cleveland Indians. In today’s MLB, these teams will not work, expect the GM to be fired after the season is over. Toronto had a very good farm system before the Marlin/Met trades, no reinforcements are coming. This team will be in a lot of games due to its offense, but with the rotation they have now, they will not be competing in any postseason games for many years to come.

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2 thoughts on “AL East Preview

  1. Pingback: Archive | Woods Baseball

  2. Pingback: Season Previews Archive | Woods Baseball

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