2012 AL East Preview

FANIQ MLB Preview - Who Will Win the 3 Team AL East Battle Royale?

4/4/12 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

The AL East has been the toughest division in baseball in recent history, and last year was no exception. While the Yankees won 97 games, tops in the AL, the Rays and Red Sox of course were the players in one of the greatest September comebacks/collapses in history. This year, all three of the division’s superpowers are back, and now have an extra playoff spot to fight over. Given the new rules though, winning the division should be paramount. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays continue to be on the ascent, and could push their way into the conversation soon. As for my Orioles? Well, we’ll always have Game 162 and knocking Boston out of the playoffs.
 
Here is FanIQ’s preview and predictions for the American League East.
 
1. ) Tampa Bay Rays
 
Projected Lineup:
CF Desmond Jennings
RF Ben Zobrist
3B Evan Longoria
1B Carlos Pena
LF Matt Joyce
DH Luke Scott
2B Jeff Keppinger
SS Sean Rodriguez
C Jose Molina
 
Projected Rotation:
James Shields
David Price
Jeremy Hellickson
Matt Moore
Jeff Niemann
 
Closer: Kyle Farnsworth
 
The best front office has put together yet another contender on a bargain basement budget. On offense, the Rays picked up Carlos Pena and Luke Scott. They both come with risks; Pena has to at least keep his average about .230 and Scott needs to stay healthy. However, both should provide some needed pop. The Rays will also enjoy a full season from top prospect Desmond Jennings, and most important of all, a bounce back season for Longoria. His .244/.355/.495 line last year was mediocre for him, but he was hampered by a very unlucky .239 BABIP (average for hitters is about .300). Assuming that figure bounces back like it should, Longoria should be an MVP candidate. The rest of the lineup is a little soft, but Joe Maddon uses his entire bench more than any other manager in the league, so expect a lot of variation, especially once BJ Upton comes back from injury.
 
The rotation though is the true strength of this ball club. Shields and Price are studs. Hellickson was a bit hit lucky last year, but is still a very solid pitcher. Niemann’s as good a fifth starter as you’ll find in baseball. Of course, the man who’s the talk of the staff is Matt Moore. He’s a consensus top three prospect in baseball, and the consensus top prospect in baseball. His performance in September and the ALDS show it’s not just hype. In addition to these five, the Rays have envious rotation depth. Waiting in the wings in case of injury, they have guys like Jake McGee and Wade Davis (currently in the bullpen), and Chris Archer (prospect from the Matt Garza trade). Having capable replacements is huge given how rarely a rotation gets through 162 games intact.
 
Most pundits are picking the Yankees for the division, but both them and Boston have pitching questions the Rays don’t have. That’s enough for me to go “What the hell?” and get on the Tampa bandwagon. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone anymore.
 
Projected Record: 96-66
 
2.) New York Yankees
 
Projected Lineup:
SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
2B Robinson Cano
3B Alex Rodriguez
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
C Russell Martin
DH Raul Ibanez
LF Brett Gardner
 
Projected Rotation:
CC Sabathia
Hiroki Kuroda
Phil Hughes
Ivan Nova
Freddy Garcia
 
Closer: Mariano Rivera
 
The Yankees went through most of the offseason having not addressed their starting pitching weakness. With fans getting nervous, New York appeared to have solved the problem in about 6 hours in January, trading super prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for Michael Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda. Add those two with Sabathia and Nova, and presto! Another division winner. Right? Well, it’s not that simple. Both Pineda and Kuroda are coming from pitchers’ parks to New Yankee Stadium and its short porch in right field. No one expects either to collapse, but it’s something to consider. Of course, in the short term, the bigger concern is Michael Pineda’s shoulder injury. He doesn’t need surgery, which is good news, but the longer Pineda is out, the more the Yankees have to hope Phil Hughes can stay healthy and that Freddy Garcia still has some pixie dust left from last year, at least until Andy Pettite is ready to take his comeback to the majors. Expect a bit of a step back for Nova as well. He’s not a bad pitcher by any means, but he doesn’t miss enough bats to be a top of the line guy, and is almost certainly not going 16-4 again.
 
Meanwhile, the lineup for the most part looks ready to roll again. The concern here is age. The Yankees have only three starters under 30, and Gardner is the youngest of those three at 28. Jeter and A-Rod are clearly in decline, while new DH Ibanez has fallen off a cliff against lefties. It’s not all bad of course. Granderson and Cano are still studs in their prime, and Teixeria is another guy who had bad luck last year (.239 BABIP) who should regress (progress in this case) to the mean. Bottom line is the Yankees will score a lot of runs unless those aged players all tumble at once.
 
Speaking of older players, rumors are flying this is Mariano Rivera’s last season. I don’t mention bullpens a lot in these previews because they are so hard to predict. Rivera is the eternal exception though, and even at 42, it’s hard to see that not being the case yet again.
 
Most experts are picking the Yankees to win the division, which makes sense given their talent. I’ll admit I’m making a gut pick, but I’m just not sold on that pitching depth.
 
Projected Record: 94-68
 
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4/5/12   |   King_Cardinal   |   2672 respect

The Rays will win the division because they have the pitching and stellar farm system to win it. The Yanks are getting old, but still effective on offense.  Boston has a great lineup, but a subpar pitching rotation. The O's are still rebuliding.  The only team I think could challenge them is the Toronto Blue Jays because they have an excellent offense led by Jose Bautista and a very solid pitching staff.

4/5/12   |   niyolajuniosant   |   2 respect

yes i believe you will do better this year

4/5/12   |   w_g_walters   |   223 respect

Looks right to me. The Rays actually disappointed last year and should have done much better, while the BoSox are going to start fading out of contention this year.