FanIQ AL East Preview

Baseball's Toughest Division is Wide, Wide Open [FanIQ AL East Preview]

3/19/13 in MLB   |   Eric_   |   7716 respect

New York YankeesBlog Photo - FanIQ AL East Preview
 
Projected Lineup
 
RF Ichiro Suzuki
SS Derek Jeter
2B Robinson Cano
3B Kevin Youkilis
DH Travis Hafner
1B Juan Rivera
LF Brennan Boesch
CF Brett Gardner
C Chris Stewart
 
Projected Rotation
 
LHP CC Sabathia
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
LHP Andy Pettitte
RHP Phil Hughes
RHP Ivan Nova
 
Closer: RHP Mariano Rivera
 
Key Losses: OF Nick Swisher, RP Rafael Soriano, C Russell Martin, SP Freddy Garcia, 3B Eric Chavez, OF Andruw Jones, RP Derek Lowe
 
The financial goal for the Yankees is to get payroll under $189 million by next year. If they do so, they will not have to pay any luxury tax that year, and in the future will pay a lower rate. This goal showed in their offseason moves: no long-term deals and no big money deals. The problem with this strategy is it resulted in an aging, injured team with no depth. Alex Rodriguez is out at least half the year, and that’s assuming no action is taken on the Biogenesis scandal. Mark Teixeria is out the first weeks of the year (and rumored to be out longer) with a strained wrist, as is Curtis Granderson with a broken forearm. These injuries have left the Yankees scrambling, as shown by the fact that Brennan Boesch, signed last week, is in the projected starting lineup.
 
With the exception of Cano, every spot in the lineup at the moment has questions. Derek Jeter was great last season, but is now 38 and coming off the broken ankle suffered in the ALCS. Ichiro seemed to awaken in New York, but repeating it is unlikely at his age. Youkilis was brought in to replace A-Rod, but he has injury concerns of his own. Ditto Gardner, who could be a huge asset if he’s fully recovered from last year’s elbow injury. Ditto Hafner, who hasn’t been healthy in years and can only DH. However, the Yankees’ cheapness might most manifest itself at catcher, where they let Russell Martin walk to the Pirates of all teams. What’s left is either Chris Stewart (career OPS: .583) or Francisco Cervelli (career OPS: .692). Yes, the Yankees punted a position.
 
With the offense likely to struggle, at least until Granderson and Teixeria returns, it’s up to the pitching to carry the Yankees. They appear more likely to be up to the task. CC Sabathia is CC Sabathia, while Kuroda was a rare under-the-radar find for the Yankees. Andy Pettitte probably won’t have an ERA under 3 again, but can still be effective at 41. Of the younger set, Phil Hughes is an average pitcher who would be above average if he wasn’t such an extreme fly ball guy pitching in a launching pad, while the Yankees hope Ivan Nova is closer to his 2011 self this time around than his 2012 self. David Phelps will probably also make an appearance at some point, while Michael Pineda continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. Bullpen-wise, the Yankees lose Rafael Soriano, but get back Mariano Rivera for his final season. Even coming off a torn ACL and at 43, the assumption is that Rivera is still Rivera unless shown otherwise.
 
With the lineup in tatters, and the team as a whole resting on creaky, aging body parts, signs point to this being the year the Yankees collapse. However, this is still a team that won 95 games last year. The Yankees might have as big a range of potential wins as any other team in baseball. My prediction is somewhere in the middle of that range, but I truly have no idea, and neither does anyone else.
 
Projected Record: 83-79
 
Down on the Farm: The Yankees have some nice hitting talent, although the pitching side is a bit thin. Topping the list is C Gary Sanchez. Like Jesus Montero before, there’s little question he can hit, but lots of questions he can stay behind the plate. The good news he started to answer those questions last season. The bad news for Yankees fans is that he’s not close to ready for the majors and can’t help their current wasteland at catcher. A trio of outfield prospects, Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Slade Heathcott, are also worth watching.
 
Boston Red SoxBlog Photo - FanIQ AL East Preview
 
Projected Lineup
 
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
2B Dustin Pedroia
SS Stephen Drew
DH Mike Napoli
RF Shane Victorino
3B Will Middlebrooks
LF Jonny Gomes
1B Lyle Overbay
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
 
(Note: This lineup assumes David Ortiz will miss the start of the season due to the recurrence of his Achilles injury.)
 
Projected Rotation
 
LHP Jon Lester
RHP Clay Buchholz
RHP Ryan Dempster
LHP Felix Doubront
RHP John Lackey
 
Closer: RHP Joel Hanrahan
 
Key Losses: OF Cody Ross, IF Mike Aviles, SP Aaron Cook, SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, RP Mark Melancon
 
Well, last year went well, didn’t it? After the disaster of 2012, Red Sox brass took a reasonable approach to the offseason, signing guys that can contribute for a team that isn’t allow to fully rebuild, but not committing to any big money deals. The exception was Victorino, who the team gave 3 years and $39 million to continue his decline phase. Napoli signed a similar deal, but it dropped to 1 year at $5 million due to a hip issue. Once Ortiz is healthy, Napoli will likely play mostly first base while possibly catching now and then (not likely though due to the signing of David Ross to timeshare with Salty). Speaking of Big Papi, he was great last year (he would’ve led the league in OPS had he qualified), but couldn’t stay healthy. It’s not a good sign that his Achilles are both bothering him again. Health is also a concern to various degrees on the rest of the major players in this lineup: Pedroia, Middlebrooks, and especially Ellsbury. Stephen Drew also is a question mark as he hasn’t looked right since his 2011 broken ankle (if he’s hurt, shortstop goes to all-glove Jose Iglesias). If everyone were healthy, then it’s not a bad lineup, but what are the odds of that?
 
Pitching of course was why last year was such a disaster for Boston. Of the returning starters, Buchholz had the lowest ERA with 4.56. Jon Lester looks the same, but his strike out rate keeps dropping and his ERA keeps rising. He probably won’t be as bad as last year, but he’s also probably not a top of the line starter anymore. Ryan Dempster was signed to a 2 year deal to stabilize things. It’s not without risk, because of the move to the AL East, and the fact he wasn’t very good once traded to Texas, but more or less he should do the job. Doubront can strike guys out, which is good, but walks too many guys in the process, which is bad. He’s still the closest thing this rotation has to potential. Who knows what Lackey will do. The bullpen was also terrible in 2012, and probably can’t get worse, even though new closer Hanrahan is a regression candidate due to being walk and homer prone.
 
Better because they can’t be worse is a good way to describe the 2013 Red Sox. The Gonzalez-Beckett trade cleared up a lot of resources, but the team has rightly decided not to use those resources until the time is right. While Boston could surprise, the time is probably not quite right.
 
Projected Record: 78-84
 
Down on the Farm: SS Xander Bogaerts had a break out year, hitting AA at age 19 and hitting well in limited time while showing he can stick at short. As such, he’s now a top 10 prospect in baseball.
OF Jackie Bradley, Jr. had an excellent pro debut in 2012, and the South Carolina product is on track to soon make that Victorino contract even worse than it already is, or make Ellsbury expendable given Bradley’s plus glove in center. Those two are the top guys in Boston’s rebuilding system. On the pitching side, SP Allen Webster came from the Dodgers in last year’s big trade, and has #2 starter potential.

Last year my Orioles had a season for the record books and the story books. What will they do for an encore? Find out what I think, but definitely not hope, on the next page.
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3/20/13   |   huskerdoug2009   |   2790 respect

I do believe this is the year someone other than the Yanks/Red Sox have the chance to win this division.  My money is on the Orioles do to agreement with Steve on Rays losing Upton/Shields plus Longoria's inability lately to play full season.  Also R.A. Dickey I believe will not have the same season in Toronto as he did with Mets, although Blue Jays offense and fairly good starting pitching puts them in decent #2 spot. 

3/19/13   |   OneStepBeyond   |   36 respect

Good job on the detailed preview. This whole division is up for grabs, so many unanswered questions. I think you're being very generous on Tampa Bay. They lost a couple of big pieces in Shields and Upton, I can't see them being a 90 win team.