Sunday, March 8, 2015

2015 MLB preview, part 4: AL East breakdown

Now, we turn our attention to the AL East. We've previously pegged the Yankees to finish 4th. As for the rest of the division, well, let's just say we disagree with the majority.

1. Toronto. 22 years after their last World Series title, and 2 years after everyone and his brother assumed the drought would end, the AL East title will finally move back north of the border. Native sons Russell Martin (Pittsburgh) & Michael Saunders (Seattle) have been brought in to bolster the offense. Toronto swapped third basemen with Oakland, getting Josh Donaldson in exchange for Brett Lawrie. The intention, according to some wags, is to have slugger Edwin Encarnacion as the DH, perhaps to minimalize the risk of injury. Encarnacion had been splitting time at first with Adam Lind, but Lind is gone (Milwaukee), replaced by Justin Smoak (Seattle). For now, the Blue Jays are carrying three catchers, with Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole retained from last year.

2. Boston. Remember when Toronto was the sexy pick in 2013? Or when Miami was thought to win the NL East in 2012? The so-called experts have short memories.

After gutting their starting rotation last season, the Red Sox reloaded by welcoming back Justin Masterson, who was a summer rental for St. Louis, and signing Wade Miley (Arizona), Rick Porcello (Detroit), and reliever Anthony Varvaro (Atlanta). Of course you know about their offensive additions in Pablo Sandoval (San Francisco) and Hanley Ramirez (Dodgers), but the head-shaker is moving Ramirez into the outfield. What if Xander Bogaerts struggles? How soon does Red Sox Nation call for Ramirez, a former Boston draft pick, to move back to his original position at short? Sandoval's signing made Will Middlebrooks expendable (San Diego), and upgrades the offense all in one move. Of course, the Kung Fu Panda will have 3 World Series rings to motivate his new mates.

3. Baltimore. You know Buck Showalter will have his team contending to the very end. He'll get Manny Machado & Chris Davis back, although Davis still has one game left on his season-ending suspension from last year. Thing is, Davis now has an exemption to use Adderall due to an existing medical condition. Watch. A-Roid will try that defense next. Problem is, despite the returns of Machado & Davis, the Orioles still lost some offense with the departures of Nelson Cruz (Seattle) & Nick Markakis (Atlanta).

5. Tampa Bay. Good-bye, Joe Maddon (Cubs), hello, basement. The Rays mortgaged their future by dealing away 2013 AL Rookie of the Year Wil Myers (San Diego) and ace utility players Sean Rodriguez (Pittsburgh) & Ben Zobrist. To replace Myers, the Rays picked up Steven Souza, Jr. (Washington), who showed some flashes last year in a late season sample. Otherwise, Tampa is going back to square one. 7 years removed from their lone World Series appearance, they're now cannon fodder. Who'dathunk?

Projected order of finish, as if you couldn't tell:

1. Toronto.
2. Boston.
3. Baltimore.
4. Yankees.
5. Tampa Bay.

No comments: