PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH:
1. NEW YORK
3. TAMPA BAY
NEW YORK YANKEES
MANAGER: JOE GIRARDI
LAST YEAR: 103-59
BIGGEST ADD: JAVIER VASQUEZ RHP
BIGGEST LOSS: HIDECKI MATSUI DH
TOP PROSPECT: JESUS MONTERO C
The Yankees ended their brief hiatus from the playoffs, and in decisive fashion. The Bombers went out and fortified a staff with Sabathia and Burnett, and found a killer role for Phil Hughes who solidified the bullpen. This year they went out and picked up Vasquez. That now gives the Yankees three of the six pitchers to log 900+ innings and 900+ strikeouts over the last five years. They fortified an already strong lineup with Nick Johnson, who is always on base, and Granderson to play CF. It gives the Yankees more speed and defense in the outfield, and Bret Gradner is likely to get the chance in LF. The Yankees staff is very strong, when you consider that Joba Chamberlain is the No. 5 starter, and Rivera at the back of the pen shows no signs of age.
MANAGER: TERRY FRANCONA
LAST YEAR: 95-67
BIGGEST ADD: JOHN LACKEY
BIGGEST LOSS: JASON BEY
TOP PROSPECT: MICHAEL BOWDEN RHP
The Red Sox let Jason Bey go and used the money to fortify the staff with a top of the rotation pitcher in John Lackey. The BoSox have been consistent over the last five years as they have won either 95 or 96 games in four of them. The Sox bolstered their defense by adding Cameron, Beltre and Scutaro. The Sox rotation looks set from top to bottom and if they can get bounceback years from Matsuzaka, and if Bucholz turns things around, they will be right with the Yankees for the top honors in the AL East. The Red Sox have a top closer in Papelbon, and had good years from Bard and Ramirez and appear to be fine there. The biggest question is in the middle of the lineup with a declining Ortiz and oft-injured Victor Martinez, and Youkilus off a career year. They have the pitching to be a 100-win team. Will it be enough?
MANAGER: JOE MADDON
LAST YEAR: 84-78
BIGGEST ADD: RAFAEL SORIANO RHP
BIGGEST LOSS: AKINORI IWAMURA 2B
TOP PROSPECT: WADE DAVIS RHP
The Rays slipped last year as Upton and Navvaro had very poor years, but the nuculeus is in place to contend for a playoff spot. The lineup can produce a lot of runs with Langoria in the midle, and the Rays are loaded with a lot of good young arms. If some of that talent translates to the big league level, the Rays are going to win a lot more than the 84 games they won a year ago. Shields, Garza and Price, all must have big years for the Rays to get into the 90s in terms of wins, With a breakthrough from either Davis, McGee or Hellickson, the Rays could be in the hunt.
MANAGER: DAVE TREMBLEY
LAST YEAR: 64-98
BIGGEST ADD: KEVIN MILLWOOD RHP
BIGGEST LOSS: CHRIS RAYÂ RHP
TOP PROSPECT: BRIAN MATUSZÂ LHP
The Orioles avoided 100 losses a year ago…barely. The Orioles are stockpiling some good young talent, and the middle of the order is growing in production. Baltimore has some young, but talented arms and even though the AL East is loaded, the Orioles might still add a few wins over a year ago. Kevin Millwood will add some depth and experience to a young staff, and look for Jeremy Guthrie to have a bounce-back year. Catcher Matt Weiters got a taste of the bigs a year ago, and should be more productive this season. The pen will determine if the O’s can get some wins to improve upon last season, and I look for this team to add about eight wins, but still far shy of contending.
MANAGER: CITO GASTON
LAST YEAR: 75-87
BIGGEST ADD: ALEX GONZALEZ
BIGGEST LOSS: ROY HALLADAY
TOP PROSPECT: JOSH ROENICKE
The Blue Jays’ rebuilding process began last season when they allowed AJ Burnett to go free, and it was completed with the departure of Roy Halladay. The Jays just couldn’t make up ground on the Yankees and Sox, and are beginning a regeneration process – and it could be a long season in Toronto. You don’t lose the top two pitchers in baseball and stay competitive. I look for a similar result this season, with the loss of Halladay. The Jays’ starters were average as a whole a year ago and their pen was solid, but the rotation will fall and expect it to effect the bullpen as well. It’s going to be awhile before Toronto gets things back to competitive in a tough AL East.