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Monday, April 11, 2011

MLB Predictions: AL East

Wow, I apologize to my readers for not having posted this prior to the start of the season.  Time has really gotten away from me. I'll do my best to get my predictions up for the season in the next few days. Each year I do a season preview for each team but this year I've decided to amend it a bit in order to make it easier to read and easier for me to compile.

Boston Red Sox
Best Player: Kevin Youkilis is the guy I'd most like to have in real life. Carl Crawford in fantasy.
Best Pitcher: Jon Lester
Best off-season move:  Signing Carl Crawford to a 7 year mega-contract and trading for 1B Adrian Gonzalez tie for the best move.
Biggest off-season loss: Adrian Beltre
Biggest Concerns:
1. Team defense.  Although Adrian Gonzalez is an excellent defensive player, having Youkilis slide back over to 3B where he did not play last season hurts a little bit. Also Crawford is probably wasted in left field 81 times this year due to the Green Monster and Jacoby Ellsbury does not rate well at all in center field.
2. Will Varitek and Saltalamacchia hit?
3. Can Josh Beckett rebound or is he now a back-end of the rotation pitcher?
Expectations: If Boston fails to reach the playoffs heads will roll.  On paper this is the best team in baseball and expectations are that they will reach the World Series.
Opening day lineup:
1. Ellsbury CF
2. Pedroia 2B
3. Crawford LF
4. Youkilis 3B
5. Gonzalez 1B
6. Ortiz DH
7. Cameron RF
8. Saltalamacchia C
9. Scutaro SS
SP Jon Lester

New York Yankees
Best Player: Robinson Cano
Best Pitcher: C.C. Sabathia
Best off-season move:  The Yankees were spurned on their attempts to acquire Crawford and Cliff Lee this past off-season. Instead they made a splash by signing Rafael Soriano to bolster the bullpen.
Biggest off-season loss: Andy Pettitte's retirement surprised many in the organization.
Biggest Concerns:
1. The rotation. With Pettitte retiring and Cliff Lee signing in Philly, the Yankees signed former castoffs Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon as well as Ivan Nova to fight for 4th & 5th starting spots.
2. Catcher. Posada cannot hold up as an every day catcher and his defense is now awful. Can new acquisition Russell Martin carry the load?
3. Derek Jeter. Last season was Jeter's worst since 1997. Sure he's closing in on 3000 hits but if he slips again the Yankees may have trouble reaching the playoffs.
Expectations: The back end of the rotation is questionable but these are still the Yankees. Not making the playoffs is unacceptable in this organization.
Opening day lineup:
1. Gardner LF
2. Jeter SS
3. Teixeira 1B
4. Rodriguez 3B
5. Cano 2B
6. Swisher RF
7. Posada DH
8. Granderson CF
9. Martin C
SP Sabathia

Tampa Bay Rays
Best Player: Evan Longoria
Best Pitcher: David Price asserted himself as the staff ace last season.
Best off-season move:  Umm none? Seriously their best move was probably the no-brainer decision to have top prospect Jeremy Hellickson begin the season in the rotation. Manny has already retired and Johnny Damon is barely above average at this point.
Biggest off-season loss: The Rays were pummeled by free agency last season. Crawford's loss will sting the most.
Biggest Concerns:
1. Offense. The Rays don't really play the free agency game so how can they replace Crawford and Pena's production?
2. Is Reid Brignac finally ready to be the starting SS?
3. Bullpen. Tampa lost three of their best relievers in the off-season. Yes, relief pitcher performance is volatile from one season to the next but Balfour and Soriano were really good.
Expectations: Tampa says their goal is to make the playoffs. I don't think that's happening. I think a .500 record would say something and if things start off really bad don't be surprised to see them start trading away guys to prepare for their next wave of young prospects.
Opening day lineup:
1. Zobrist 2B
2. Damon LF
3. Longoria 3B
4. Ramirez DH
5. Johnson 1B
6. Upton CF
7. Joyce RF
8. Brignac SS
9. Jaso C
SP Price

Toronto Blue Jays
Best Player: Jose Bautista if he plays like he did last season.
Best Pitcher: Ricky Romero in the first half. I expect it to be Kyle Drabek as the season progresses, though.
Best off-season move:  Adding Rajai Davis doesn't seem like a big deal but for a team without a real center fielder and has finished last in SB attempts the last couple of seasons, it could bring some excitement to the basepaths.
Biggest off-season loss: Sean Marcum was the best pitcher on the team last year.
Biggest Concerns:
1. The rotation. Can any of these guys step up and be a staff ace or is their ceiling maxed out as mid-rotation guys?
2. Adam Lind. Two years ago Lind hit .305 and bashed 35 home runs. Last season he hit .237 with 23 homers. Which is the real Adam Lind?
3. Yunel Escobar. Escobar was a budding star in Atlanta but never got along with teammates. Last season the Braves had enough and shipped him to Toronto. That wasn't a difficult decision as he was hit .238 with no home runs while in Atlanta. Toronto needs the career .291 hitter to rebound.
Expectations: Putting their name in the Wild-Card race is possible but a third place finish is likely their ceiling.
Opening day lineup:
1. Davis CF
2. Escobar SS
3. Bautista RF
4. Lind 1B
5. Hill 2B
6. Encarnacion 3B
7. Snider LF
8. Rivera DH
9. Arencibia C
SP Romero

Baltimore Orioles
Best Player: Nick Markakis
Best Pitcher: Brian Matusz
Best off-season move:  Signing Derrek Lee to a no risk deal for about $7 million may turn out to be a bargain.
Biggest off-season loss: Nothing of consequence.
Biggest Concerns:
1. Adam Jones. Two years ago Jones looked like he would become one of the best CF's in the game. Now people are questioning his focus and drive.  A solid season will quiet this talk and put his name back in the conversation of best all-round CF's in the game.
2. The rotation. Matusz is entering his first season as staff-ace. Who will follow his lead? Jake Arrieta, Zack Britton, and Chris Tillman all have the magical P word (potential) but who will Produce?
3. Matt Wieters. Baseball Prospectus predicted Wieters would be the best catcher in baseball as a rookie and hit 30 homers annually.  He hasn't come close to those lofty numbers but the talent is there. If he has another disappointing season will the organization begin to sour on him? Keep in mind he's only 25.
Expectations: The team has lots of youth and signed some savvy veterans to short-term deals to help inject some life into the offense. If the pitching holds up the Orioles could finish as high as second. That's a little ambitious, however, though flirting with .500 seems like a good goal.
Opening day lineup:
1. Roberts 2B
2. Markakis RF
3. Lee 1B
4. Guerrero DH
5. Jones CF
6. Scott LF
7. Reynolds 3B
8. Wieters C
9. Hardy SS
SP Guthrie
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