Will New York make the postseason for the seventeenth time in 18 years? And where will the rising Jays land?
By Cam Cain ◊ 3-25-12
So here we have it. It is finally spring. After a long winter break, it’s time for our nation’s pastime to be reborn for another long season. In 8 short days, the Cardinals and Marlins will play at 7:05 and kick off the new season at the new ballpark in Miami. I felt like I had to come out with my own predictions for the season. It is just human nature to feel the need to guess at these things, however accurate you may be (last year I chose Colorado to win it all.) So here are my predictions for the toughest division in the game, with 4 potential 90-game-winning teams, the American League East:
5th Place: Baltimore Orioles:
This is no shocker. In this division, Baltimore is a certain lock to be sitting in the cellar for nearly the whole season. This team should rebuild from the bottom up. They could get some good prospects for outfielders Adam Jones and Nick Markakis. Baltimore desperately needs pitching. Their young pitchers need to step up, especially 25-year-old Brian Matusz. Following a solid 2010 season, his second in the league, Matusz went 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA and bounced between the majors and minors last year. The hitting was decent, but Baltimore needs an ace. They will finish near the bottom, nearing 100 losses.
Best case scenario: Baltimore wins close to 75 games and waits until the offseason or next year’s trading deadline to ship away their stars.
Worst case scenario: The pitching actually gets worse and the Orioles fire manager Buck Showalter in May and go downhill from there.
4th Place: Toronto Blue Jays:
Like Baltimore, the Jays changed their logos to a more modernized version of what they used in the ’80s. Unlike Baltimore, this Canadian team has got talent. The Blue Jays can now easily compete in this tough division and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish higher than this. Jose Bautista had an all around better year than his 2010 season where he came out of nowhere to hit 54 home runs. His average was 42 points better and he still led the majors in home runs. J.P. Arencebia did not play as well as expected in his first full season catching in the bigs. They do have Travis D’arnaud in place behind the plate. D’arnaud won MVP of the Eastern League last year for the AA New Hampshire FisherCats. He has never played at AAA, let alone the majors so expect him to not get called up until September. The pitching for the Jays is also solid. They picked up Francisco Cordero in the offseason who will set up for Sergio Santos. Their rotation is led by ace Ricky Romero who went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA.
Best case scenario: Third Baseman Brett Lawrie finishes in the 20-20 or possibly 30-30 club with a great season. Adam Lind continues to hit for power and Jose Bautista is an MVP candidate once more. Toronto makes it to the postseason for the first time since they won it all in ’93.
Worst case scenario: Pitchers figure out how to pitch to Bautista. The rest of the hitters don’t pick up the slack and the Blue Jays finish below .500 again.
3rd Place: Boston Red Sox:
Nobody is giving Boston enough credit. Despite their late season collapse which caused skipper Terry Francona to be replaced, this is a great ballclub. In his age 35 season, star DH David Ortiz still hit 29 home runs and hit .309. Remember before last season when everyone predicted them to be great? They are still for the most part the same team. Carl Crawford’s struggles were likely a fluke. He could be the missing piece. As for the pitching, the top 2 will be great as always in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. Clay Buchholz in the third spot pitched a no-hitter in his second career start back in 2007 and has pitched well ever since. 4th in the rotation is expected to be Daniel Bard, a converted reliever who routinely throws 100 mph. However, Bard struggled late last season during the collapse and finished with 9 losses without starting a game.
Best case scenario: Carl Crawford comes back to play as well as he did in Tampa. Jacoby Ellsbury has another MVP caliber year and leads Bobby Valentine’s Sox on a deep postseason run.
Worst case scenario: New closer Andrew Bailey from Oakland struggles pitching in front of fans (his old team the A’s finished last or second to last in attendance the last 3 years) Carl Crawford doesn’t improve, and David Ortiz shows his age as Boston finishes in 4th for the first time in 15 years.
2nd Place: Tampa Bay Rays:
Tampa is loaded with young talent. Jeremy Hellickson won rookie of the year last season as third starter and now the Rays are going to call up top prospect Matt Moore for the entire season. This could give them a deadly rotation behind David Price and James Shields and ahead of Jeff Niemann who went 11-7 with a 1.24 WHIP last season. The Rays also signed Carlos Pena who left for a year to play for the Cubs. Pena has always had power but hit only .225 last year. Evan Longoria hit 31 home runs last year while only playing 133 games, the most important home run being that dramatic walk off heroic in Game 162 to send Tampa to the playoffs. He did only hit .244 and started out 2011 injured. Longoria will bounce back and could possibly hit 35 home runs. Joe Maddon is an artist with the bullpen and I can’t imagine a team led by him failing to play in October.
Best case scenario: The young pitchers are effective immediately. Evan Longoria blossoms into an even bigger star as he is in the midst of his prime years. Tampa cruises to the division title as the Yankees are stung by the injury bee.
Worst case scenario: James Shields doesn’t come anywhere near his impressive numbers of last year. While the hitters still hit for power, nobody gets on base for them to drive home. Tampa finishes in a disappointing 4th place.
1st Place: New York Yankees:
Who else do you expect? This team’s hitting was loaded after the 2011 season. Now, in the offseason, they made sure their rotation was just as great. They went out and got Michael Pineda from Seattle and Hiroki Kuroda from free agency. Kuroda has impressed. Ivan Nova went 16-4 last year in his rookie year and will likely take the second spot in the rotation. Also, A.J. Burnett, the Yankee equivalent of John Lackey for the Red Sox has left for Pittsburgh mercifully. Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter, their cornerstones, are 36 and 37 respectively. However, second baseman Robinson Cano is one of the best all-around player in the game and could pick up some of the slack. Other than the age of A-Rod and Jeter, I see very few concerns for this team.
Best case scenario: New York wins 100 games for the 20th time in franchise history, Robinson Cano wins MVP and the rotation is strong 1 through 5.
Worst case scenario: Michael Pineda is a flop moving to the majors’ largest market. The captain Derek Jeter finally starts to show his age and Alex Rodriguez retires following a <10 home run season and a third place finish for the Bombers.