We are down to the two toughest divisions now in baseball, the NL East and the AL East. They got so much tougher over the winter because big names from other parts of the country headed East and the young players on these teams are still looking at their upsides. The big surprise last year was the Rays. Last year I said they would be a dark horse but I didn't expect them to play the way they did all the way to the World Series. The Yankees brought in a lot of talent and the Red Sox still have lots of talent. This division really has a three headed monster at the top that will battle it out till the end. The Orioles and the Jays though probably have no shot. Since the talent is so concentrated in these three teams, there is no dark horse for this division because in reality no one will be surprised if the Rays are champs here, or if the Red Sox are champs or if the Yankees are champs. Here are my predictions:
2) Red Sox
1) A lot of people are counting out the Rays this year because of the improvements to the Yankees and the Red Sox. Well, don't because that would be stupid. The Rays have been building for this moment for years now and they, believe it or not, have more key pieces on the way this year, which could lead to a homegrown dynasty. It starts off with the the rotation which will be another year stronger, and they all look to repeat the success they had last year. The real key for them though is the lineup. Longoria should be there for the full year now and Upton should be even better. Burrell adds a key bat to that lineup and some veteran leadership. They should all have another great year. The reason they have a big shot of repeating is that when pieces go down this year, they have high talent in the minors ready to surface. Something happens in the rotation, Wade Davis will make his debut. They have OF talent in Jennings and Perez, and in a couple of years they will see Tim Beckham. There is too much not to like, they really should repeat.
2) Despite all of the changes to the Yankees, and despite not getting Tex, the Red Sox will finsih second and more than likely get the Wild Card. They have the second best rotation to the Rays and their lineup is still very good. The bullpen is overall the best. If there was a team with the best chance of taking over the number one spot in this divison it would have to be the Red Sox based on the balance on the whole team, they really don't have too many wak points. For them, the big question will be the back end of the lineup, but they should still finsih ahead of the Bronx Bombers.
3) The Yankees spent, spent, spent this offseason and they will not make the playoffs. They have a really good rotation on paper, but its rotation that is begging for injuries. The other big disadvantge they have now is really if someone gets injured in the field or on the mound, they don't have much for back up. They really have messed up Hughes and Kennedy so far and their lineup needs to stay healthy to be productive. What is stopping this lineup from being in the top two in this divison is already we see the probables that injries cause. Without Arod for two months, they will dig themselves into a whole. They better hope the Rays and the Red Sox trip, because if they do, then they can make a playoff run.
4) The Orioles are not as bad as everyone makes them out to be. Their main weakness is their pitching staff. In all honesty, their lineup is really good and will get better once Wieters joins the team. If the rotation can keep it together this year, it might not be so bad in Baltimore because pen got a little stronger. Sherrill closed the gap left by BJ Ryans ages ago and Ray will be back this year to set him up. Jim Johnson isn't the ideal 7th inning man, but he will pass. Going back to the lineup for a second, the OF looks scary with Markakis there and Jones bringing up his upside. If Pie also has a big year, then this could be a lineup that can hurt weak pitching teams.
5) The Jays basically said this year, and I am pretty sure they literally said it too, that they “Give Up” when the Yankees got Texeria. They should be entering a rebuilding mode, sell high on Holliday and see what they can bring into the team. The problems stem from a few key players having bad seasons last year and the need to bounce back. Players like Rios, Wells and Rolen have to get off on the right foot. Prospect Travis Snider is sure to make a splash this year as well.
Best Lineup: Red Sox, Rays
Best Rotation: Rays, Red Sox
Best Pen: Red Sox, Rays