Saturday, April 4, 2009

First to Third: Divisional Previews - AL East

I think that three of the five teams in the AL East are going to win at least 90 games, which should make for an interesting and historically tight race. Which team will come out on top?

Fresh Meat - While the $160 million man CC Sabathia has garnered much of the media attention and hype in the Bronx, AJ Burnett (pictured) is a key acquisition for the Yankees. In 10 years in the bigs Burnett has only been healthy enough to pitch 200 innings three times - each in a contract year. Burnett won't have a contract year for another five years and the Yankees hope he can shake the injury bug so he doesn't wind up like another former Marlin who signed with the Yankees after a big year - Carl Pavano.

Dearly Deported - Maybe he hasn't departed yet, but with the Blue Jays pretty far out of contention this year, start the Roy Halladay trade watch. Halladay is only under contract through 2010 and could fetch a king's ransom if the Blue Jays decide to trade him. The only way Toronto is going to compete with the Yankees and Red Sox is going the way of the Rays and building from the farm system. That means trading Halladay by July 31.

How They'll Finish:
  1. Yankees - It's almost too close to call, but if the Yankees stay healthy they will win at least 95 games and the AL East title. With 18 game winner Chien-Ming Wang as your number 3 starter, there are few teams in baseball that can rival the Yankees rotation depth. If Joba Chamberlain is their fifth starter, their sixth and seventh starters are highly touted (although less so after a disastrous 2008) Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy. Hughes is the real deal and is a future Cy Young candidate. Pitching wins championships and the Yanks win the East.
  2. Red Sox - They made great pickups in the off-season taking fliers on John Smoltz, Rocco Baldelli, and Takashi Saito to bolster their depth. Their pitching staff is good, but can Wakefield and Smoltz (each over 40) each shoulder the load of the rotation that is expected to go deep into October? If not, Clay Buchholz is a more-than suitable replacement.
  3. Rays - Let's be real for a minute. They are arguably more talented this year than last with the eventual arrival of David Price, but their bullpen has HUGE questions, starting with who is going to close? Watch for a Mets-like collapse because of bullpen problems as the Rays fade away back to a *mediocre* (only in the AL East) 88-90 wins.
  4. Orioles - Future rookie sensation Matt Wieters is the real deal and will jump into the MVP race when he gets called up, let alone the Rookie of the Year race. Adam Jones continues to develop and they have one of the most exciting players in the league in Nick Markakis, but alas, someone has to lose games in this division.
  5. Blue Jays- Picked to finish last because of age (Vernon Wells, Scott Rolen, et al) in their lineup, not in their rotation. Their starters are pretty good and will strike out a lot of hitters, but with a so-so offense behind them, the starters can't win games.

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Inigo Montoya said...

Dearly Deported