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2016 American League East Predictions

2016 American League East Predictions

The former ‘Beast’ of Major League Baseball has quickly sunk into mediocrity.  Parity in the game, along with a substantial luxury tax, has handcuffed some of the elaborate spending habits that used to dominate the division.  That being said, it should be an interesting race that comes down to the final week or so of the season.

Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto should be the team to beat despite some concerns in the rotation. Marcus Stroman has the stuff to be an ace at the top, but the rest of the staff is old (R.A. Dickey), inconsistent (Marco Estrada & J.A. Happ), or unproven (any fifth-starter candidate).  The good thing? This team will be able to out-score just about anyone – and two of their top sluggers are playing for contracts.  Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion will probably combine for 80-ish HRs and 220 RBIs as they set their sights on big bucks.  Toss in the defending MVP, Josh Donaldson, and perennial MVP candidate Troy Tulowitzki and the Jays will should slug their way to the playoffs.

Health will be key, however, as all but Donaldson have an injury history (as does 2B Devon Travis, a key cog to the infield and lineup).  There isn’t much quality depth, and any injury to one of the stars could prove extremely costly.

Take the Blue Jays over 87 wins (-115)

Boston Red Sox

Boston made the biggest splash in division, bringing in perennial Cy Young contender David Price in to anchor a shaky rotation, and top closer Craig Kimbrel to finish games.  Price is fantastic for the first 162 games of the season; for some reason, though, he implodes in the playoffs (2-7, 5.12). No guarantee he’ll make it this year, as the rest of the rotation is simply ‘meh.’ Clay Buchholz can’t stay healthy, Rick Porcello grooves to many fat pitches at inopportune times, and there are no guarantees in the back-end.

The bullpen is far better; moving Koji Uehara to the setup role makes them much deeper.  The offense is loaded with questions, and potential for disaster. Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez were horrible, Dustin Pedroia looks old, Rusney Castillo can’t get on base, and Jackie Bradley is all glove, no hit. Moving Ramirez to first base could limit the potential for injury, but he’s played in over 150 games just once since 2010. Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts look like anchors in the lineup for a number of years, but David Ortiz’ swan song could end short of the playoffs.

Take Boston under 86.5 wins (-105)

Tamps Bay Rays

Tampa Bay is the anti-AL East team; all pitch, no hit.  Chris Archer is one of the best in the game, but will struggle to win more than a dozen or so games because of the weak offense. Jake Odorizzi added velocity and cut nearly a run off of his ERA; he’ll be a solid two. Matt More and Alex Cobb return from Tommy John surgeries and could anchor a very good rotation if they’re 100%, and all returns are pointing to ‘yes, they are.’  The bullpen lost some depth when they traded Jake McGee, and closer Brad Boxberger struggled with his control at times, so late inning leads could be tenuous, though Alex Colome performed well after his starting days mercifully ended.  The pitching will need to be good, because the offense holds very little promise.

OF Corey Dickerson has the ability to be a star, if he can stay in the lineup.  3B Evan Longoria, the lone long-time Ray, is an old 30 and a decline appears inevitable.  The remainder of the lineup is far from impressive; James Loney has no power, Steven Souza has no plate discipline, and Desmond Jennings is perpetually overrated. Don’t let 2B Logan Forsythe’s 2015 season fool you; his outlying stats (OBP, BABiP) were ridiculously higher than his career averages. A regression is almost inevitable.

Take the Rays under 81.5 wins (-115)

New York Yankees

New York is old and if they played in a ’normal’ stadium, they’d be no lock to win 75 games.  But Yankee Stadium pays right into 35+ year old sluggers’ games and is good for a few extra wins.  Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran will be a combined 80 years old before the trade deadline hits and cannot be counted on for full productive seasons.  Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury play far older than they are and may combine to miss 80 games or more.  OF Aaron Hicks will provide solid depth when the inevitable injuries hit, and plays much better defense than the incumbents as well.

There is hope that a change of scenery could help Starlin Castro become the star he should’ve been in Chicago – we think he’ll have a nice rebound season.  Like the rest of the division, the rotation is a big question.  Masahiro Tanaka is pitching on borrowed time, and CC Sabathia is simply pitching out his contract. Michael Pineda, Nate Eovaldi, and Luis Severino possess promise and could be solid. But the starters need only get to the sixth inning, when Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman form the most dominant bullpen since the Nasty Boys of the early 1990s.

Take the Yankees under 85.5 wins (-130)

Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore surprised everyone by giving home run king Chris Davis more money than he deserved, but their hands were tied. They were unable to make a splash in free agency and had to overpay for his services. His presence, however, will make Manny Machado (our pick for AL MVP), Adam Jones, and Mark Trumbo that much more dangerous. Add in the 20+ HR potential of Jonathan Schoop and Matt Wieters, and the lineup has the potential to rake.  They lack team speed, though, as only Machado will approach 20 steals – and they don’t want him running too much, as he’s had numerous knee issues.

The corner OF spots are less than settled, though import Hyun-soo Kim did possess an outstanding batting eye in Korea and could produce solid on-base skills.  Questions surround the rotation in B-More as well. Chris Tillman (11-11/4.99/1.39)is coming off of a horrible season, and he’s slated to be the #1.  The O’s are saying that Kevin Gausman is done flip-flopping between the rotation and the bullpen; and that’s a good thing. He’s got above-average stuff and could anchor the staff.  Ubaldo Jiminez, Miguel Gonzalez, et al will fill out the barely serviceable remainder of the rotation. Darren O’Day and Zach Britton should continue to be a stellar bullpen duo. And lest we forget; Buck Showalter is the best manager in the division.

Take the Orioles under 78 wins (-135)

2016 American League East Predictions

  1. Toronto                89-73
  2. Boston                  83-79
  3. Tampa Bay          80-82
  4. New York            79-83
  5. Baltimore            74-88