by JDCam 02.25.15
The AL East was unusually uncompetitive in 2014. The Red Sox dropped a staggering 26 wins on 2013, Tampa Bay dropped 15, only the Blue Jays and Orioles improved, with the Orioles running riot by a 14 game margin at the end of the regular season. The division promises to be much closer in 2015, with the Red Sox and Blue Jays making major roster upgrades this off-season, while the Yankees in particular are tough to project. There are dozens of questions surrounding the division, both on the field (Red Sox youth movement) and off the field (A-Rod, sigh). With an influx of mediocre pitching and elite hitting into the division, expect the AL East to be a slugfest in 2015.
1. Boston Red Sox
2014: 71 wins; Steamer 2015: 88 wins; Conway West: 90 wins; JDCam: 89 wins
In: Alexi Ogando, Robbie Ross, Ryan Hannigan, Wade Miley, Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval,
Out: Yoenis Cespedes, Ryan Lavarnway, Anthony Ranaudo, Will Middlebrooks, David Ross, Allen Webster
Things to Like: New infield high impact bats; a season for Rusney Castillo to shine; Mookie Betts talent (and the best name in baseball)
Things to Worry About: An inferior rotation; Hanley staying healthy; Will Xander Bogaerts live up to the hype?
Just about everything that could go wrong for the Red Sox did go wrong for the Red Sox in 2014. Between poor performances, injuries and blooding young prospects they were a shadow of their 2013 World Series winning team. The 2015 Red Sox should have a huge turnaround, with exciting talents Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts as well as Cuban import Rusney Castillo given a whole season to test their mettle. After losing Jon Lester, their biggest question mark will be their rotation, with mid-level starters Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley who will all be relied upon to deliver in the absence of a true ace. Additions like Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval don’t hurt either; if the Red Sox stay healthy, they should be in the hunt for another AL East crown.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
2014: 83 wins; Steamer 2015: 84 wins; Conway West: 88 wins; JDCam: 85 wins
In: Michael Saunders, Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Marco Estrada
Out: Casey Janssen, Colby Rasmus, George Kottaras, Melky Cabrera, Brett Lawrie, JA Happ, Anthony Gose, Adam Lind,
Things to Like: The arrival of Josh Donaldson; one of the strongest lineups top to bottom; a potential sleeper in Marcus Stroman
Things to Worry About: An inevitable letdown year from Russell Martin; will their rotation hold up?
The Blue Jays have been the teaser team of the AL East the past two years after an aggressive building process from GM Alex Anthopoulos. This could finally be the year when the Jays break through. Their 3/4/5 of Encarnacion, Bautista and Donaldson rivals the Tigers as the best in baseball and the addition of Russell Martin will be a huge upgrade at catcher, particularly if he can continue his 2014 form. Much will depend on the competitiveness of the Jays rotation, with arms like Marcus Stroman and Drew Hutchison who will need to keep the Jays competitive for their big bats to take over.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
2014: 77 wins; Steamer 2015: 83 wins Conway West: 81 wins (4th place); JDCam: 82 wins (4th place)
In: Asdrubal Cabrera, John Jaso, Rene Rivera, Steven Souza, Ernesto Frieri
Out: Jeremy Hellickson, Joel Peralta, Yunel Escobar, Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers
Things to Like: Replacing one potential star in Wil Myers with another in Steven Souza; a rotation full of sleepers (Smyly, Cobb); an improved Evan Longoria
Things to Worry About: Losing Joe Maddon; a potentially crippling team OBP; no one wants to watch them play
The Rays finally broke up a core of players that had seemed to be in play forever at Tropicana field, with David Price leaving (got fleeced by the Tigers) and Ben Zobrist departing for the As. Much more importantly, longtime GM Andrew Friedman headed to LA after he was handed the keys to the Dodgers. Much will rest on new GM Matthew Silverman and his ability to tap into the undervalued player market in the same way Friedman was able to, as well as building expertly through the draft. The Rays promise to be an average team, with a surprising rotation, but they may be stuck in a rut of mediocrity for the foreseeable future.
4. New York Yankees
2014: 84 wins; Steamer 2015: 83 wins Conway West: 82 wins (3rd place); JDCam: 83 wins (3rd place)
In: Andrew Miller, Didi Gregorious, Justin Wilson, Garrett Jones, Nathan Eovaldi
Out: Ichiro Suzuki, David Phelps, Martin Prado, Francisco Cervelli, Shane Greene, David Robertson, Brandon McCarthy
Things to Like: The return of Masahiro Tanaka; A better year from Carlos Beltran; I’m reaching here…
Things to Worry About: The return of Masahiro Tanaka; Michael Pineda staying healthy; CC Sabathia (just their rotation in general!)
Yankee fans witnessed the end of an era with Derek Jeter’s retirement after the 2014 season. This was also symbolic of the Yankees slow transition to become more youthful as they possessed one of the oldest rosters in baseball. Many questions surround the 2015 Yankees and they are genuinely hard to project. If Tanaka and Pineda can remain healthy and promising starter Nathan Eovaldi can be effective they could compete. Yankee fans should be prepared for another season that is dominated by off the field news (A-Rod), another unwelcome distraction from the teams on field play and improvement.
5. Baltimore Orioles
2014: 96 wins; Steamer 2015: 79 wins Conway West: 78 wins; JDCam: 78 wins
In: Nolan Reimold, Delmon Young
Out: Steve Lombardozzi, Nick Hundley, Andrew Miller, Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis Joe Saunders
Things to Like: The return of Manny Machado; Chris Davis on Adderall; high impact pitching prospects (Gausman, Bundy)
Things to Worry About: Not really attempting to replace any lost pieces; No super human effort from Nelson Cruz; Steve Pearce will go back to being Steve Pearce
There was no team that did as little this off-season as the Orioles, resting on their laurels after an impressive 96 win season in 2014. They lost two thirds of their outfield and an integral piece of their bullpen. The return of wonder kid Manny Machado and a not so inept Chris Davis should help, but the Orioles should expect some regression in 2015 after doing too little to replace their key departures.