Hello and welcome to the first edition of MLB Insight. Today we will preview the American League East for the soon upcoming 2014 MLB season. So, let’s get started.
#5 – Toronto Blue Jays (2013 Record: 74-88)
Pitching -The Blue Jays had the most potential of any pitching staff in the MLB going into 2013 with R.A. Dickey, Mark Buerhle, and Josh Johnson on the mound. However, Dickey stunk to the high heavens in the Rogers Centre with a dismal 4.80 ERA. On top of that, pitchers Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle both suffered serious injuries which knocked them out for the season. Looking ahead to 2014, I believe the Jay’s pitching can only go up after last year’s embarrassment. They have a good amount of young talent they are going to try out in Spring Training.
Batting -Toronto has extreme talent in their batting lineup with guys like Edward Encarnacion and Jose Bautista who were both team leaders in OPS and HR’s in 2013. The main thing the Jays need to do to avoid another bad season is to dodge the injury bug. Bautista, Jose Reyes, and Melky Cabrera all suffered injuries last year which left holes in Toronto’s offense and defense.
Bottom Line -For the Blue Jays to win the World Series this year, the Andromeda galaxy and the Milky Way must be lined up symmetrically, Elvis must still be alive, and Arnold Schwarzenegger must admit to never taking steroids. Seriously though, for them to have a chance, all of their players must remain healthy throughout the season, run production must increase, and pitching must highly limit their ERA’s. I don’t see this happening, but I do see the Jays finishing last in the AL East.
#4 –Baltimore Orioles (2013 Record: 85-77)
Pitching -The Baltimore Oriole’s bullpen was below average and a little under par to hold up against the batters of the teams in the AL East. During the offseason they lost three of their pitchers (Scott Feldman, Jason Hammel, and Jim Johnson) to free agency. Based on this, I believe the O’s are going to have to rely on their farm system trainers to bring young fireballer Dylan Bundy back from Tommy John’s surgery to help get their bullpen out of the ditch.
Batting -Baltimore’s batting staff has had no major additions and no huge losses. Therefore, this would be an opportune time for them to try and build off of their top players. I’m referring to 1B Chris Davis, 3B Manny Machado, and CF Adam Jones. These three had the best batting averages on the team last year and Davis dominated almost every single batting category in the league.
Bottom Line -The Orioles find themselves in a Catch 22 going into 2014. If they want to succeed, they will need to limit the damage on the pitching end and still swing the bats well–however, one cannot stand alone by itself. If the pitching is poor but they can still swing the bats, then they will fail because a team cannot play catch up ball all season long. On the other hand, if the pitching is good but the batting is terrible, they will still fail because they will wear their bullpen out. I feel the pitchers for the Orioles will once again end up being inadequate to keep up with the great batting of the AL East, leaving the team fourth in the division.
#3 – Tampa Bay Rays (2013 Record: 92-71) Lost in Wild Card to Red Sox
Pitching -Tampa Bay has dominated the category of pitching for the past several years, and last year was no different. This year the Rays plan to build their pitching staff off of David Price who led the team in 2013 with 151 strikeouts. On the relieving side, the Rays will be missing a very great closer by the name of Fernando Rodney who had 37 saves last season. But as always for Tampa Bay, when they lose a closer, one will always step up in his place, and this time it will most likely be Joel Peralta.
Batting -The batting and defense for the Rays last season was absolutely phenomenal. Their four main infielders: James Loney, Evan Longoria, Yunel Escobar, and Ben Zobrist, were all very dominant on both the batting and defensive side. That’s no surprise considering all four where Gold Glove finalists. Outfield-wise, Tampa Bay has great talent in a young gun by the name of Wil Myers. Myers came into the league last year out of the Minors and instantly succeeded, ending the season with a .293 batting average. The Rays have a good pool of talent and I don’t think Myers will be the only batter at the top of the stat charts 2014.
Bottom Line -Tampa Bay is slowly ascending to the top of the AL East. I believe the Rays will just miss a Wild Card spot at the end of the season because there is too much talent in the American League for them to keep up. But there is hope–They have finally acquired a decent batting staff that 1) can actually hit, and 2) is built off of more players than Evan Longoria.
#2 – New York Yankees (2013 Record: 85-77)
Pitching -The New York Yankees had quite a few pitching struggles last year. CC Sabathia was not his old self; Phil Hughes arguably had his worst year as a starter; and the remaining pitchers could never remain consistent. However, a Japanese sun is rising. I’m referring to Masashiro Tanaka. Tanaka is an incredible young pitcher out of the Japanese leagues that the Yankees recently signed who hurls crazy offspeed pitches that will definitely keep opposing batters swinging at vapors. On the closing side, replacing MO should not be a problem. They will most likely convert set-up pitcher David Roberston to the Closer spot. As far as relievers are concerned, the Yankees have good pitchers in Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, and Preston Clairborne. New York’s pitching should greatly improve when compared to last year as the starters will set up the relievers to finish games strong and get “W’s”.
Batting -In my personal opinion, the Yankees could possibly have one of the best hitting seasons they have ever had. They eliminated some unnecessary roster weight when they let go of Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Travis Hafner. This left some salary cap space so they could pick up stars Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Kelly Johnson. All of who will be valuable additions to the Yankees on both offense and defense. An added plus is that the A-Rod drama of last year is pretty much over and his being valuable in Spring Training and worthless in the offseason will not happen again this year.
Bottom Line -The Bottom Line is that the Yankees will once again shoot to the top of the AL East and will get a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Pitching should suffocate opponents along with a high quality defense to back it up. The Bronx Bomber status of old will return and lead the league in base steals with Gardner, Suzuki, and Ellsbury still on the team. Expect the Yankees and Red Sox to be competing for the top spot.
#1 – Boston Red Sox (2013 Record: 97-65) World Series Champions
Pitching – The Boston Red Sox pitching was almost flawless during the postseason. They made batters from the best teams struggle at bat after at bat. The good news for them is that they didn’t lose any key pitchers during the offseason. The Red Sox have the best top three rotations in the MLB with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and John Lackey. They do need some help with their relievers, however. The only big name on the relieving side is closer Koji Uehara. Uehara pretty much sealed the Red Sox’s World Series title in some of the tighter games he played. The Red Sox pitching is definitely set up for some success.
Batting – This offseason, Boston let Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, and Jerod Saltalamacchia walk into free agency while signing both A.J. Pierzynski and Jonathan Herrera out of free agency. These men will definitely contribute to a World Championship repeat attempt. Centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is stepping into Jacoby Ellsbury’s shoes and Xander Bogaerts will step into Stephen Drew’s shoes. However, with the loss of talent, I expect the hitting to decline some. I doubt the Red Sox will live up to the .257 overall batting average they had last year, but they will have enough power to make it into the playoffs.
Bottom Line – Here it is, I’m going to say it, Boston will win the AL East again this year, but not without some stumbling blocks. Age could affect both Ortiz’s and Pedroia’s batting stats which the Red Sox will have to find a way to overcome. The relief pitching could be a problem as well. You can’t rely on your starters to pitch 9 innings every game. In spite of these issues, and with a tough AL East Division to play through, I still believe the Red Sox will take the Division title. However, they will win the battle but not the war. What does that mean? Plain and simple, it means that they will win the AL East but not the World Series.
I hope everyone enjoyed this first edition of MLB Insight. Thanks for reading!