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Sink’s A.L. East Preview

Even though it’s snowing, the 2011 MLB season is finally here.

It’s Opening Day for most teams so I’m going to give you my American League East predictions.

BOSTON RED SOX

J. Meric/Getty Images

  • The Good:  On paper, the Red Sox are the best team in baseball. 
    • They got Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.  Gonzalez is a legit 40 HR, 120 RBI guy while Crawford could hit .300 with 60 SB’s and great defense!!
    • They are finally healthy again after 19 different Boston players combined to miss over 1,000 games last year.
    • Lester, Buchholz and Lackey (if healthy) make a solid 1, 2, 3 starting rotation.
    • Deep bullpen if Papelbon doesn’t implode.
  • The Bad: Injuries could be a concern again.
    • Youkilis, Pedroia, Beckett, Ellsbury and Matsuzaka all spent significant time on the DL last year.  Are all of those injuries healed for 2011?  That’s a big question. 
  • The Ugly:
    • Josh Beckett: he holds the key to the Red Sox success this year.  If he’s healthy, Boston will easily win the AL East.  If not, who knows?
  • Prediction: 94-68; Anything less than an AL East Division title would be a huge letdown for Francona’s club.

 

NEW YORK YANKEES

Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

  • The Good
    • The Yanks still have the best lineup in baseball.  With a lineup that includes Jeter, A-Rod, Teixeira, Cano, Swisher, Granderson, Gardner & Posada, there really isn’t much downside.
    • CC Sabathia is a work-horse that will likely win 20 games again.
    • Deep bullpen: Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are very solid.  If the Yanks have the lead in the 8th, the game is over!
  • The Bad:
    • All of the starting pitchers after Sabathia.  I’m not sold on Burnett having a bounce-back season.  He’s had just one season above 14 wins his entire career.  Hughes is a dice roll while Nova is unproven and Garcia is a complete wildcard.
    • This team is getting old!  Jeter will be 37 years old this year.  Rodriguez will be 36.  Mariano is 40.  Posada will be 40 in August. 
  • The Ugly:
    • The fact that the Yanks are relying on Bartolo Colon and Freddie Garcia for anything this season is a real sign that their pitching needs help.  These two guys had zero interest from other MLB teams.
  • Prediction: 90-72; The Yankees demise has been greatly exaggerated.  Yes, their pitching has issues but they will have no problem trading away Montero or Romine for some starting pitching help by mid-season. 

TAMPA BAY RAYS

 

J. Meric, Getty Images

  • The Good:   
    • From top to bottom, Tampa Bay might have the best starting pitching rotation in the AL East.
    • Evan Longoria, BJ Upton and Ben Zobrist are all very legit All-Star candidates. 
    • Joe Maddon is probably one of the top managers in baseball. 
  • The Bad:
    • The Rays lost their entire bullpen!  Literally.  Their closer, long reliever, lefty specialist are now on other teams.
    • The lineup loses serious power and speed with the departure of Carlos Pena (Cubs) and Carl Crawford (Red Sox).
  • The Ugly:
    • Former Yankee Kyle Farnsworth is the Rays new closer.
    • There’s no way you can replace Crawford and Pena with grizzled veterans like Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez.
    • The mass player exodus out of Tampa will only continue unless this club moves into a real stadium that fans actually aren’t afraid to drive to.
  • Prediction: 83-81; If this team finishes over 500, consider it a huge bonus.  

 

 BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Leon Halip, Getty Images

  • The Good:  Thanks to a busy off-season, the Orioles are probably the most improved team in baseball. 
    • They made upgrades at DH (Vladimir Guerrero), shortstop (JJ Hardy), 3rd base (Mark Reynolds), 1st base (Derrick Lee) and closer (Kevin Gregg)
    • The O’s lineup (if healthy) is very legit.
    • Buck Showalter brings a new attitude to Charm City.  The Orioles might not finish above 4th place this year, but they won’t roll over for anyone.
  • The Bad: 
    • Injuries could cripple this team.  If Lee, Roberts or Vlad miss significant time, it could be a long season.
    • Bullpen: no one knows for sure who’s going to be the closer by season’s end (Uehara, Gregg or even Mike Gonzalez).  Let’s be honest, none of those guys truly puts a scare into opposing hitters.
  • The Ugly:
    • Youthful pitching staff.  Jeremy Guthrie is a bulldog while Brian Matusz is a legit ace in the making but the rest of the staff is a question mark.  Jake Arrieta could be a future star, Chris Tillman might not be ready for the Bigs yet, Bergeson has injury concerns while Justin Duscherer might not even make 5 starts due to his injury history.
  • Prediction: 78-84; The O’s have made significant improvement from last year’s club but with a questionable starting pitching rotation and serious injury issues, the Birds will have trouble keeping up with the Joneses in the AL East.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Leon Halip, Getty Images

  • The Good:   
    • Jose Bautista:
    • Toronto has quitely built a pretty decent pitching staff (Romero, Cecil, Litsch, Drabek, Reyes)
    • The Jays are loaded with young talent (JP Arencibia, Travis Snider, Aaron Hill, Drabek)
  • The Bad:
    • Other than Jose Bautista (54 HR’s in 2010), there really isn’t much else to be excited about in the lineup.  Adam Lind, Travis Snider and Aaron Hill need to step up in order for this team to compete.
    • Who is the closer?  Frank Francisco? Jon Rauch? Jason Frasor? Carlos Villanueva?
  • The Ugly:
    • When you look at their roster, there’s really nothing to get excited about.  They might have some of the pieces in place but just not right now.
  • Prediction: 76-86; The Blue Jays and Orioles could easy flip-flop here.

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