AL East Preseason Predictions

Four different teams have won the American League East over the past four years. Three of those teams went on to lose in the American League Championship Series, while the other – the 2013 Boston Red Sox – won the World Series.

Needless to say, despite the parity that the division has seen over the past few years, the road to the World Series has went through the AL East.

And even though it appears that none of the teams in the division are exactly poised for a deep playoff run in 2016, it certainly doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

With the start of Spring Training just four days away, it’s time to look at each of the teams in each division in Major League Baseball, and time to give my prediction of which team I think will take the division crown.

 

Baltimore Orioles, 81-81 last season

It was an interesting offseason for the Baltimore Orioles. Rumored with a lot of the big-name free agents, the O’s were bigger spenders than they have been in recent history.

The most notable contract Dan Duquette and company inked over the winter break was retaining slugger Chris Davis, needing a seven-year, $161 million contract to keep him in Baltimore. The team also retained All-Stars Darren O’Day and Matt Wieters, traded for Mark Trumbo, and signed Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim.

What Baltimore hasn’t done, though, is address its needs in the starting rotation, which lost a key member in Wei-Yin Chen to the Marlins in free agency. The Orioles appear to be in contract discussions with FA pitcher Yovani Gallordo, but nothing is final.

Baltimore is also said to still be going after multiple position players, including outfielder Dexter Fowler. The way the lineup currently looks to be structured, Baltimore should have a fairly balanced lineup of power and average, and Fowler would continue that trend.

The addition of Gallardo would certainly appear to help the team’s chances, but not enough to win the division.

Projected finish: Second place, Wild Card

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Chris Davis’ power is no doubt the reason the Orioles paid so much to keep him in Baltimore this offseason.  Photo by Mitchell Layton / Getty Images

 

Boston Red Sox, 78-84 last season

The Boston Red Sox landed the biggest free agent that hit the open market this offseason when they acquired starter David Price, snatching him from the Blue Jays. Price seems like a good fit for Boston, considering he’s 6-1 in 11 starts at Fenway Park and has a combined 38-15 record against AL East opponents.

Boston also acquired star closer Craig Kimbrel in a five-player trade.

Other than that the Red Sox were fairly quiet this offseason.

David Ortiz, who is playing in his final season in the big leagues, is going to supply most of the power to what appears to be an average-hitter-heavy lineup.

Price leads an unpredictable rotation, possibly the most unpredictable in the division, but Boston can hang it’s hat on its strong bullpen, much like most of its division rivals.

Boston has some of the best young talent in the American League, and it will be that young talent that keeps the Red Sox relevant through the All-Star break.

What will ultimately be the downfall of this year’s Red Sox team will be its unpredictable starting pitching. I don’t see Rick Porcello or Joe Kelly being able to pitch consistently well long enough for the team to remain in contention for a playoff spot down the backstretch of the season.

Projected finish: Third place

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2016 will be the last year of playing for the Red Sox’s larger than life David Ortiz.  Photo by Elise Amendola / AP   

 

New York Yankees, 87-75 last season (Wild Card Birth)

Much like this division, the New York Yankees appear to be a hard team to figure out heading into this season.

New York bolstered the back end of its bullpen by picking up flamethrower Aroldis Chapman to go alongside Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.

The Yankees appeared to find a player to fill the void at second base in Starlin Castro, but I would argue that he’s not the long-term solution given his defensive deficiency.

New York also suffered a major blow a few weeks ago when it was announced that first baseman Greg Bird would miss all of this season due to shoulder surgery.

Manager Joe Girardi will have his work cut out for him once again, as he’ll try to get the most out of an aging Mark Teixeira at first base and an aging Alex Rodriguez, who will once again be doing the designated hitting.

Like the first two teams in this division, the strength of this team won’t be its starting pitching. But, the Yankees rotation may have the biggest upside potential.

Girardi has pulled off some pretty incredible managerial performances over the past few years, but I don’t think he’ll be able to work enough magic this year.

Projected finish: Fourth place

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The health of Masahiro Tanaka will play a big factor in the success of the Yankees. Tanaka had surgery in October to remove a bone spur from his right elbow.  Photo by USA Today

 

Tampa Bay Rays, 80-82 last season

Following six consecutive years of finishing in the top three of the division, the Tampa Bay Rays have taken a major step backwards having finished in fourth place each of the last two seasons.

Rays executives have tried to improve the team by adding a big name player in Corey Dickerson, as well as a good role player in Steve Pearce, but other than that haven’t done much to improve the team’s roster.

Steven Souza looks to be a good young talent, but aside from him and Chris Archer, I don’t see much in terms of big time talent on this roster.

I certainly don’t see the Rays improving this season in the win-loss columns, and I see them sliding down one spot in the division standings.

Projected finish: Fifth place

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This will be the ideal season for Chris Archer to state whether or not he will become one of the top tier pitchers in baseball.  Photo by Jae C. Long/AP

 

Toronto Blue Jays, 93-69 last season (Lost in ALCS)

Reigning MVP Josh Donaldson leads the Toronto Blue Jays into 2016.

Toronto, though, did lose a big piece from last year’s run to the ALCS in David Price, who as I mentioned is now on the Red Sox.

Trying to cope for the loss of Price, the Blue Jays signed J.A. Happ from the Pirates and re-signed Marco Estrada to go along with Marcus Stroman. Toronto also added relief pitcher Drew Storen in exchange for outfielder Ben Revere.

The loss of Revere does create an outfield spot open for the taking.

Offense will carry this team.

Last year the Blue Jays scored 891 runs, 127 more than the Yankees, who were second in the majors in runs scored. Two of the biggest offensive threats, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, are both in contract years, so they will be hoping to play their way to a big contract next year.

What separates this team from the rest of the teams in the division is their starting pitching. Toronto’s offense is explosive, but most of teams in the AL East have very good offenses, as well.

The Blue Jays probably have the most established starting rotation in the division, the addition of Storen does wonders to their bullpen.

Projected finish: First place, Playoff birth

 

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The addition of Troy Tulowitzki last year not only gave the Blue Jays another offensive weapon, but it also gave gave the Toronto fans another star to cheer for inside Rogers Centre.  Photo by Dan Hamilton / USA Today

Final Standings:

  1. Toronto Blue Jays
  2. Baltimore Orioles
  3. Boston Red Sox
  4. New York Yankees
  5. Tampa Bay Rays

 

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