The Obstructed AL East Preview-2019

The Red Sox, Yankees, and everybody else? Or will it be the Red Sox, Yankees, and the Rays? Or will Toronto climb back up? Or will Baltimore…nah.

Last year, Boston won their fourth World Series in 14 years, the most out of any team in the Majors in that timespan as they were probably the best team from beginning to end of the season. They handled their hated rival Yankees and then the defending champion Astros while taking care of the Dodgers. The Yankees were strong enough to win any other division but ended up having to face their foes and losing in 4. The Tampa Bay Rays, a team that is polar opposite of the Red Sox and Yankees “quietly” won 90 games last year doing things very differently as they used a “bullpen by committee” starting rotation that some teams are starting to pick up on. Toronto, with injuries galore and struggles all season, was not any factor in any race but have gotten fans intrigued by the “Vlad Jr. Watch” (which should have been last year but they are going to use the most out of his services). And Baltimore…..um, I love Camden Yards!

I will go do a preview of where I think the teams are, though it many not be too surprising in the order. But here we go.

Judge has his sights set on a world championship in 2019

(1) NEW YORK YANKEES

Last Season: 100-62, lost to Boston in ALDS

KEY ADDITIONS: SS-Troy Tulowitzki (FA-Toronto), C-DJ LeMahieu (FA-Colorado), P-James Paxton (Trade-Seattle), P-Adam Ottavino (FA-Colorado).

KEY LOSSES: SS-Adeiny Hechavarria (FA-New York Mets), 2B-Neil Walker (FA-Miami), OF-Andrew McCutchen (FA-Philadelphia), P-Lance Lynn (FA-Texas), P-David Robertson (FA-Philadelphia)

The Yankees by most standards in an off-season were very quiet. They did add James Paxton in a trade with Seattle, but many figured and possibly hoped they could have been a player in the Bryce Harper sweepstakes (Harper grew up a Yankees fan) or the Manny Machado sweepstakes. But ultimately, they just added pieces to improve the rotation, depth, and bullpen and given they already have a $300+ million player on the team with one, maybe two others looking for a similar deal down the road, it was not surprising they “stood pat.” And that to me is pretty scary. The Yankees will still crank ’em out of the Bronx with Stanton, Judge, and the youngsters of Andujar and Torres. If Gary Sanchez gets his head on straight and return to the high hopes many have for him, it is going to be a lethal lineup. But if he doesn’t, they do have a veteran catcher in DJ LeMahieu that can take over and may be their best move if Sanchez struggles. The rotation was probably the one thing that separated the Red Sox with them. The Paxton trade is huge but if Tanaka and Happ can hold up and give them quality outings on a consistent basis to turn it over to Ottavino, Betances, and Chapman, the Yankees will have a very strong winning formula to get World Championship #28. PREDICTION: 101-61

Betts may be the next great sports hero in Boston, if he isn’t one already

(2) BOSTON RED SOX

Last year: 108-54 (Defeated Yankees in ALDS, defeated Astros in ALCS, defeated Dodgers in World Series)

KEY ADDITIONS: None

KEY LOSSES: 2B-Ian Kinsler (FA-San Diego), P-Drew Pomeranz (FA-San Francisco), P-Joe Kelly (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), P-Craig Kimbrel (FA)

Boston, much like their foes in the off-season did very little. They exercised options on Chris Sale, Eduardo Nunez, while keeping World Series hero Steve Pearce and late trade acquisition Nate Eovaldi around. However, the two major cogs to the Red Sox bullpen in Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly are nowhere to be found, which is a bit concerning as it may have been the one “not so major strength” of the team last year. Now, if the Red Sox starters can stay healthy and do what they are capable of, then another division title and another World Series title is in reach in 2019. However, the one trend of Dave Dombrowski-run teams is slowly continuing in Boston: bullpen needs weren’t addressed and the prior trades made has knocked the once stacked farm system down. So the Red Sox right now hope the arms in the bullpen step up and the rotation keeps healthy for an entire season. Regardless of the pitching, we know Boston’s offense will be rolling with MVP Mookie Betts and JD Martinez leading the way. Xander Bogaerts will continue on the upswing, but at some point Red Sox fans have to hope that Jackie Bradley Jr and Rafael Devers can be legitimate answers for them. If they struggle, then the Red Sox will fall back behind the Yankees. But still, to think this team is going to have a major drop-off from 2018, it won’t happen, but enough of one that the Yankees can reclaim the East. MY PREDICTION: 99-63

If Snell has another Cy Young caliber year, Tampa Bay will be in the thick of a postseason race.

(3) TAMPA BAY RAYS

Last year: 90-72

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Avisail Garcia (FA-Chicago White Sox), C-Mike Zunino (Trade-Seattle), IF-Yandy Diaz (Trade-Cleveland), OF-Guillermo Heredia (Trade-Seattle) P-Charlie Morton (FA-Houston), P-Emilio Pagan (Trade-Oakland)

KEY LOSSES: OF-Mallex Smith (Trade-Seattle), 1B-Jake Bauers (Trade-Cleveland), P-Brock Burke (Trade-Texas) OF-Carlos Gomez (FA-New York Mets), P-Sergio Romo (FA-Miami) OF-CJ Cron (Waivers-Minnesota)

The Rays may have been the most active team in the American League East this year. I will say it again: the Rays may have been the most active team in the American League East. Granted, it doesn’t look like “much” but if Avisail Garcia looks like what he was a few years ago in Chicago and the hope that came with him coming in the Tigers farm, he could be a massive steal of a signing. Mike Zunino is probably the best defensive catcher in the game while being able to work with a good group of young pitchers. Charlie Morton will be the veteran of the bunch of the starters that should help stabilize them a bit (and that was a big move I think for the Rays, assuming he can look like first half Charlie Morton and not second half Charlie Morton). And of course there is Blake Snell, who won the Cy Young for the Rays last year as it could be a tough rotation in the front if all goes well. For a while it seemed like the Rays were hot on the pursuit of Nelson Cruz before he opted to go to Minnesota. So the one thing I will say on Tampa Bay is if they are in the thick of a post-season chase, don’t be surprised if they push for a deal to land a big name bat, albeit a rental one. The Rays will have to get some hope for the offense with Garcia, but will need Willy Adames, Austin Meadows (part of the Chris Archer deal), and Tommy Pham to step up in 2019 to really make a legit run. The one thing I will never do again is doubt the Rays and Kevin Cash. And this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if they see some October baseball. And I do think they will make a big trade during the season to get a key bat (Nick Castellanos?) MY PREDICTION: 92-70

Stroman may be an integral part of the Jays rebuild by moving him

(4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Last year: 73-89

KEY ADDITIONS: SS-Freddy Galvis (FA-San Diego), P-Matt Shoemaker (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Clayton Richard (Trade-San Diego), P-John Axford (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), SS-Eric Sogard (FA-Milwaukee) P-David Phelps (FA-Seattle)

KEY LOSSES: SS-Troy Tulowitzki (FA-New York Yankees), IF-Yangervis Solarte (FA-San Francisco), P-Marco Estrada (FA-Oakland), P-Tyler Clippard (FA-Cleveland)

Paging Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Paging Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Blue Jays fans are wanting your services badly. Unfortunately, it looks like Vladdie will make his appearance in May. Until it happens and even when it happens, it may be a very long year North of the Border. Toronto is looking more in rebuild mode than anything at this point. The days of Donaldson, Bautista, and Encarnacion are long gone. And the hope now may be Marcus Stroman gets a good year going to up his trade value and the Jays net a good return to have a quality rebuild as opposed to their divisional birdie brethren in Baltimore, where they just dropped the ball. However, it doesn’t seem like the Jays, even with Guerrero, will be a major force this year or the next couple of years unless they can make some moves to replenish the farm, but how aside from Stroman? Morales and Smoak may help some returns, but by and large, this team is a long ways from competing and in a division where you have to see New York and Boston all the time, a rebuild is pretty difficult unless you know how to do it right like the Rays do. MY PREDICTION: 68-94

Trey Mancini may be one of the lone highlights for the Orioles in 2019

(5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Last year: 47-115

KEY ADDITIONS: IF-Alcides Escobar (FA-Kansas City), IF-Drew Jackson (Trade-Philadelphia), P-Nate Karns (FA-Kansas City)

KEY LOSSES: C-Caleb Joseph (FA-Arizona), OF-Adam Jones (FA-Arizona), IF-Tim Beckham (FA-Seattle)

Baltimore didn’t learn from Detroit, who didn’t learn from Philadelphia. Meaning, instead of the Orioles selling back in the 2017 trade deadline, they strangely opted to go in. And now it is a disaster. The contract of Chris Davis is immovable. Alex Cobb, Andrew Cashner, and Dylan Bundy are inconsistent at best and the rest are just not close to the same talent as the rest of the AL East (they do match up better with Toronto). However, a new manager is at the helm as Brandon Hyde takes over for Buck Showalter. And there are some pieces to look at like Renato Nunez and Trey Mancini (who played decently in the second half). But let’s face it, it’s hard to think the Orioles will have less than 100 losses again this season. There’s just not a lot of hope. But losing 115 I doubt will happen again. MY PREDICTION: 55-107

That’s it for this division.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook

Advertisements

The Obstructed AL East Preview

The AL East has always been the Yankees/Red Sox division since the 5-team division realignment began in 1994.  They are of course, the Evil Empires of baseball.  Both are.  Sorry Yankee and Red Sox fans, you both are.  Accept it and move on.

But for nearly a decade now, the other three teams, the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rays have gotten into the mix as since 2008, only the Yankees and Red Sox have won 60% of the division titles, as opposed to winning the division 12 of 13 years from 1995-2007.  But maybe we are back to the trend as the Yankees and Red Sox are going back to the great arms race of stockpiling stars and the Orioles, Rays, and Blue Jays fall back again as we somewhat saw in 2017.

 

To me, the Red Sox and the Yankees are a cut above while the Rays seem to zero in on getting the farm for their (finally) new ballpark down the road while Baltimore and Toronto face serious questions on replenishing their farm and starting over.

My outlooks are where I project the teams to finish in 2018.

1ST PLACE: BOSTON RED SOX

Sale

2017: 93-69 1st place (Lost in ALDS to Houston)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-JD Martinez (FA-Arizona)  SUBTRACTS: OF-Rajai Davis (FA-Cleveland), OF-Chris Young (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Doug Fister (FA-Texas), P-Fernando Abad (P-Philadelphia), P-Blaine Boyer (FA-Kansas City), P-Addison Reed (FA-Minnesota)

Outlook: Boston may have won the division last year but they did an unusual thing, well at least for them.  They lacked major power.  Losing David Ortiz to retirement stung obviously, but they really had no sting in the bats.  While the Red Sox had 4 players with 20 or more HR and 3 others with double digits in HR, they finished dead last in the American League in home runs.  So the need to get a power-hitter was high and they did so in JD Martinez, who punched out 45 HR in both Detroit and Arizona in 2017.  Martinez fills the need of the power and will likely see most of the time at DH, which could be more helpful given he’s had his own injury woes in the past.  But Boston still has a formidable lineup with Betts, Bogaerts, Benintendi, and if Devers shows he can play 3rd and Jackie Bradley can figure out how to be consistent at the plate, Boston can be a legit threat.  The pitching, on paper, should be excellent with 2 former Cy Young winners in the rotation with Price and Porcello, but both have to improve last year’s performances (and Price has to keep healthy and not act like a knucklehead either).  But Chris Sale is one of the game’s best pitchers and if the Red Sox pitch what they are capable of pitching, they can rival the Astros rotation without question.  And they have probably the game’s best closer in Craig Kimbrel, who heads a solid relieving group.  What more can you ask for?  It is time for Boston to show it on the field and not just on paper.

2018 PROJECTION: 96-66 (I like Boston to get better with their bats and arms in 2018)

2ND PLACE: NEW YORK YANKEES

Stanton

2017: 91-71 (Beat Minnesota in Wild Card; Beat Cleveland in ALDS, Lost to Houston in ALCS)

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Giancarlo Stanton (Trade-Miami), 3B-Brandon Drury (Trade-Arizona); 1B-Adam Lind (FA-Washington) SUBTRACTS: 3B-Chase Headley (Trade-San Diego), 2B-Starlin Castro (Trade-Miami), P-Bryan Mitchell (Trade-San Diego), 3B-Todd Frazier (FA-New York Mets), P-Jaime Garcia (FA-Toronto), P-Michael Pineda (FA-Minnesota)

Outlook: The Yankees, already having young superstar Aaron Judge in the lineup, added a piece that many Bronx Bomber fans hope will become a New Murderer’s Row in Giancarlo Stanton from the Marlins for Starlin Castro. Of course, it has gotten most baseball fans thinking the Yankees are the team to beat in the AL, over Boston, Cleveland and Houston.  And for me, to quote Lee Corso, “not so fast.”  The Yankees offense is still top notch, don’t get me wrong with those two, Gary Sanchez, Didi Gregorius, and others.  But the question will be the pitching.  Are they capable of pitching well with Severino, Tanaka, Gray, and Sabathia?  It’s possible yes, but save for Severino (who is young), the others are question marks with consistency (Tanaka, Sabathia) or durability (Gray).  The bullpen, however, when they are on, is lights out with Green, Betances, and Robertson to go along with Chapman, but Aroldis has to pitch better because he nearly imploded everything at the end of the season.  So there are some questions as well as if Aaron Boone can manage as he hasn’t managed on any level yet.  But overall, the Yankees should be in the thick of things especially if their rotation pitches well.

2018 PROJECTION: 95-67 (Still unsure if they have the same arms as the other AL powers, but the bullpen will save face).

3RD PLACE: TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Donaldson

Last year: 76-86, 4th place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Curtis Granderson (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), OF-Randall Grichuk (Trade-St. Louis), SS-Aledmys Diaz (Trade- St. Louis), IF-Yangervis Solarte (Trade-San Diego), P-Jaime Garcia (FA-New York Yankees), P-Seung-hwan Oh (FA-St. Louis), P-Tyler Clippard (FA-Houston), P-John Axford (FA-Oakland) SUBTRACTS: P-Tom Koehler (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), Mike Bolsinger (FA-Japan), 2B-Ryan Goins (FA-Kansas City), IF-Darwin Barney (FA-Texas), C-Miguel Montero (FA-Washington), OF-Michael Saunders (Pittsburgh), OF-Jose Bautista (FA)

Outlook: Toronto is going to be very different as it looks like they are fielding a team more to just field a team in the season as opposed to being a threat in the AL East.  And they do have a farm that is up and coming.  If the Jays are out of it by the deadline, don’t be surprised if they try to move Josh Donaldson before as he is a free agent at season’s end.  Whether the Jays compete or not will be dependent on Marcus Stroman and JA Happ.  If they can pitch like they did in 2016, the Jays may push for the second Wild Card spot.  If not, Toronto will have some pieces to sell at the deadline.

2018 PROJECTION: 79-83 (Toronto just doesn’t have the same firepower that they had when Bautista and Encarnacion were there in 2015 and 16).

4TH PLACE: TAMPA BAY RAYS 

Kevin

2017: 80-82, 3rd place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Denard Span (Trade-San Francisco), OF-Carlos Gomez (FA-Texas), 1B-CJ Cron (Trade-Los Angeles Angels), IF-Christian Arroyo (Trade-San Francisco), IF-Joey Wendle (Trade-Oakland), P-Daniel Hudson (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Anthony Banda (Trade-Arizona) SUBTRACTS: 3B-Evan Longoria (Trade-San Francisco), 1B-Logan Morrison (FA-Minnesota), IF-Trevor Plouffe (FA-Texas), OF-Peter Bourjos (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Steve Cishek (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Jake Odorizzi (Trade-Minnesota), P-Tommy Hunter (FA-Philadelphia), OF-Steven Souza Jr (Trade-Arizona), P-Alex Cobb (FA)

Outlook: The Rays begin life without Evan Longoria, which may be a blessing in disguise.  Yes, he was the face of the franchise, but the money locked into his contract, but with a new park finally in the picture, the Rays can save some money, get the farm ready for the move, and things are good down the road.  But in 2018?  Not so sure.  But the Rays way is simple: if you are looking for a re-birth, Tampa Bay is the place and you have to think the likes of Denard Span and Carlos Gomez are hoping that is the case.  Adding Christian Arroyo, a top prospect in the Giants farm system in the Longoria trade will give hope that the Rays will be at least competitive in 2018.  If Chris Archer has a good year, he can probably net a good return for the Rays if they do end up being out (which many believe they will be) and it will only help Tampa Bay’s future even more.

2018 PROJECTION: 73-89 (The Rays play hard every night and the pitching will keep them in games, but they’re outmatched by the talent on other teams).

5TH PLACE: BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Manny.jpg

2017: 75-87, 5th place

OFF-SEASON: ADDS: OF-Colby Rasmus (FA-Tampa Bay), IF-Engelb Vielma (Trade-San Francisco), P-Andrew Cashner (FA-Texas) SUBTRACTS: C-Wellington Castillo (FA-Chicago White Sox), IF-Ryan Flaherty (FA-Philadelphia), P-Wade Miley (FA-Milwaukee), SS-JJ Hardy (FA), P-Ubaldo Jimenez (FA), P-Jeremy Hellickson (FA), OF-Seth Smith (FA)

Outlook: One does wonder if Baltimore may have doomed themselves similar to the Orioles teams of the late 90’s where they held on to players too long (similar to what the Phillies did early on this decade and the Tigers had done recently).  The Orioles are somewhat of that all-or-nothing power team.  Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo are either going to send baseballs 450 feet away into the outfield at any park, or they will take a walk back to the dugout on strikeouts as that is what they are primarily good for at this point.  There are some key players like Trey Mancini, Jonathan Schoop, and the reliable Adam Jones for offense and Tim Beckham tore the cover off the ball when he came from Tampa Bay at the deadline, but it seems like it won’t be enough in the division.  And if Manny Machado has the year like he had last year where he was nearly in a slump for the entire first half, Baltimore will likely be sellers because the rotation is a gigantic mess.  Which of course brings up the possibility of Machado being dealt as he too, is a free agent.  Baltimore’s best bet is if they are not in the mix of a Wild Card is to just clear the deck and start anew, which is what they really need.

2018 PROJECTION: 68-94 (porous pitching and some holes in the lineup will really doom the O’s in 2018).

That’s it for the AL East

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

Twitter

Facebook