Thursday, November 3, 2011

AL East Preview

Let's take a look at the AL East, where it's been 4 seasons since anyone finished within single digits of the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers won the division by 14 last year (but fell to Seattle in the second playoff round)...can anyone make a run at these guys?

New York (97-65, 4th in runs, 3rd in ERA): Should score plenty of runs - 2B Alejandro Cruz (and his career .399 OBP) is a top leadoff man, and there's plenty of lumber following him to drive him in (8 players had 18 or more homers last year - Miguel DeJesus paced with 42). No classic ace among the starters, but the top 5 (lead by Bartolo Escobar) could probably all be #2's in most rotations. The bullpen took a few free agency hits, but management responded with Roger Peterson (FA) and Pepper Webster (trade). No reason to suspect any drop-off.

Boston (83-79, 5th in runs, 9th in ERA): Plenty of power, with 4 players belting 30+ HR's last year (SS Max Gutierrez, 2B Roosevelt Thomas, 3B Enrique Rodriguez, and DH Todd Hines) - they might be in the market for a table-setter (top OPS was Gutierrez' .365). Ace Sam Griffin (20-9, 3.14 in a workhorse 240 IP last year) and ironman setup guy Reagan Knoblauch achor the staff; closer Eduardo Rosario keeps things exciting but usually gets the job done. Free agent SP Lew Cannon could be a key addition.

Cleveland (67-95, 13th in runs, 12th in ERA): has some nice centerpieces (SP's Armando Mendoza and Jumbo Mateo, RF Omar Villa) but seems to lack the supporting cast to advance. Budget FA additions Kent Simontachi (1B) and Gus Turner (SS) will help but won't be enough. This franchise has been slowly degrading for a number of seasons...time for a major shakeup?

Baltimore (67-95, 14th in runs, 6th in ERA): has also been in decline of late but the seeds of revival are in place: namely, young guns Benji Picasso (Sea 12 IFA who is 21-18 with a 3.51 ERA in his first 300 ML innings) and Albert Velazquez (Sea 14 IFA, who may debut this year). Throw in a 3rd great arm, Sea 11 IFA Rico Tejera and last year's first-rounder, Terry Helton, and you've got a decent chunk of a Grade A staff in 2-3 seasons. This year? If they promote Velazquez early on he could well be a ROY contender, and they'll take a big step up.

Forecast: The Yankees remain the class of the East and win again. Boston improves a little and contends for a wild card. Baltimore makes a nice jump up and passes the Indians for third.

No comments: