BangtheBook is looking at each division as Opening Day is right around the corner. Spring Training is in full swing right now, and it’s only a few weeks from Major League Baseball getting underway. Here’s your chance to learn more about each team. Let’s take a closer look at the AL East.
The New York Yankees won the American League East last year, but it wasn’t without a major fight from the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays. All three of these teams won at least 90 games this year. The AL East always seems to be one of the most competitive leagues in baseball. The Red Sox should have a better season after last year’s disaster, and the Blue Jays got a lot better in the offseason. Recent injuries has made this division look as wide open as ever.
2013 American League East Odds & Predictions (Odds from Bookmaker)
Toronto Blue Jays
Odds to Win AL East: +160
You probably expected to see the New York Yankees at the top of the list. They probably would have been if it weren’t for their rash of injuries. The Blue Jays finished 73-89 last year, but they are the oddsmakers favorite to jump to the top of the pack this year. Who is going to make a big difference for Toronto? Newcomers R.A. Dickey, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera, and Emilio Bonifacio are all going to be major contributors right away.
The Blue Jays rotation went from a question mark to absolutely loaded. Ricky Romero can’t be as bad as he was last year, and he doesn’t have to be the main guy anymore. Johnson, Dickey, and Brandon Morrow will be at the top of the rotation.
Team Strengths: Rotation, power hitters in the outfield, depth
Team Weaknesses: Poor Defense, Shaky Bullpen
Tampa Bay Rays
Odds to Win AL East: +280
The Tampa Bay Rays are that team that a lot of people like to overlook every season, but they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. A rotation that starts with David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Moore should keep the team in almost every game. Desmond Jennings is a budding star in the outfield, and Matt Joyce is an underrated run producer in the middle of the order. Evan Longoria is one of the league’s best sluggers, he just needs to stay healthy the entire season.
James Loney and Yunel Escobar were the team’s two main pickups, so the team largely looks like it did a year ago. Remember, this team did win 90 games a year ago, so that isn’t such a bad thing.
Team Strengths: Rotation, Run Producers, Defense
Team Weaknesses: Lack of Depth, Injury susceptibility
New York Yankees
Odds to Win AL East: +295
The injury report is already stacked with Yankees and the season hasn’t even started. Curtis Granderson’s Spring Training couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start. Alex Rodriguez will be on the DL for a very long time. Mark Teixeira is out until at least mid-May. Derek Jeter should be back for Opening Day, but he might not be 100 percent. Basically, the Yankees will be short-handed for much of the early season.
Michael Pineda won’t be back until at least June, and Phil Hughes is questionable for the beginning of the year as well. Hiroka Kuroda and Ivan Nova will have to be solid options all year for the pitching staff to hold it together. Brett Gardner is healthy after missing last year, and the team will benefit from his speed. Can Ichiro put together a strong full season in pinstripes? Kevin Youkilis should produce consistently in the middle of the order.
Team Strengths: Power hitters, Good Bullpen
Odds to Win AL East: +700
The Baltimore Orioles had a magical season last year. Baltimore was expected to be at the bottom of the division and Buck Showalter’s group got to 93 wins and the playoffs. Is there any way this team can do it two years in a row? They certainly won’t sneak up on anybody this year, and this division is loaded. It’s hard to not point out that last year’s Orioles definitely overachieved compared to their talent level. The fact that Baltimore was able to win 93 games with the starting rotation they had is a real testament to the team’s ability to win close games and their stellar bullpen. The bullpen should be the team’s biggest strength again in 2013.
If Brian Roberts and Nolan Reimold can stay healthy, there is little doubt they could make the lineup better, but that has been really hard for both of those guys in recent years. Most of the team from last year remains, but I’m not sure they can have as much success this year.
Team Strengths: Bullpen, Strong Middle of the Order
Team Weaknesses: Starting Rotation, Lack of Depth at Key Positions
Boston Red Sox
Odds to Win AL East: +700
The Boston Red Sox had a forgettable September in 2011, and that basically carried straight over into a horrific 2012 for the team. Bobby Valentine is gone and the team has quite a new faces on the field this year. Boston can’t possibly be as bad in 2013 can they?
Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli should be major contributors right away for the Red Sox. Will Middlebrooks looks like a budding star for the team. David Ortiz’s health is a major concern, because the team absolutely needs him in the middle of the order. Can Stephen Drew stay healthy? Drew is a guy the Red Sox are really taking a chance on at shortstop. Jon Lester should be better this year, but the rotation still isn’t tremendous. The bullpen is much better with Hanrahan and Bailey at the end.
Team Strengths: Strong Top of the Lineup, Much improved bullpen
Team Weaknesses: Weak Bottom of Lineup, Team Chemistry Questions
Predicted Order of Finish-
1. Toronto Blue Jays- The starting rotation should be dominating
2. Tampa Bay Rays- This team is good every single year
3. New York Yankees- Too many question marks here
4. Boston Red Sox- Much better, but not good enough
5. Baltimore Orioles- Last year was probably a fluke