Mar. 09, 2017
AL East: 2017 season preview
Spring is in the air! A little more than a week into Spring Training games being played in Florida and Arizona, and the World Baseball Classic just a few games deep, it is time to preview the Major League Baseball season division-by-divison. Let's start with the AL East.
Last season, the Boston Red Sox took home the AL East crown, while the Blue Jays and Orioles battled it out in the AL wild card game. What will happen in 2017?
The Boston Red Sox will repeat as your 2017, AL East champions. The rotation is one-of-the-best-in-baseball. From David Price, to Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, and 2016 AL CY young award winner Rick Porcello. This team has very little question marks. Losing David Ortiz to retirement is eased by signing Mitch Moreland a Gold Glover, who hit for a .233-average a year ago in Texas, clubbing 22-homers, and plating 60-Runs. Playing in 147-games and getting 460-At-Bats (212-at-bats-less than the Major League Leader in at-bats a year ago). Mitch Moreland allows the Sox to slide Hanley Ramirez into that DH role. Mookie Betts, who finished top-3 in MVP-voting a year ago taking home a silver slugger, a gold glove, and appearing in the 2016 all-star game. At the plate, Betts hit for a .318-average, getting on base at a .363-clip, plating 113-runs, and sending 31-balls-over-the-wall. All bets are off for what Betts could do in 2017. Up the middle headlined by Veteran Dustin Pedroia the Red Sox have a very solid double-play combo. However, with every team comes at least one question..and for the Red Sox, it truly is one question: How good is the Bullpen? Anchored by closer Craig Kimbrel, who is hoping to return to his dominate form in 2017, the rest of the Pen is a-bunch of question marks. Robbie Ross Jr? Joe Kelly? Someone has to step-up.
The Toronto Blue Jays will finish second in the ever-competitive-AL-East. The Jays will be in a heated battle for a Wild Card spot all season long. (Will they earn a spot? Find out March 28th right here when I preview the entire MLB season.) The first word that comes to mind when you think of the Blue Jays has to be: POWER! Jose Bautista, Kendrys Morales, Josh Donaldson, are all have 30--homer-guys potential especially playing all their divisional games in hitter-friendly-parks. With a solid rotation lead by Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez who set the world on fire a year ago. However, like the Red Sox the bullpen for Toronto is a bit shaky. After you get past Roberto Osuna who is a very good closer, you have a very eh pitcher in Jason Grilli. The rest of their bullpen is just cluttered with question marks. At second base, Devon Travis seems to be your best option, which is a tad concerning and that position could use an upgrade; Which is why the Jays are linked to the recently-released Brett Lawrie.
Hold on to your seats. The third place finisher in the AL East will surprise you. I'll wait....
The Tampa Bay Rays, your third place finisher in the AL East. With a nice lineup, a solid rotation, and a lot of slick fielders, the Rays are the third best team in the AL East. The questions for Tampa Bay: They have a mediocre at best manager who still has to prove himself in Kevin Cash. They have a bad bullpen (Which is a trend in the AL East). They are also relying on some bounce-back-candidates. Colby Rasmus had a bad year in 2016 for the Astros after signing the one year qualifying offer from Houston; But in 2015, Rasmus hit for a .238-average, with a .314-OBP. Rasmus drove in 61-runs, and hit for a career-high 25-home-runs. The Rays also brought in former-Nationals catcher Wilson Ramus who late-last-year suffered a torn ACL after having the best year of his career. Ramus will start the year on the shelf, but if he can come back later in 2017, and be what he was last year, this Rays line-up gets even better. A year ago, the Rays were 13th-best in runs-allowed per game, and took home the 3rd best team batting average in all of the Major Leagues. The advance numbers which take a look at how good you are based on runs scored, and runs allowed graded out the Rays as an 81-81 ball club just a few games off of their 80-82 finish.
The fourth place team is young, fun, and wears pinstripes. The New York Yankees. The Yankees have a lot of young talent headlined by catcher Gary Sanchez, first-baseman Greg Bird, and outfielder Aaron Judge. Along with some grizzled veterans such as Matt Holiday, and the 2016 NL home-run champ Chris Carter. Not to mention slick fielders up the middle in Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius. Their rotation however, is not so good, in fact, it is quite bad. They can over come that hole in their roster with their lights-out-star-studded-bullpen. Closer Aroldis Chapman throws over 100-MPH, not to mention Dillon Betances, and the third member of that three-headed-monster, Tyler Clippard.
Last, and certainly least, the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles have by-far the worst rotation in the AL East, and one of the worst in baseball. Outside of the best closer in baseball their bullpen is very lack-luster. Without pitching, especially in this division, playing in these parks, against these lineups, the Orioles won't be able to compete without major improvement which they do not seem ready, or able to make. If you are into moral victories, at least the Orioles have the best manager in the AL East?