MLB Early Division Predictions: AL East

The American League East might be the best division in baseball. Last year, three teams spent most of the season fighting for the division title, and the division produced three playoff teams. It is likely that we could see a similar result in 2017. This one is probably the most difficult division to predict, but I am going to try.

 

5th Place: Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays are not a bad team, but they are certainly the worst in the division. The Rays have quality players, but they don’t nearly have the talent to compete in the division quite yet. Chris Archer is a great arm to build your rotation around. The lineup seems to have a lot of veterans, and no young stars for them to really build their team around. I think that the Rays are quite a ways away from contention. If my prediction is correct, I would like to see them trade away Evan Longoria to a contending team. Longoria is a player who can still produce, and many teams would be happy to take him on, but he is not getting any younger.

 

4th Place: New York Yankees

Don’t hate me Yankee fans. The Yankees are not far away from another postseason berth, but considering the tough division, I think that it will be difficult for the Yanks to find a playoff spot. Last year, the Yankees were smart in the way they handled their situation. They swallowed their pride, realized that they needed to get younger, and they traded away Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller for some great young prospect. And then they signed Chapman again in the offseason. Unfortunately for the Yankees, even though they did all of this work to gain some young talent, these young players are still “prospects.” If these players make it to the majors this this year, they might not be able to produce big numbers right away. The Yankees are still a fairly old team. Gary Sanchez is an upcoming star, but players like Aaron Judge and Ronald Torreyes will likely need time to develop. If so, they still need to depend on veterans like Brett Gardner, Matt Holliday, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Chase Headly. All of whom are in their 30s.

 

3rd Place: Toronto Blue Jays

This is where it gets difficult. I will start with pointing out that the Blue Jays have a very good rotation. Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, J.A Happ, Marco Estrada, and Francisco Liriano, are all quality arms and together they form one of the best rotations in the American League. The issue this year might be the offense, which has not been the story of the Blue Jays for a long time. They lost Edwin Encarnacion in free agency. Encarnacion was a very consistent 100 RBI’s every year. Jose Bautista’s numbers were down in 2016, so it is likely that father time is catching up to him. Josh Donaldson is still amazing, and Devon Travis certainly has promise, and Kendrys Morales can still hit at the age of 33. Otherwise, this lineup does not have much. Troy Tulowitzki does not appear to be what he used to be, and the rest of the lineup is filled with mediocre bats such as Kevin Pillar, Russell Martin, Justin Smoak, and Steve Pearce.

2nd Place: Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox are probably the most talented team in this division. They won it last year, and rightfully so. They arguably had the best offense in baseball in 2016. When Jackie Bradly Jr spends most of the year batting at the back end of your lineup and he drives in 87 runs, you have yourself a stacked offense. That offense also had this one guy named David Ortiz in 2016. And although he was only one bat in a lineup full of talent, his loss is more than some people realize. When David Ortiz is batting in the middle of your lineup, he makes others’ jobs easier. Without Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez does not drive in 100 runs hitting out of the 5 spot. And it is not just his bat, but it is the leadership that he has provided for the Red Sox for years. I expect this offense to take more of a hit than some people realize. However, they were able to acquire Chris Sale to solidify their rotation, and in doing so, they have developed a phenomenal line of starting pitchers. Chris Sale is one of the game’s best, Rick Porcello won the AL Cy Young award in 2016, and I expect David Price, another former Cy Young award winner, to have a much better year than he did in 2016. Sometimes it takes pitchers some time to adjust to a new stadium, and with one year under his belt, Price is likely to turn things around to make up for a mediocre 2016. And let’s not forget that 4th starter Drew Pomeranz was an all-star in 2016..

 

1st place: Baltimore Orioles

If I am being honest, this is a bit of a gut feeling. The Orioles have been a good team for a while now, and it seems like it is time that they make a run. They won the division in 2014, but before that, they hadn’t won since 1997. That being said, I think that they have the best manager in the division in Buck Showalter. Their lineup is very good. Manny Machado is a top 5 overall player. His combination of offensive and defensive talent borderline unheard of. Mark Trumbo hit 47 home runs last year, and Chris Davis still has crazy power. Adam Jones is still a quality bat as well. The rotation seems suspect, but I think that Showalter and company make it work with a top notch bullpen, led by Zach Britton, who is arguably the best closer is baseball.

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