American League East Predicted Standings:
1. New York Yankees 94 68 —
2. Toronto Blue Jays 87 75 7
3. Tampa Bay Rays 85 77 9
4. Boston Red Sox 81 81 13
5. Baltimore Orioles 65 97 29
New York Yankees
The Yankees benefited greatly from the lack of decisively bold movements and drastic improvements of their rivals. While they’re repeating prior mistakes with paranoia and pitcher-babying, they have the offense, abundance of starting pitching and deep bullpen to again rise to the top of the division.
The bench is something that will have to be addressed as the season moves along because Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones aren’t suitable backups regardless of the Yankees’ propaganda machine unequivocally stating that they are.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays needed a name arm or a name bat to be a preseason favorite and didn’t get either.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t contend; it means that they’re going to have to get big seasons from young players Brett Lawrie, Yunel Escobar and Henderson Alvarez. Sergio Santos must prove he can close for a full season and throw strikes; Brandon Morrow has to develop into a trustworthy top-tier starter without restrictions.
I picked Jose Bautista as the AL MVP.
Tampa Bay Rays
Again forced to scrounge around the bargain bins, they reunited with Carlos Pena to increase their power at first base. The Rays have been good and lucky in finding bullpen arms who fit into their system and rejuvenate stalled careers—running a club that way is rife with risks that eventually it’s not going to work.
B.J. Upton will play like a maniac all season as he heads for free agency.
With their young starting pitching, they could make it to the World Series or falter and be out of contention to put such stars as Upton, James Shields and David Price in play for a trade at mid-season.
I’ve got them somewhere in the middle.
Boston Red Sox
Who’s running things?
Is there any cohesion between John Henry, Larry Lucchino, Ben Cherington and Bobby Valentine?
At least when Theo Epstein was there—like it or not—you knew there was one person mostly in charge; now with Theo gone and Lucchino grasping for power; Henry providing self-protectionist alibis; Cherington marginalized; and Bobby V being…Bobby V, there are going to be voices, whispers, Machiavellian power plays and rampant dysfunction the likes which have not been seen in Boston since 2001.
Are they making the types of moves that laid the foundation of their annual championship contending teams from 2003-2010 or are they desperately trying to patch holes and find “name” people to replace the “name” people who are gone?
I like Valentine, but his polarizing personality can go both ways. The Red Sox starting rotation is short and they have black spots in their lineup at shortstop, right field and possibly catcher.
It’s a time bomb with Valentine and Josh Beckett.
I don’t hear much about Buck Showalter’s status as a miracle worker after the team came apart last season.
Following a hot start, they reverted to being the Orioles of the past 15 years.
Dan Duquette has received unfair criticism and there’s a lack of context in the good work he did as the Expos’ and Red Sox’ GM, but a lack of talent is a lack of talent; an impossible division is an impossible division; and until they develop their young arms and stick to a strategy for the long term, there’s not much that will change in Baltimore.
Duquette must be allowed to take the marketable players—notably Nick Markakis and Adam Jones—and see what types of offers he can get for them to replenish the system with multiple players. They’re not going to do the Orioles any good as Orioles.
Far more in depth analysis is in my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2012 Baseball Guide, now available.