Sunday, March 27, 2011

MLB 2011 Preview-AL East

5. Toronto Blue Jays-Every year, Toronto fields a pretty decent team. The problem is, they play in the toughest division in all of baseball. As they head into 2011, they find themselves without the face of their franchise, Vernon Wells, who was traded to the Angels in the offseason. But even without Wells, the Jays will still pack a pretty good punch on offense. Offensively, hey are led by home run champ Jose Bautista (54 in 2010) and the power hitting second baseman Aaron Hill. This team will continue to hit the long ball (257 home runs in 2010; the most in MLB), considering the band box they play home games in. Pitching wise, they have young starting pitching (Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, Brett Cecil, and Kyle Drabek), which will be the setback for them in 2011. If they can get a lead to the late innings, they should be able to hold it down with a pretty solid bullpen. But the problem will be getting to the late innings with a lead. And someone in this division has to finish last, and the Blue Jays will be that team.

4. Tampa Bay Rays-Tampa enjoyed a very successful 2010, winning the AL East but fell in 5 games to the Rangers in the ALDS. And in the offseason, the lost key players, such as Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Grant Balfour, and Rafael Soriano. They enter the 2011 season with no set closer, and a bullpen that lost its best pitchers from 2010. They did bring in OFs Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez at very cheap deals, but they cannot fill the void left by Crawford in the lineup. They still boast a strong starting staff, led by David Price, and have a good up and coming pitcher in Jeremy Hellickson at the back end of the rotation. They play in one of the worst stadiums in the big leagues, they have a fan base that never comes out to the ballpark, and a owner unwilling to spend money on maintaining a great roster. All of this adds up to a fourth place finish in 2011 for Tampa Bay.

3. Baltimore Orioles-Derrek Lee, JJ Hardy, Mark Reynolds, and Vlad Guerrero. These were the players Baltimore brought in to help their offense. And with those additions added to the presence of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, Brian Roberts, and Nick Markakis; the O's now boast one of the best lineups in all of baseball. They also boast one of the youngest rotations in all of baseball. The staff is led by Jeremy Guthrie (11-14, 3.83 ERA in 2010) and Brian Matusz (10-12, 4.30 ERA). If these two can continue to improve on their 2010 numbers they should be very tough to beat. And if they can get decent production from the back end of the rotation (Brad Bergesen, Jake Arrieta, and Justin Duchscherer), the O;s could put up a serious fight. Their bullpen should be halfway decent now with the addition of closer Kevin Gregg. Add him with Koji Uehara and Mike Gonzalez, the O's might win quite a few games if they can get the lead in the late innings. The O's are set up very nicely to have a good year. And they find themselves no longer in the AL East cellar, but in a very respectable third place.

2. New York Yankees
-During the offseason, the Yankees banked on signing Cliff Lee. They failed. They banked on Andy Pettitte returning. They failed. So the bombers go into the season with a rotation that could potentially be disastrous after C.C. Sabathia. AJ Burnett had his issues in 2010, and Phil Hughes had a decent season, but he could fall either way this year. After those three, the Yanks have Ivan Nova, Sergio Mitre, Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia battling for the final two rotation spots. Its not exactly a model blueprint for a good starting staff. Besides the rotation the Yankees have a solid team. A good lineup and a very good bullpen. They brought in former Rays closer Rafael Soriano to be the setup man for Mariano Rivera for the next three years. They also brought in former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, to hopefully put his career on the right path again. The Yanks will be a good team. But, their rotation issues will prevent them from winning this division. It does get them the Wild Card though.

1. Boston Red Sox-If you think anyone but the Red Sox were the sweepstakes winners this offseason, your crazy. They first signed Carl Crawford to man left field, they then went on to finally acquire Adrian Gonzalez from the Padres to play first base. It gives the Red Sox the best lineup in all of baseball. The hope is for this team, is it can stay healthy for the season. Last year the Sox lost Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury to injuries, forcing the Sox to play with a depleted lineup. Pitching wise, this is a very deep team. The rotation is led by lefty ace Jon Lester, who is becoming one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball. Their bullpen, is one of if not the best in baseball. The addition of Bobby Jenks coupled with Daniel Bard, Hideki Okajima, and closer Jonathon Papelbon (if he can be effective) will make it nearly impossible to get a win in the late innings. As I before stated, this is a very deep team. It is team built to win the World Series. And they might just do that.

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