Last year, the AL East was viewed by many as the weakest division in the MLB. Next year, it seems as if things will change. The Blue Jays still have the All-Star like offense that drove them to the playoffs. The Red Sox have stolen one of the pieces that got the Jays to the playoffs in David Price. The Yankees have upgraded to a Super Bullpen with Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Bentances, and Andrew Miller all in the same cage, and they’ve also added some more youth in Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks. The O’s are still a strong team. The Rays have a very young roster, in which I believe it’s impossible to predict how their season will go. We still have about two months of offseason where anything can happen. Let’s pretend the season starts tomorrow. Who becomes the favorite?
The Blue Jays sored and turned into a Juggernaut last season with acquisitions of Price and Troy Tulowitzki. Their line up can rival any in baseball. However, I believe the downfall will be their pitching rotation. I know the young Marcus Stroman showed up last year and looked really good going 4-0 with a 1.67 ERA in four starts. That’s a terrific start, and he’ll definitely benefit from run support next year as well. After him though, you have Marco Estrada, who had a career year in 2015 going 13-7 with a 3.13 ERA. With his reputation though, you have to questions if he’s going to be able to improve or at least duplicate those numbers in 2016. RA Dickey is also a year older. Basically what I am trying to say is, their rotation took a huge hit when they lost David Price. I don’t think they have a true ACE yet. Stroman is on his way, but this is only going to be his first full season, and I personally wouldn’t consider him an ace yet. Despite this however, I do think they are the favorite in my view to win the East.
However, there are 4 other teams who have something to say about that. The Red Sox, I believe are the Wild Card that not a lot of people are recognizing. I’m not saying this because they added Craig Kimbrel and Price, although Price gives the Sox the type of ace they that have been missing for years. The reason I say they are a wild card is because I feel like virtually the whole lineup is dying for a comeback. Pablo Sandoval, Hanley Ramirez, and Dustin Pedroia all have had their woes. Imagine if those 3 play as the type of players we all know they can be. Hanley may never be a MVP type guy, but he can also be much better then he was last season. We all know what Dustin used to be. Can he stay healthy and be effective once again? I wouldn’t put it past him. Pablo Sandoval should be adjusted to being in Boston by now, and I’d expect him to be a key player as well. Add those 3 with David Ortiz, who hit 37 homeruns last year. With him being 40, he can hit 20 or 25 homeruns to still be productive. Being his last season, I expect another 30 homerun season from him next year. Take into account the mix of youth, with the addition of Chris Young adding depth to the outfield. I expect the Red Sox to once again be a threat in the AL East next season.
What about their arch rival, the Yankees? Well, lets first start off by saying the Yankees definitely exceeded most expectations. One of my favorite things about the team is how balanced they are. They have nice hope for the future in their younger stars. Greg Bird, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge and others of the Yankees prospects keep the future bright. However, the Yankees also have a chance right now to at least contend if Tex and A-Rod can continue the resurgence of there careers. Didi Gregorious and the aforementioned Castro will turn a lot of double plays over the next few years. The rotation has potential to also be pretty good. If Severino can keep up the performance he had over a full season, Nathan Eovaldi can keep up his improvement and Masahiro Tanaka can be Masahiro Tanaka. Take into account CC Sabathia has been training hard to have a comeback season. If he can pull away with a 14-10 season, that could be pretty huge for the Yankees. He doesn’t have to be the ace he once was. I know Michael Pineda put on a terrible show at the end of least season, but we do know how good he can be as well. The rotation can be a lot better then they are getting credit for. Although, it is pretty safe to say there a lot of “ifs” and question marks, I don’t think we have to question the bullpen. Even if there is a suspension on Chapman’s part, the Yankees still have a bullpen to be reckoned with. I think the Yankees will be battling atop the east with the Red Sox and Blue Jays for 1st place.
Now, if the Orioles can still retain Chris Davis somehow, along with fellow free agent Yoenis Cespedes, then this conversation may be different, but we’re going off of who would be the favorites to win the East if the season started today. Essentially they have the same team as last year, with a subtraction of who I believe was their biggest gun in Davis that complimented Adam Jones and Manny Machado. This is not to say they aren’t going to battle it out for the division title or at least the Wild Card, because they are a still very intriguing team, but I just see them as a strong 4th place with a winning season over .500.
Tampa Bay is also a wild card. We already know they have some talent. They are a super young team, and they could be the 2014 Kansas City Royals or the 2015 Houston Astros and emerge as a serious contender. I think it starts with their rotation, they have a star in the making if he’s not one yet in Chris Archer. However, with this team going either way as opposed to the others, I have to them at 5th.
With all this being said, I believe the East to be as tight if not tighter then last year, except only now, they are all threats. It’s going to be a fun baseball season to watch.
Final Standing Predictions As of 1/3/2016:
- Blue Jays.
- Red Sox.
****Blue Jays and Red Sox both pull away with the 2 Wild Card spots