1) Tampa Bay Rays – Jamie Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, Jeff Niemann…aka, best staff in baseball. They also have a very good bullpen and one of the best defensive squads in the league. The big question is whether or not they will hit. Answer, yes. The Rays have one of the most underrated outfields in baseball. Zobrist is a guy that will get 15 & 15, 75 RBI, and hit .260 every year. I see the Rays just holding off the Yankees this season.
2) New York Yankees – Health is obviously the issue for the Yankees. Who knows how many games A-Rod, Derek Jeter, Raul Ibanez, Swisher will play. Is this the year Rivera falls off? Is Pineda for real? Is Andy Pettitte really gonna pitch for the Yankees this year? The Yankee upside is not really that high to me, but their downside is really low. That said, they will be in contention for the division and probably get a Wild Card bid.
3) Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays have a very underrated staff. Morrow is the best pitcher you would never recognize. Adding Santos to the end of the bullpen was an excellent move this offseason, as was adding a guy with big game experience in Darren Oliver. Thames has won the left field spot, and I think is due for a breakout season. Bautista absolutely crushes, and I see Rasmus bouncing back. E5 Edwin Encarnacion will be the DH all year, so he can’t hurt the staff with all his errors. The season will really hinge on whether or not Brett Lawrie is the real deal, and chances are he is.
4) Boston Red Sox – Maybe this is just me being a pessimistic Red Sox fan, or maybe I see the flaws more clearly than most outlets have been reporting. The staff is gonna be ugly. I watched Aceves give up 9 runs in 3 innings the other day, and he is the fourth or fifth starter. Who knows how he or Bard will hold up as starters all season, and Beckett is routinely terrible in even numbered years. Bailey is an injury risk, and Melancon only has one year worth of track record, and it was with a terrible Astros team. I do believe Crawford will have a massive bounce back year, Ellsbury will regress with the power, but improve his steal numbers. Pedroia is Pedroia, and Gonzalez is Gonzalez. The two holes the Red Sox had this off-season were starters and right field. They clearly didn’t do anything to improve there, and I don’t consider Ryan Sweeney or Cody Ross improvements in right. The Red Sox won’t win more than 90 games, and that just isn’t enough in the AL East.
5) Baltimore Orioles – Last year I said the Orioles would be a .500 club. I was just a bit off…this year I say they will….still be horrible. The Orioles have a track record of taking pitchers with incredible potential, and finding a way to make sure they lose 5-10 mph on their fastball and struggle to get 150 innings. See Brian Matusz. Adam Jones is a great center fielder…and that is the last time I will use the word great in referring to anyone with the Orioles. To give you an idea of how poor the Orioles will be this season…Wilson Betemit is slated to be the starting DH. I am looking forward to seeing what Robert Andino can do starting the season as the everyday second baseman with Brian Roberts hurt, and it will be interesting to see if Chris Davis can live up to the hype in a new location. This will be a rough year for the Orioles, but on the bright side, I love the new old-school hats they will be rocking this year…definitely the most impressive thing they will put on the field all season.