Blog Entry

2009 AL East Preview

Posted on: February 16, 2009 7:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2009 1:05 pm
 

Baltimore Orioles
2008 Record: 68-93, Last Place in the AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 70-92, Last Place in the AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

While most Orioles fans are probably disappointed with the teams offseason movement, I like what GM Andy MacPhail is doing. MacPhail realized long ago that the current makeup of the team could not win him ballgames, let alone the AL East. He decided to firesale the team, starting with Erick Bedard and Miguel Tejada. These two deals brought the Orioles some much needed depth in a farm system that was ravaged dry. MacPhail continued that firesale this offseason by trading away Ramon Hernandez to Reds for Ryan Freel. While Freel won't do much for the team other than be a backup, the move has now cleared an opening for Matt Wieters to eventually take over as the everday catcher. In addition, MacPhail made some under the radar moves with the Cubs acquiring both Felix Pie and Rich Hill for spare parts. Both of these players have struggled at the big league level, but they both are considered to have high upside. This team is slowing progressing forward, and even though they didn't get Mark Teixeira this offseason, the team remains committed to winning longterm. Such is evidenced by MacPhail's moves since he arrived at Baltimore. O's fans can at least enjoy Nick Markakis for another 6 seasons as he signed an extension this offseason.

Projected Lineup:

  1. 2B Brian Roberts (S)
  2. 3B Melvin Mora (R)
  3. RF Nick Markakis (L)
  4. 1B Aubrey Huff (L)
  5. CF Adam Jones (R)
  6. DH Luke Scott (R)
  7. C Greg Zaun (S)
  8. SS Cesar Izturis (S)
  9. LF Felix Pie (L)

The Orioles lineup is just average at best, but they probably have the best outfield defense in the league with Pie, Jones, and Markakis. Roberts is a good place setter to start things off, but there are questions as to whether or not Mora will be as effective as he was a season ago. Nick Markakis is probably the most underrated outfielder in the league and should once again be the focal point for this teams offense. Huff is a decent enough hitter in the four hole, but his defense is a liability if the team plans on playing him at first base. That could change though if Ty Wigginton beats out Luke Scott for a starting job. The bottom half of the Orioles lineup is pretty weak. Jones has the potential to be good, but we're still waiting on him to breakout. The same can be said for Pie. Izturis likely won't be of any value on offense, while Greg Zaun could be replaced in the lineup by Matt Wieters at any time.

Projected Bench:

Aside from Wigginton, the bench is pretty weak. Quiroz doesn't figure to keep his spot on the team for the entire season, while Gomez is a sub-par bench player that has bounced from team to team in the past years. Freel will be the teams 5th outfielder, only because when Luke Scott isn't DHing, the team is likely to put him in the lineup first. However, it's still possible that Freel could backup the infielders at some point as well as he can play multiple positions.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Jeremy Guthrie
  2. RHP Koji Uehara
  3. LHP Rich Hill
  4. LHP Mark Hendrickson
  5. RHP Radhames Liz

The last three spots listed here are still up for competition, but those three seem to inside edge heading into camp. Jeremy Guthrie has been the Orioles workhorse for the past two seasons and will continue to be so as the team enters 2009. There have been mixed scouting reports on Uehara (pictured at the top of this blog). Some say he could be as effective as Hiroki Kuroda was last season for the Dodgers, while others don't think he'll cut it as a starting pitcher in the league. I guess we'll find out who was right during the season. Rich Hill has tremendous upside if he can find his stuff again and Henrickson and Liz should just be stopgaps for the young arms like Tillman and Patton that the Orioles will have waiting to be called up.

Projected Bullpen:

The bullpen is now better than it was a year ago, simply because the Orioles are getting Chris Ray back from Tommy John Surgery. The injury kept Ray out all of last season. Many still speculate that Ray, who closed for Baltimore before Sherrill, will eventually overtake Sherrill as the teams closer, but that still remains to be seen. I personally think Matt Albers would serve the Rays better in the rotation instead of Liz, but apparently the team doesn't share my same feelings. Meanwhile, it remains to be seen if Jamie Walker can turn his miserable 2008 season around and get back to where he was 2 years ago.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. C Matt Wieters
  2. RHP Chris Tillman
  3. LHP Brian Matusz
  4. RHP Jake Arrieta
  5. OF Nolan Reimold
  6. RHP Brandon Erbe
  7. 3B Billy Rowell
  8. LHP Troy Patton
  9. 1B Brandon Snyder
  10. RHP Kam Mickolio

Spring Position Battles:

Catcher - Matt Wieters vs. Greg Zaun
Rotation - Guthrie and Uehara are the only locks
Designated Hitter - Luke Scott vs. Ty Wigginton


Boston Red Sox
2008 Record: 95-67, 2nd place in the AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 93-69, 2nd place in the AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

It wasn't a big offseason for the Red Sox, but it wasn't really a bad one either. GM Theo Epstein took advantage of a slowing market by signing some undervalued players in Brad Penny, Takashi Saito, John Smoltz, and Rocco Baldelli. Each of the players mentioned had injury problems last season which kept them out of many games, but if they fully recover, they can be very effective. As for the departures, the team really didn't lose anything useful. Sure, Epstein traded Crisp away to the Royals for bullpen depth, but he adequately was able to replace his production. Schilling and Timlin havn't been anything useful in over a year, while Bartolo Colon would have been had he not swung for the fences during interleague play.

Projected Lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury (L)
  2. 2B Dustin Pedroia (R)
  3. DH David Ortiz (L)
  4. 1B Kevin Youkilis (R)
  5. LF Jason Bay (R)
  6. RF J.D. Drew (L)
  7. 3B Mike Lowell (R)
  8. SS Jed Lowrie (R)
  9. C Jason Varitek (S)

Solid lineup until you get down to the bottom three in the order. It will be interesting to see how much Jacoby Ellsbury develops this season and whether or not Kevin Youkilis can keep the type of power production that he did a year ago. Looking at the bottom three in the order though, Lowell is coming off of surgery, so there is no telling how well he will be able to perform while Lowrie and Varitek don't really offer the team much at their respected positions. Lowrie was still a below average shortstop last year hitting the ball and his range at the position was downright terrible. Then again, the fact that he's an upgrade over Julio Lugo is pretty sad. Meanwhile, Varitek has had two poor seasons in the past three years and many people, including myself, thought the Red Sox were stupid to bring him back.

Projected Bench:

Bard remains a good backup catcher as long as they don't make him catch Wakefield. Even if he does, there is a strong possibility Wakefield might get thrown in the bullpen if John Smoltz comes back healthy in June. Wilkerson only figures to be on the bench at the start of the season as his spot will likely be taken away by Mark Kotsay, who just underwent surgery and is likely out for the first two months of the year. However, when fully healthy, a bench of Bard, Lugo, Baldelli, and Kotsay may be one of the best in the league.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Josh Beckett
  2. LHP Jon Lester
  3. RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka
  4. RHP Brad Penny
  5. RHP Tim Wakefield

Beckett remains one of the top starters in the American League, despote having a down year last season. It was good to finally see Jon Lester reach his potential, as he hadn't done it in any season prior. As for Matsuzaka, his numbers are wierd. The walks are alarming, but since no one gets hits off of him, the era has stayed low and he won quite a bit of games last year. If hitters start to figure him out, then Boston has to watch out as Matsuzaka has the potential to get lit up on any given night with his wildness. Penny should be decent coming off of shoulder surgery, but even if he struggles, the Sox can alway turn to either Clay Buchholz or Michael Bowden in AAA. John Smoltz should be back to the team by midseason and was looking really good at drills in spring training. Wakefield still remains a reliable starter, though depending on health of others, could get bumped from the rotation once Smoltz returns.

Projected Bullpen:

The bullpen is looking revamped with the additions of Saito and Ramirez. Saito has been one of the most effective pitchers in the league since coming over from Japan, but struggled after coming off the DL at the end of last season forcing the Dodgers to non-tender him. Meanwhile, Ramirez had a good season for the Royals last year, but struggled the year prior. He's just another arm that the Sox can throw out on any given night and expect to be effective.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. 1B Lars Anderson
  2. RHP Michael Bowden
  3. LHP Nick Hagadone
  4. RHP Daniel Bard
  5. OF Josh Reddick
  6. RHP/SS Casey Kelly
  7. OF Ryan Westmoreland
  8. 3B Michael Almanzar
  9. IF Yamaico Navarro
  10. RHP Stolmy Pimentel

Spring Position Battles:

Shortstop - Jed Lowrie vs. Julio Lugo
Bench Spot - Brad Wilkerson vs. Chris Carter, Paul McAnulty , and Jeff Bailey

 

New York Yankees
2008 Record:
89-73, 3rd Place in AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 97-65, 1st Place in AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

The Yankees took advantage of a poor economy and snagged up the best three players on the free agent market in CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. Sabathia takes the ace role, which was vacated when Mike Mussina decided to retire. Meanwhile adding Burnett makes the teams staff a lot better while it takes away a number two pitcher from a rival opponent. By signing Teixeira, the Yankees found their new first basemen of the future after 7 years of Jason Giambi occupying that spot. Nick Swisher, who was acquired for Jeff Marquez and Wilson Betemit in the early stages of the offseason, still could be moved. Otherwise, it's likely that he might spend 2009 as a bench player. As for the departures, the Yankees are losing a little offense by allowing Abreu and Giambi to walk, but they are now a much better defensive team and if injuries don't come in to play as bad as they did a year ago, the team should have a much higher run differential. Carl Pavano was useless in his time in New York, while Rasner wasn't needed. As much as Yankee fans hated Betemit, he is actually looking like a better bench option now as the Yankees only added Angel Berroa in the offseason.

Projected Lineup:

  1. LF Johnny Damon (L)
  2. SS Derek Jeter (R)
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira (S)
  4. 3B Alex Rodriguez (R)
  5. C Jorge Posada (S)
  6. DH Hideki Matsui (L)
  7. RF Xavier Nady (R)
  8. 2B Robinson Cano (L)
  9. CF Melky Cabrera (S)

It's a fresh start for the Yankees....somewhat. They have most of their key players recovered from injury and a new superstar in the lineup. However, they also have a cleanup hitter that doesn't react well to pressure coming off a steroid filled offseason. It remains to be seen just how good Alex Rodriguez will be for the Yankees this year. I think he should eventually be fine as A-rod handled the situatoin the appropriate way, but you just never know. It also remains to be seen what if the health of older players such as Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, and Johnny Damon will continue to hold up. This team is the best team in the league "on paper," but they need to translate that into a playoff berth. If Joe Girardi doesn't make the playoffs this year, I think he should be gone. He has all the talent and resources he needs to have a winning ballclub. Just keep this locker room in order and get the job done.

Projected Bench:

Ugh. Aside from Nick Swisher, this is probably the worst bench in baseball. I don't know how a team can spend so much money on three players and then ignore going after someone to fill the void on the bench. Berroa, Gardner, and Molina all suck, but at least Gardner and Molina are good defensive players. Perhaps the Yankees should take a flyer on Mark Grudzielanek, Ray Durham, or Adam Kennedy. I'm sure all could be had for minimum contracts.

Projected Rotation:

  1. LHP CC Sabathia
  2. RHP A.J. Burnett
  3. RHP Chien-Ming Wang
  4. LHP Andy Pettitte
  5. RHP Joba Chamblerlain

From the looks of it, it looks as if Sabathia and Burnett are already best friends. These two are going to be counted on to carry the team on its back for most of 2009. Meanwhile, the Yankees should benefit greatly from getting a healthy Chien-Ming Wang and a full season of Joba Chamberlain. Personally, I think the Yankees would have been better off going with Phil Hughes in the 5th spot in the rotation rather than Pettitte, but I guess now Hughes will be the first option when A.J. Burnett a Yankee pitcher goes on the disabled list.

Projected Bullpen:

ESPN analysts John Kruk and Buck Showalter thought the Yankees would have been better off having Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen, but I'm not so sure I agree with that. In my opinion, your most effective pitchers should be pitching the most innings possible. The team still has Mariano Rivera closing games out for them, so it's not as if the Yankees don't have anyone in their pen. Bruney should still be effective in the right handed setup role, but I have my doubts about Marte. The rest had pretty good seasons a year ago, while I'm wondering what the Yankees plans are for Ian Kennedy. I put him in the long relief role as it would probably take multiple injuries for the team to even consider using him as a starter. Plus, I figured the Yankees would go with 4 bench players and 7 relievers.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

Position Battles:

Centerfield - Brett Gardner vs. Melky Cabrera
Final Bullpen Spots

 

Tampa Bay Rays
2008 Record:
97-65, 1st Place in the AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 87-75, 3rd Place in the AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

Burrell is a significant upgrade to Cliff Floyd in the lineup and David Price should fill in fine for the departed Edwin Jackson. I'm not too fond of any of the other moves the Rays made this offseason and I still think the team underrates what Eric Hinske's bat did for them a year ago, but I guess they'll find that out on their own. 2009 should be another learning year for the Rays. They had a bunch of success in 2008, but it remains to be seen whether or not they can repeat that same success. Many other teams in the division have now had a chance to make changes and get scouting reports on this young team and given the competition they face in their division, I think another playoff berth is unlikely, though I do think they will finish well above .500. However, I wouldn't mind if the small market Rays proved me wrong. GM Andrew Friedman has a great base here in Tampa and a team that is likely to stay competitive for a long while.

Projected Lineup:

  1. 2B Akinori Iwamura (L)
  2. LF Carl Crawford (L)
  3. CF BJ Upton (R)
  4. 1B Carlos Pena (L)
  5. DH Pat Burrell (R)
  6. 3B Evan Longoria (R)
  7. C Dioner Navarro (S)
  8. RF Gabe Gross (R)
  9. SS Jason Bartlett (R)

When Evan Longoria is projected to be your 6th hitter in the batting order, you know you have a good young lineup. The addition of Burrell at DH makes this team quite a bit better offensively. It remains to be seen if B.J. Upton can take the power he displayed in the postseason last year and put it into effect in the regular season. Meanwhlie, Carl Crawford is looking to bounce back after one of his worst seasons as a pro.

Projected Bench:

Jaso is a friend of mine from high school, so I'm really hoping he makes the team. Baseball America has him listed as the Rays prospect with the most plate discipline and he's been really good in the minors thus far. He was called up in September of last season as insurance and went 2 for 10 in mostly pinch hit situations. However, he is a better hitter than Shawn Riggans and is also athletic enough to play the outfield or first base if asked to. Meanwhlie, Willy and Ben Zobrist figure to be the key backups once again in the infield for the Rays, whlie Matt Joyce sohuld be battling Gabe Gross for the starting spot in right field. I imagine Kapler will remain a backup, but he's been solid since returning from Japan.

Projected Rotation:

  1. LHP Scott Kazmir
  2. RHP James Shields
  3. RHP Matt Garza
  4. RHP Andy Sonnanstine
  5. LHP David Price

Should be pretty difficult facing the Rays on any given night. The Rays have quality starters all throughout their rotation and are backing them up with quality starters waiting for their chance in the minor leagues. I'm most interested in seeing how the young David Price will develop. The past few years, young pitchers (such as Phil Hughes, Homer Bailey, Ian Kennedy, and Clay Buchholz) have been overhyped because of their minor league success. Will Price be the first one to break the trend? He certainly is the front runner for the American League Rookie of the Year Award and after his brilliant postseason performance, people will be expecting a lot from the young rookie.

Projected Bullpen:

This bullpen scares me. And not in a good way. Percival was inneffective for much of last year while Wheeler and Howell had their best season in years. I'm not confident anyone on the Rays bullpen can keep the same success they had a year ago. It's too bad Chad Bradford got hurt, because he was the one stable part of this bullpen. If the Rays are looking for the same October goal they had a season ago, they will need to upgrade this bullpen quite a bit. I believe Niemann will be forced to be a reliever unless he's traded as I think he's out of options and I imagine David Price will win the 5th starter competition. Perhaps he can bring some stability.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. LHP David Price
  2. SS Tim Beckham
  3. RHP Wade Davis
  4. SS Reid Brignac
  5. OF Desmond Jennings
  6. LHP Matt Moore
  7. LHP Nick Barnese
  8. RHP Jeremy Hellickson
  9. LHP Jake McGee
  10. RHP Jeff Niemann

Spring Position Battles:

Backup Catcher - John Jaso vs. Shawn Riggans
Right Fielder - Gabe Gross vs. Matt Joyce vs. Fernando Perez

 

Toronto Blue Jays
2008 Record: 86-76, 4th place in AL East
BP's 2009 Projection: 75-87, 4th place in AL East

Notable Additions:

Notable Departures:

Well....There's really not much to say about the Blue Jays offseason. GM J.P. Ricciardi did nothing but sign a bunch of below average players to minor league contracts. The team remained complacent and did not make one significant signing.


Projected Lineup:

  1. SS Marco Scutaro (R)
  2. 2B Aaron Hill (R)
  3. RF Alex Rios (R)
  4. CF Vernon Wells (R)
  5. DH Adam Lind (L)
  6. 3B Scott Rolen (R)
  7. 1B Lyle Overbay (L)
  8. C Rod Barajas (R)
  9. LF Travis Snider (R)

Marco Scutaro leading off? Somehow I think that's going to change. Perhaps Hill will eventually take over the role. The Jays basically feature the same offense as they had a year ago. The only difference is that Travis Snider, the teams top prospect, should see regular at bats at either left field or designated hitter.

Projected Bench:

The bench is weak. Barrett is a good backup, but the others don't offer much more. I really don't know what to say when it comes to the Blue Jays bench, because their offseason offers nothing to talk about.

Projected Rotation:

  1. RHP Roy Halladay
  2. RHP Jesse Litch
  3. LHP David Purcey
  4. RHP Casey Janssen
  5. LHP Ken Takahashi

Looking at the rotation, the Blue Jays still have a Cy Young caliber pitcher in Roy Halladay, but it drops off quite a bit after that. Shaun Marcum is out for the year, while Dustin McGowan will be out for the first few months. The Jays are going to have spring position battles for their final few spots in the rotation and it remains to be seen whether or not Brett Cecil (the teams top pitching prospect) will be allowed to win a spot outright.

Projected Bullpen:

The good news for the Jays is that their bullpen is the exact same as it was a year ago. The Jays had the best bullpen era in 2008 and every single member should be healthy for the start of the year.

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects:

  1. OF Travis Snider
  2. C J.P. Arencibia
  3. LHP Brett Cecil
  4. SS Justin Jackson
  5. 1B David Cooper
  6. 3B Kevin Ahrens
  7. LHP Brad Mills
  8. LHP Ricky Romero
  9. LHP Marc Rzepcynski
  10. 2B Brad Emaus

Spring Position Battles:

Designated Hitter - Kevin Millar vs. Travis Snider
Bench Spots
5th Starter

Sorry Blue Jays fans for not giving you more, but blame your GM.

Comments

Since: Dec 30, 2006
Posted on: March 26, 2009 6:32 am
 

2009 AL East Preview

I can honestly say I love what MacPhail did in the offseason. He desposed of Ramon Hernandez finally with Wieters waiting on deck, got Freel and (I think) two prospects from the Reds for him and then signed Gregg Zaun to help Wieters and work with the pitching staff. Grabbing felix Pie for Garrett Olson and another pitching prospect was also a very good move that I see. It boosts the outfield defense while disposing of Olson's 6+ ERA and bad control. Locking up Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts were also big additions. Some think the O's should have traded Roberts, but there wasn't really a trade worth doing out there. Keeping him for 4 years is the best thing and by the time he leaves, Jerome Hoes, the O's 3rd round pick this year should be ready or atleast close. 

Getting Koji Uehara was a major step in the International develpmental program that MacPhail has installed and he has very very good control.

I also liked the addition of Cesar Izturis. He fills the shortstop need that the O's have fought since Tejada was traded and even if he doesn't give good offensive numbers, his defense is very good and makes a sick double play combo with B-Rob.

 

 




Since: Mar 31, 2008
Posted on: February 18, 2009 2:46 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

COME ON JAYS FANS! don't be so down. Look i know its frustrating but we've got to have some hope in them. I think this year could be better because there is less for them to live up to. It will be difficult but I think they will prove alot of nay-sayers. If there was a salary cap maybe the damn yankees and damn red sox wouldn't be such difficult beasts to tame. We are stuck in the hardest division in baseball, period. The Jays are easily better than more than half the entire MLB, so we got to give them a chance. However if things fall apart early, than go Rays! I hope they can do it again.




Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2009 7:03 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

As a Jays fan, I'm not looking forward to this season...more of the same. I don't blame ya. You don't even have a single signing to be excited about. Orlando Cabrera would make a ton of sense, but it's probably not worth giving up the draft picks to get him. If I were the Jays, I'd probably put Aaron Hill at shortstop and bring back Orlando Hudson to leadoff and play second base. Don't get me wrong, as an A's fan, I love Scutaro, but I don't think he should be starting. Let alone leading off.

 




Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2009 7:00 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

and I'm to persuade them otherwise. *I'm trying to persuade them otherwise.

typo.

 




Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2009 6:56 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

Andy Mcphail has made huge strides in developing the farm system and the signing of OF Markakis was huge. He might be the best overall rightfielder in the AL. Just about every Orioles fan I've talked to this year was dissapointed and I'm to persuade them otherwise. Andy MacPhail is a really good GM and it actually took other posters on the board for me to realize that (Dragonrider, Minutesarehours where you been at). I've watched his moves since he arrived and I've been impressed with the long term development he has for that team. It must be difficult competing in that division and no "one signing" will put a team with as many problems as the O's had over the top. 

The one thing I'm surprised about is Angelos is letting MacPhail do his thing. As vocal as Angelos has been in the past, I am kind of shocked.

 




Since: Nov 3, 2007
Posted on: February 17, 2009 6:27 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

Very nice wrote up, can't wait for the season to start.

Go Sox!!




Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2009 5:39 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

p.s.  Does anyone have a clue what the new rankings are about for CBS?  Its been strange, Ive been getting low scores on my posts, like the one above, and then sometimes, Im getting like 134.  Just curious, anyone who could shed some light on it would be much apreciated!




Since: Aug 25, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2009 5:37 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

Iam going to make your job a little easier for calling the Central.  Detriot Tigers take it!  I really had big hopes for them last year, as I predicting them to play the Red Sox in the ALCS, wow I was wrong huh?  But I think this is the year they get thier Sh*t in order.  But who knows right, last year at this time, who was predicting the Rays to win the east, and not to mention make it all the way to the world series!?




Since: Sep 21, 2006
Posted on: February 17, 2009 4:53 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

Nice blog.  As a Jays fan, I'm not looking forward to this season...more of the same.




Since: Jan 19, 2009
Posted on: February 17, 2009 3:52 pm
 

2009 AL East Preview

Great post! The only thing I see that is inaccurate regarding the O's blog is when you made the comment that the orioles fans are probably disappointed in the offseason moves. I myself am a huge O's fan and I can tell you that everyone in Baltimore is excited and proud of the recent moves. GM Andy Mcphail has made huge strides in developing the farm system and the signing of OF Markakis was huge. He might be the best overall rightfielder in the AL.



The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com