Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Projecting the AL East

Now that all of my position rankings are done, I wanted to do a brief recap of where I feel that puts each team.  So I added up the team’s points (5 for top player at that position to 1 for worst at that position) to determine which team rankings wise is best.

The answer is not a surprise to me, the Baltimore Orioles.  They rank with 39 points, Boston 35, New York 34, Toronto 29, and Tampa Bay 28. So why do the rankings look like this?

Well, the Orioles have more proven players on their roster who are not in the twilight of their career than anyone else.  Let’s face it, the Yankees have a ton of talent if everyone was in their prime and not a concern to be injured, they would have an All-Star team.  But many of those players are older than 35 and/or have significant injury concerns.  The oldest player on Baltimore’s roster is Nick Markakis, who may be a little past his prime, but not as much as say Brian Roberts.

The Red Sox got the lowest ranking at two positions where they could end up being the best, SS and CF.  That is because they are starting two heralded rookies at those positions.  Right now, no one has a great idea what to expect, but both players are supposed to be very good.

The Rays come in last because other than Evan Longoria, they don’t have any established stars.  Wil Myers could be one, but he hasn’t had enough time to prove himself yet.  The Rays are a team that overachieves almost each and every season, a tribute to their great manager, Joe Maddon who is one of the best in the game (and the best in the division.)

And the pitching, starting pitching only counted as one slot, but it is what sets teams apart.  The Red Sox and Rays lead in that area, which gives both teams a boost.

Without further ado, here are my projections for the 2014 season:

Boston Red Sox

93-69, 1st place

I expect the defending champions to finish first again this year.  They have the best overall pitching in all of baseball, including starters who are all established major league pitchers.  They have great hitters, who should be able to make up for the struggles that several new additions may have at times.  You do have to be a little concerned about what performance they will get out of A.J. Pierzinski and whether they can keep a few of their players, namely Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli, healthy.  But overall there is no reason the champs shouldn’t win the division again.

Baltimore Orioles

89-73, 2nd place and first wild card

The Orioles are absolutely loaded on offense, where they likely will be better statistically than they were last year.  But it is all about pitching.  Which Ubaldo Jimenez are they getting, the one from the beginning of 2013 or the end?  Will Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez stay healthy?  If not, will Zach Britton finally put it all together.  If the pitching in Baltimore is good, or even just average, the Orioles will contend all the way up to the end of the season for the division title.  And the Orioles still have some potential trade chips as well, so there is still a chance they aren’t done upgrading their team.

Tampa Bay Rays

85-77, 3rd place

The Rays are seemingly in contention every single season.  Yet this year will be tough as the division is once again going to be very strong, meaning the competition in division will likely prevent the third place team from winning the second wild card spot. Manager Joe Maddon gets the best out of his players, and his pitching staff is locked and loaded with young talent.  The bullpen has a few questions, but most of the focus will be on how well the Rays hit the ball this year.  If well, this team will also be in contention all season.

New York Yankees

81-81, 4th place

The Yankees are going to suffer through a disappointing season in the Bronx, yet still finish at .500.  There are just so many questions among the entire team, and so many health risks and aging players that is hard to see this team holding up over a 162 game season.  And if they all do stay relatively healthy, what performance will we see from Derek Jeter, Carlos Beltran, Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixiera, Brian Roberts, and Kelly Johnson? That is six of the nine players projected to be opening day starters that there are questions about.  And that is before you get to the pitching, where you have to wonder about all the innings on CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda’s age, how good Masahiro Tanaka will be, and how good Michael Pineda will be pitching in the majors for the first time since 2011.  And can the bullpen full of players most have never heard of bridge that gap to closer David Robertson? So many questions for the Yankees.  They could get lucky and everyone stay healthy, but Brian Cashman thinks that fluke seasons don’t just happen.  If that is the case, his team is a sinking ship this year with the various questions.

Toronto Blue Jays

77-85, 5th place

Notice, Jays aren’t that far below .500.  They have some good pieces, but once again the pitching staff is a huge question mark.  Even though he is a knuckleballer, their staff ace R.A. Dickey is 39, which is pretty advanced in baseball age. Plus, he had a subpar season last year in the AL East.  How good will Mark Buerhle be, and J.A. Happ?  As for the hitters, if everyone had career seasons at once, like what happened two years ago, the Jays could be very competitive.  But the lineup is made up of guys who are largely inconsistent, and that isn’t something that just magically changes.  I think the Jays are looking at another last place in the AL East this season.

How would you rank the teams?  Do you think Boston will repeat as division champions?  Will the Yankees be able to stay healthy and finish higher?  Comment and let me know!

To see my rankings on each positions: Relief Pitchers and Closer, Starting Pitchers, Designated Hitter, Right Field, Center Field, Left Field, Third Base, Short Stop, Second Base, First Base, Catcher

Tags: AL East Baltimore Orioles Joe Maddon

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