Sep 16, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles players celebrate after clinching the AL East title after a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Orioles defeated the Jays 8-2. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
The culminating post of my position rankings will add all those rankings together, to give me a mathematical ranking for the AL East in 2015, but I will also add my own opinions as I make my predictions for one of the toughest divisions in baseball.
Let’s face it, it is going to be another dog fight in the AL East.
The Red Sox are going to be able to hit, and it appears play some defense too. The Yankees have pieces at pitching, if they can belie their age and also stay healthy.
The Jays made a bunch more moves in the offseason, and the Rays are always a threat with their pitching.
Meanwhile, the Orioles are defending champions. So, what do I think will happen in 2015? Well, I added up the position rankings for: Catcher, First Base, Second Base, Third Base, Shortstop, Left Field, Center Field, Right Field, Designated Hitter, Starting Pitching, and Relief Pitching, injected my own thoughts, and came up with the following predictions.
1. Baltimore Orioles (42 points, 93-69, 1st in AL East in 2015)
Last year, the Orioles ended up with the most points, but I thought they would finish second and get a wild card berth. Well, I was wrong, and for this Orioles fan, I was more than okay with that. And this year, they end up tied for first. And I decide this year I am picking the Birds.
This team has the stars to carry the team, both on the mound and at the plate. They are a team that has proven its worth. Sure, they play in a tough division, but the Orioles have feasted on their divisional competitors since Buck Showalter came to town. They have an established rotation with no change, and even though they lost last year’s HR leader in Nelson Cruz, the combined production of Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and a healthy Chris Davis could easily eclipse Cruz. And truly, replacing Nick Markakis is not that difficult (sorry O’s fans who are still holding on.)
The team has very few weaknesses. Sure, there are questions about left field and right field. But, the O’s have a whole host of candidates to pick up the slack. Second base with either Jonathan Schoop or Everth Cabrera will be solidified over last year. If Ubaldo Jimenez continues to pitch like he did to start Spring Training, he won’t be in the rotation.
While some national pundits are forgetting one of the best teams in baseball over the last three years, I think they make it back-to-back in the AL East.
2. Boston Red Sox (42 points, 89-73, 2nd in AL East, second wild card position)
I have the Red Sox getting the same number of points as the Orioles, and where I think the difference lies is with starting pitching. Both teams have a rotation of proven starters. However, the Red Sox’ current top pitcher is Clay Buchholz. He was awful last year. And although all the pitchers are veterans, none are a 1 or 2 pitcher.
Their bullpen is good, their infield should be very good. The Red Sox still are putting a lot of faith into two young players in Xander Bogaerts and Rusney Castillo, but I think both are now ready. The Red Sox also have players like David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia who do not have too many more years left.
I know that this same Red Sox team finished last in 2014, but let’s face it, these Red Sox are much different. All different pitchers, players healthy, etc. I expect a playoff-caliber year from the Red Sox in 2015.
3. Toronto Blue Jays (31 points, 88-74, 3rd in AL East)
I have the Jays just barely missing out on a playoff berth. This team is on the cusp of being good. They have pieces in place at so many positions. But it never seems to come together. Maybe it is a lack of leadership from the manager?
The Jays’ pitching is going to be very interesting moving forward. As documented, they have two aging veterans and several young pitchers. Can the veterans deliver what is expected of them, and the young guns live up to their reputations? Only time will tell.
The team has obvious upgrades at 3B and C, but they also have concerns at relief pitcher. Their previous closer is gone, and not having a proven closer is always cause for concern, especially for a team that wants to take it to the next level. I think the Jays are going to be a powerful team, a force to be reckoned with in the division, but I don’t think they get the job done.
4. New York Yankees (26 points, 77-85, 4th in AL East)
Somehow the 2014 Yankees held it together until Baltimore ran away with the division. They were right on the Orioles tail until the last two months. And that was with all the injured players and a piece-meal rotation made up of acquisitions and other spare parts.
I actually expect 2015 to be worse. The team is relying on an aging core of players at 1B, 2B, RF, DH. Their pitching staff features three guys coming off major injuries in Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, and Ivan Nova. Sabathia is aging quickly. Their bullpen, other than the lights-out back end, has more questions than answers.
All of this adds up to a lot of concerns on how good the Yankees will be in 2015. I think a lot of changes may be made in-season to try to right the ship heading toward 2016, and they may be some tough decisions.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (24 points, 71-91, 5th in AL East)
I think the Rays are in for a long season. Last year, they were six games better than this projection. That was with David Price for part of the season. Matt Moore is still out until the All-Star Break.
The pitching will keep them in almost every game. And some players, namely Evan Longoria, are due to bounce back. But, their defense includes underwhelming players in Desmond Jennings and David DeJesus, and Kevin Kiermaier. Their infield will be good defensively, but lacking a lot of power.
And the bullpen is going to continue to be a question, as Grant Balfour is another year older. With Joe Maddon, one of the smartest minds in the game gone, and Andrew Friedman as well, it will be interesting to see what happens in Tampa this year.
There you have it, all the predictions. Who agrees? Who is ready for the game to be played on the diamond? I think we all are ready for Opening Day!