2018 MLB AL East Preview

1 Beantown: Beast of the east

Even though there are two really big dudes up in New York, the Boston Red Sox lineup is stacked with really good young talent and older players who can carry a team for a stretch. I think it’s time to stop talking about second baseman Dustin Pedroia like he’s a cute eight-year-old and start talking about him for the Hall of Fame. He’s aggressive yet efficient, powerful yet patient. He’s a great example for outfielders, Jackie Bradley Jr. Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts as well as shortstop Mookie Betts. Pedroia is also recovering from knee surgery. His backup Eduardo Nunez is capable but there won’t be any controversy when Pedroia returns .Throw in first baseman Mitch Moreland and designated hitter Hanley Ramirez and you’ve got a lineup that can produce runs even if everyone isn’t killing it.

The pitching rotation is really solid. Chris Sale gets all of the attention but it’s the depth that’s impressive. Drew Pomerania and David Price are solid number-twos and Rich Porcello gives you what you’d expect from a four. And the Sox have Hector Velazquez who has been really good in a small sample size.

This team is playoff-bound. They could easily win the whole thing.

Projection: 99 wins

 

2 Let’s overspend for second

Let’s just assume New York Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton hit a ton of home runs, but I don’t think they’re going to hit more than they did last year. Judge is a smart kid. His weaknesses were made apparent during a couple of horrible slumps last year and I expect him to correct his approach at the plate and be more selective. Also, Stanton hadn’t hit more than 37 in a year before he hit 59, in part because he gets hurt quite a bit. Add the Yankee Stadium effect and you have the makings of a down year. Add the Yankee Stadium crowd effect and you could have some real stress there. Sanchez’ numbers decreased a little percentage-wise the more he played. We’ll see how a second full season goes.

There are six other positions plus the designated hitter, too, you know, and I’m not impressed. I’m not sure who’s going to play third. They got Brandon Drury from the Diamondbacks. He’s kind of Chase Headley light. I bet the Diamondbacks would like to have Didi Gregorious back instead of the platoon mess they have going on now. Brett Gardner gives you a little bit of everything.

Last year, CC Sabathia shocked me with his success. I figured he’d be out of the league within two years. Now, he could be the best pitcher on the staff, depending on how Luis Severino does. That guy could be the next Ryan/Halliday/Johnson/Martinez type. Jordan Montgomery had a nice rookie campaign. Let’s see how many innings he can post. I would think Sonny Gray will continue to post good numbers. I worry about Masahiro Tanaka. He had career worsts in just about every meaningful category last year.

Oh, hey, and they have Aaron Freaking Boone as their new skipper. It’s a lot different getting to see the replays on the monitor versus being field level.

Projection: 90 wins

 

3 Why isn’t anyone talking about the Blue Jays?

Well, because there was an offensive bloodletting by Toronto management and they have Curtis Granderson as their left-fielder. Say hello to .239 and a bunch of strikeouts. But, they still have Josh Donaldson and their starting pitching could be the best in the American League.

Aaron Sanchez, Marcus Stroman, JA Happ Marco Estrada and Jaime Garcia are the five starters and they’re all really good to pretty decently good. Sanchez only pitched in eight games last year but had number-one stuff before that.

They also have a bunch of guys in middle relief who can get the job done. This reminds me of the San Francisco Giants World Series clubs.

Projection: 89 wins

 

4 Tampa: Spanish for beg for rainouts.

The Rays’ Mallex Smith wears #0 and could be their best young player. He does a little of everything. Unfortunately, almost anyone else on the team who did anything last year is gone. Daniel Robertson is going to play all over the infield because he can. But, can he hit? Matt Duffy is solid at third base. CJ Cron played first for the Angels and didn’t produce enough to compensate for the strikeouts he had. Otherwise…

On the mound: Yonny Chirinos had only one hiccup in the minors (AA) but otherwise has been really good. Good enough to be the ace? Maybe. Blake “Zilla” Snell hasn’t pitched a lot, but he’s a lefty and hits the mid 90’s with his fastball, and when he learns how to mix and match, he could be good. They need him to be good now. After that, Chris Archer and Jake Faria are fourth starters.

Not enough offense to help a needy pitching staff.

Projection: 74 wins.

 

5 Hotel Baltimore needs a stronger foundation

Manny Machado is one of those hall-of-fame talents you know when you see. He’s phenomenal. After that? Oriole outfielder Trey Mancini could be the real deal. He hit .293 and had only three errors last year. Adam Jones and Craig Gentry make good #6 and 7 hitters. The rest is a problem.Three out of the last four years, Chris Davis has hit .221 or worse. Batting average doesn’t matter? It does when the opposing teams realize they don’t have to throw him strikes. They should trade him while they can.

On the mound: blood and despair. Kevin Gausman could be the third starter and Dylan Bundy could be the fourth on most clubs. Bundy’s young and could develop. He’s had success at lower levels. Andrew Cashner has been up and down in his career. He could be a two, he could be trade bait. After that, you have some holdovers from a truly wretched staff that featured some sixes and sevens for ERA last year.

My advice. Start calling up kids as soon as possible.

Projection: 73 wins

 

 

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