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A.L. East Fantasy Preview

Adrian Gonzalez

As we all know here in Boston, the Red Sox were extremely active during the offseason. Did the rest of the division sit on its hands as Boston spent big bucks? Well, kind of. The Yankees failed to strengthen their weakest area, that being starting pitching and the Rays had a mini fire sale. In the distance, the bottom-feeding Orioles made numerous, surprising moves that have them poised for a run at 80 wins. As for Toronto? Well, they will try to ride to a winning season on the shoulders of 2010′s home run king, Jose Bautista.

Hey, speaking of Toronto, why don’t we make them our first team up for analysis? Hey, Paul Blart isn’t the only master of Segways.

Toronto Blue Jays

If it wasn’t for Jose Bautista, then Toronto would have left a trail of failure and disappointment in it’s path from 2010. Both Adam Lind and Aaron Hill saw significant dropoffs in production from 2009 and now it is up to owners to decide whether or not they were one season wonders or will bounce back.

Jose Bautista (3B, RF)

Let’s start with a bang. Bautista’s 54 HR led the planet and it came out of nowhere. Does this mean you should avoid him at all costs? Well, if you expect another 50+ bombs, then you’re stupid. That being said, his 1.093 OPS in the second half of last season should point to a strong follow up. Never overpay for a career year, but I think a shot at 30 homers is reasonable.

Aaron Hill (2B)

When you get 26 HR from your 2B, it should be seen as a slight success. If owners expected another 36 HR, 108 RBI year in 2010, they should have tempered expectations. What shocked everyone was the dreadful .205 avg. The reason? Well, his LD% dropped from 20 to 11 and his FB% rocketed to 54%. If he balances those out, then a return to the .280-.290 avg is feasible.

Adam Lind (1B, OF)

I had the experience of grabbing Lind in two leagues last season. He was a far cry from his .305/35/114 season of ’09. However, there is always a silver lining. As we see, 14 of 23 HR came from July-October and he slugged .509 in the second half. Now, if he can solve left-handed pitching (.117 avg in ’10), then he will be a bargain in drafts.

Other Hitters

  • Travis Snyder (LF, RF) -Like Bautista in ’09, ended season with monster September where he hit .304 with 6 HR in 24 games.
  • Rajai Davis (LF, CF) - Coming over from Oakland where he has 91 stolen bases over the past two seasons.

Brandon Morrow (SP)

He’s always been a highly touted strikeout pitcher, but he finally became relevant with his one-hit, 17 K game against Tampa Bay. There is still uncertainty with his starting status, but if he makes the rotation out of camp, then 200 K and low 4.00 ERA is a certainty.

Ricky Romero (SP)

Started off great for first three months with 2.83 ERA through June. Then he hit a wall with 4.96 ERA from July through September. If he can maintain his first half totals for a whole season, then he can join the next tier of good pitchers.

Other Pitchers

  • Octavio Dotel/Frank Francisco -Closer Kevin Gregg jumped ship to Baltimore, which leaves an opening for a 9th inning man. Dotel had 22 saves combined between three teams in ’10, but Francisco has been the statistically better pitcher over the past few seasons. Watch this one closely in Spring Training.

Baltimore Orioles

The O’s are really trying to break .500 for the first time since 1997 with their slew of offseason moves that will showcase a brand new offense. We can’t say the same for their pitching, which will trot out players you won’t even consider in drafts.

Vladimir Guerrero (RF)

Sure he’s 36, but Vlad can still be a threat in this lineup. Coming off .300/29/115, his power may take a hit with no more home games in Texas, but he is still an RBI machine. Playing DH will also keep him healthy all season.

Brian Roberts (2B)

A slew of injuries limited one of fantasy most dependable 2B to only 59 games. In his previous three seasons, he had 100+ runs and a combined 120 SB while hitting no less than .283. Assuming he returns to form, he will be a huge source of speed and runs in this lineup.

Adam Jones (CF)

His huge June (.320/8 HR/21 RBI) got everyone wanting more, but the power never came back. However, he did finish strong by hitting over .300 from August to October. He’s still only 26 and on the cusp of a breakout.

Other Hitters

  • Nick Markakis (RF) - We have to accept that he will never be the power hitter we thought he would be. He’s good for 40 doubles and a .290 average…and that’s about it.
  • Mark Reynolds (3B) -32 of his 99 hits were home runs. Not to mention, he is leaving NL pitching for AL East pitching. Oh, and don’t forget his .181 avg on the road in ’10. Ok, is any of this really worth 30 home runs?
  • Luke Scott (1B, LF) - He’s always been good for 25 home runs, and I don’t see why that would change.

Pitchers

Aside from Koji Uehara as your closer, I can’t condone actually having a pitcher from Baltimore on your squad. Then again, Uehara is hard to endorse because Baltimore didn’t shell out money for Kevin Gregg and Mike Gonzalez just to waste perfectly good closers did they?

Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa has kept a core of young players despite dealing Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. With the signing of veterans Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez to mentor the young lineup, the Rays offense won’t have trouble scoring at will this season. The rotation is led by 19-game winner David Price, who looks to be the anchor for years.

Evan Longoria (3B)

At 25-yrs-old, Longoria already has three full seasons with .500+ SLG under his belt. His HR total dipped a bit from ’09 to ’10 (33 to 22), but he did up his stolen base total to 15 successful swipes. Even if he doesn’t reach 30 home runs, he will still be a great RBI and AVG man at 3B.

Ben Zobrist (2B, RF)

Quite the Jekyll and Hyde season in ’10 as Zobrist hit .285 in the first half and a Mark Reynolds-esque .177 after the break. It was reported that he was battling back injuries throughout the Summer months, so let’s hope it’s true. He still maintained his eye at the plate with 92 walks. Let’s hope for a return to ’09 form, but tread carefully.

Other Hitters

  • Johnny Damon (LF) - Power went away in Detroit, but maybe he can be rejuvenated in the friendly confines of Tropicana Field. Just don’t overpay,
  • Manny Ramirez (LF) - He’ll be 39 this season and coming off calf/hamstring injuries. Being in a DH role should limit injury possibilities and he does have a career 1.003 OPS at Tropicana. Like Damon, don’t overpay for the name.
  • B.J. Upton (CF) - Making less contact every season as evident by drop in batting average from ’07-’10. He will run all he wants and probably steal another 40 bases, but we need to forget about any chance of returning to the 24 homers from ’07.

David Price (SP)

He’s their young gun who finished behind Felix Hernandez in the Cy Young voting. He outperformed all expectations last season with 19 wins and a 2.72 ERA. Price is armed with youth and all the skills and should be a top pitcher on draft day.

Other Pitchers

Like Baltimore, it is tough to fully recommend any other hurler. James Shields is getting worse every season and I can’t endorse some of the other young arms. Losing Rafael Soriano just opens the door for a dreaded closer-by-committee scenario in the sunshine state.

New York Yankees

Well, they may have completely missed out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, but New York is still fantasy relevant with their powerful lineup and a couple of worthy pitching options. Alex Rodriguez may finally be out of the first round for the first time in a decade, but he is still worthy of your time. In fact…

Alex Rodriguez (3B)

When you draft A-Rod, you know what you’re getting. He will always churn out 30 home runs, but don’t bet on the speed anymore as his SB total is decreasing every season. Another thing to be wary of is the slow decline in hitting with his BA hitting .270 last season (lowest since 1995). In his defense, hip injuries were partly to blame, so a slight bounce-back is possible.

Mark Teixeira (1B)

Tex put in his 7th straight season with 30+ HR and 100+ RBI in 2010 and he shows no sign of slowing down. The one thing you have to deal with is his notorious slow starts to the season. He’s hitting a career .237 in April including a robust .136 last season. But if you can ride that rough patch out, then you’re fine.

Robinson Cano (2B)

Cano has always been a great hitter, bur over the past two years, he has turned a corner with his power by smashing 54 home runs over the past two seasons. With his combined hitting and growing power, Cano is finding himself creeping up to the title of “best 2B in fantasy”.

Other Hitters

  • Nick Swisher (RF) - A cheap source of power, he hit a career best .288 last season. He had to exchange some walks to do so, but if it means better hitting, then so be it.
  • Curtis Granderson (CF) -First year jitters in the Bronx yielded subpar power and a career low 115 hits. Hard to believe he couldn’t capitalize on that short porch in right, but he has shown that he can’t.
  • Derek Jeter (SS) – He’ll go as one of the top SS on draft day, but I would say that he is no longer worth it. Mr. consistency’s decreasing FB% is nosediving and we finally saw dips in his hitting. Hate to see you go Jeter, but you’re time has come.

CC Sabathia (SP)

Sabathia finished 3rd in the Cy Young voting with the first 20-win season of his career by going 21-7 with a 3.18 ERA. He’s one of the elite options at the SP position and another run at 20 wins is possible with the run support he receives.

Phil Hughes (SP)

Hughes started off strong by going 10-2 and then compiled an 8-6 record and 4.79 ERA for the rest of the year. His home-road splits told the true story as Yankee Stadium gave Hughes a 4.66 ERA and 20 HR allowed. If only he could even it out a bit.

Other Pitchers

  • A.J. Burnett (SP) - We knew that the Burnett signing would blow up, and it did in 2010 as he set career lows with 15 losses and a 5.26 ERA. His one redeeming quality, his high K totals, also took a dive.
  • Mariano Rivera (RP) - We keep waiting for his decline, but it won’t happen. Just 33 more saves and his his 3rd straight season of sub-2.00 ERA, making it 7 of his past 8 seasons doing so.

Boston Red Sox

Man, you can swing a dead cat at Fenway this season and you’re bound to hit a fantasy-worthy player (What?). With the big signing of Carl Crawford and the trade for Adrian Gonzalez, it is getting close to where you could have an entire team of Sox players on your staff and still be in great shape. Ok, don’t take that last part literally, I’m just trying to say the team is stacked.

Adrian Gonzalez (1B)

Gonzalez has been stuck in the black hole known as Petco Park (career .267 hitter) for the last several years. Now the lefty brings his slugging power to Fenway where he will no doubtedly thrive hitting around Youkilis and Ortiz. All the pieces are there for him and you should bank on huge numbers.

Carl Crawford (LF)

With his move to Boston, Crawford has actually found himself sneaking his way into the first round of some drafts. I wouldn’t go that far, but he is always good for  a .300 AVG and at least 40 SB. In this lineup, he may end up hitting 3rd. If so, then we can add ample RBI totals to his stat sheet.

Kevin Youkilis (1B, 3B)

Three straight seasons of .900+ OPS tells the story of his true talent. A great combination of power and patience, Youkilis is not as highly recognized at the 3B position, but he is an elite option. The only downside is that he has missed 86 games over the past two seasons.

Other Hitters

  • Dustin Pedroia (2B) -Injuries forced Pedroia to play in just 75 games last season, but we know what he can do when fully healthy. One of the best #2 hitters in the game, Pedroia is one of the few gems at the 2B position.
  • David Ortiz (1B) - No juice controversy last season and he still managed .270/32/102. The best part? You won’t have to pay a high price for this cheap power.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury (CF) - Another healthy season could yield another 50+ stolen bases.

Jon Lester (SP)

Lester took yet another step forward in his maturity as a pitcher by racking up 19 wins and a 3.25 ERA. He tied a carrer high in strikeouts with 225 and was 2nd in the majors (only behind Tim Lincecum) with a 9.74 K/9. He’s definitely reached “must start” ace pitcher status, so bid with confidence.

Clay Buckholz (SP)

I know we were all excited to see Buckholz have a breakout season with a stellar 17 wins and 2.33 ERA (3rd best in majors). However, I must caution you from overpaying. His high BB/9 and subpar K/9 numbers indicate that he is not dominating at the plate. I’m not saying he will fade into obscurity, but don’t you dare expect another elite ERA season like in 2010. Banking on high 3.00 ERA is more realistic.

Josh Beckett (SP)

Now, I am not the biggest Josh Beckett fan, and his time in here in Boston has given us moments to cherish and seasons to forget. I have no doubt that the man can put together good numbers when healthy, but you can’t depend on a healthy Beckett in any season. I am all for drafting him as a bargain pitcher and maybe he can return a high 3.00 ERA, but our ’07 savior is no more.

Jonathan Papelbon (RP)

We know he has the stuff, but for some reason he doesn’t throw it. The key to his arsenal is his splitter, but he chose to just throw the ball as hard as he could last season and the opposition took off. If he puts faith back in splitter, then look for ’09 Papelbon.

Other Pitchers

  • John Lackey (SP) - Despite the overall numbers, had a much improved 2nd half with 3.97 ERA and respectable 7.76 K/9. All he has to do is keep it going for a full season.

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Discussion

2 comments for “A.L. East Fantasy Preview”

  1. What about Brian Matusz for the O’s? They say he’s a “future Cy Young candidate”

    Brad Evans said Zobrist’s 2009 is the norm…I don’t know about that, and I agree with you there.

    Posted by KC Downey | February 28, 2011, 1:24 am
  2. Matusz may have finished strong, but he started poorly. Plus, I don’t want to lean heavily on a decent rookie campaign from a pitcher in the AL East.

    So no endorsement from me.

    Posted by Pete | February 28, 2011, 6:17 pm

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