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After a long hard winter that never ended, Opening Day is finally here. Do not let the 38 degree temperatures fool you outside, baseball is back. The AL East is sure to be one of the most exciting divisions in all of baseball with four teams (sorry Blue Jays) with a chance to compete for a playoff spot. A lot can change over a course of the season, but that does not stop us from making predications.
1. Tampa Bay Rays, 93-69: The Rays will have one of the best rotations in the Majors without question. If Wil Myers can follow up his Rookie of the Year campaign with an even bigger year and Even Longoria stays healthy, then the Rays should just edge out the Red Sox for the division crown. James Loney repeating last year’s performance would take this team to the next level.
2. Boston Red Sox, 92-70: The Red Sox are still a great team, but they will struggle to match the magic they had last year. They will challenge the Rays for the division and have a great shot at a Wild Card spot due to the quality in their rotation 1-5. David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia are constants, but this team will rely on big years from Xander Bogaerts and Will Middlebrooks.
3. Baltimore Orioles, 89-73: They made the late additions of Ubaldo Jimenez and Nelson Cruz that addressed key issues. This team will fight hard for for a Wild Card spot, but will unfortunately fall short. Manny Machado’s recovery or lack there of, will determine the direction of this team.
4. New York Yankees, 85-77: They have a lot of high priced players and star names, but there is a lot of age on this roster. The offense should resemble a more typical Bronx Bombers squad, but the pitching will fall through again. Masahiro Tanaka is not enough alone that has some serious questions throughout the rotation.
5. Toronto Blue Jays, 74-88: They have the potential to have a fantastic offense, that is of course if Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista can stay healthy. Even if the offense is at full force, there is not much of a rotation here. R.A. Dickey has not proven that he can pitch in the AL East, Buehrle is a shadow of himself, and Brandon Morrow cannot stay healthy.
1. Tampa Bay Rays, 94-68: If the Rays can find a way to keep all of their rotation as well as Evan Longoria and Wil Myers on the field for 90 percent of the 2014 season, then there will be a new AL East winner this season. However, a few bumps in the road might mean no postseason appearance for the young squad.
1. Boston Red Sox, 93-69: It’s a shame that only a maximum of three of the teams in the AL East will be making the playoffs this season. In reality, there are four teams that probably belong. However, the Red Sox are the safest bet out of all of them. With the best pitching and most depth on the 25-man roster, it’s hard to make a case against Boston winning the pennant again. The exit of Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew will force players to step up, but it seems Boston has pieces in place that can get the job done. It will be a fiercely competitive season in the AL East (per usual) and no one team will run away with it. I just like the Sox chances the best in a late season pennant race.
2. New York Yankees, 91-71: The Yankees retooled in a big way this off season bringing in multiple superstars. The last time they did this was 2009 and the end result was a World Series championship. It’s very possible that the Yankees can do it again with the squad they have put together. However, something that could hold them back is injuries. When healthy, the Yankees lineup is elite. However, if a couple players are revisited by nagging injuries, things could quickly turn south like last season. Also, there are a lot of question marks surrounding the Yankees starting rotation as well. Will CC Sabathia bounce back? How will Masahiro Tanaka fare in the big leagues? Can Michael Pineda make an impact? Will Dave Robertson be able to close out games? Best case scenario is everything clicks and the Yankees win 100 games. However, I think it’s more likely that some things go right, some things go wrong, and the Yankees will make the playoffs with a 91-71 record.
3. Tampa Bay Rays, 90-72: Tampa Bay has been the peskiest opponent in the AL East by far. Their success is unprecedented given their payroll and they have one of the best managers in all of baseball. It’s getting to the point where you can almost count on the Rays to finish the season with 90 wins every season. As their young pitching continues to pick up traction, it’s hard to put a ceiling on what this team can accomplish. However, injuries were troublesome among Rays’ pitchers last season, so I’m hesitant to count on them for a big step forward in 2014. No starter was able to log 200 or more innings last season and the prospects of a David Price trade will continue to loom large. The Rays will be good this season, that is for sure, but I don’t see them making much improvement upon last season.
4. Baltimore Orioles, 87-75: The Orioles are bringing a plethora of offensive firepower to the table in 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if they led the American League in home runs, RBI, and runs throughout the entire season. However, their pitching is far from reliable. Adding Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris was smart, and very necessary, but I don’t think it’s going to be enough to keep pace with the Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox. The Orioles will go as far as their offense can carry them this season; and that will be pretty far. It’s just unfortunate they plan in a division like the AL East with very comparable offense and superior pitching.
5. Toronto Blue Jays, 70-92: The Blue Jays were the punching bag in the AL East last season, and it may get even uglier in 2014. With pitching as equally unreliable as Baltimore’s, and a far inferior offense, it’s going to be tough for the Blue Jays to keep above water in the AL East this season. Lawrie, Reyes, and Lind all have potential to contribute more than they did last season. If they do, we could see the Blue Jays make a run at a winning record. However, with this team, the ceiling doesn’t go much higher than that.
Do you have a different order? Can the Red Sox repeat? Do the Yankees have some magic left? Do the Blue Jays actually have a chance? Can Baltimore win their first division since 1997? Do the Rays have more magic in them? All we have to do is wait till the end of September to find out. Let the games begin.