2008 MLB Preview: AL East

Friday, March 28, 2008

And to the AL East, the division that truly matters. This year might be the deepest that the division has been in years. Obviously the Sox and Yanks haven't left, but the Blue Jays should be dangerous again this year, and even Devil Rays have potential. One could put together a good argument that this division is actually better than the AL Central and will be the best division in baseball at years end. Oh the Orioles are gonna suck though.

1. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox currently lead the league in losses, but I think it's safe to say they should be able to recover. The question that may haunt Theo and the Sox is if they end up with an Asian hangover. The two opening months for the Sox are essential. If they get off to a typical Red Sox start than there is no doubt that they should make a run to the postseason. However, if they come back from Japan and get off to the horrendous start that other teams in the past have they may end up finding it difficult to fight through an improved division and past the Yanks, Indians and Tigers.

Key Player: Josh Beckett, The Key player for the Red Sox is pretty simple, it's Josh Beckett. He's arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He certainly is the best postseason pitcher in baseball. Any injury to him will leave the Red Sox scrambling to rely on Dice-K Version 2.0, and the youngsters.

Player to Eye: Jon Lester, Lester didn't pitch overly well during his first outing but the potential is there. The only issue is getting him to get ahead in the count. When Lester gets ahead of hitters he is dominant, when he isn't ahead of hitters than he's plain old average. If either Lester or Bucholz can emerge this season as a premium starter the Sox will again be in great shape come October.

Record Prediction:94-68

2. New York Yankees

The 2008 version of the Yankees seem to be at the biggest risk of not making the playoffs in a long time. They have a boatload of pitching question marks. They need Hughes and Kennedy to emerge. They need Mussina not to suck. They need Mo not to become mortal. But in the end is this rotation worse or better than last year? I say better. Anyway I think they still make the postseason. Call me a homer or disagree with me if you want.

Key Player: Phil Hughes, You really could pick out any pitcher in the Yankees starting rotation as their key player but to me its Hughes. He's the top of the line prospect. He's the man they refused to trade to get Johan Santana, he's the one with the pressure and he's the one that must emerge this season as a #3 or better starter. If Hughes fails than the pressure is squarely put on either Kennedy or the Ancient Moose to pick up the slack. And I don't see that happening.

Player to Eye: Kyle Farnsworth, I know this is a very very odd pick especially from a Farny hater but he's going to get innings this year. Important innings. For some reason Joe Girardi has faith in the Farny and if at any point Joba moves into the rotation than the Farny regains the 8th inning job. And that could be scary.

Record Prediction: 93 - 69

3. Toronto Blue Jays

The problems with the Blue Jays is a consistent one. They play in the American League East and every season the Red Sox and Yankees come in with larger payrolls and better overall teams. It really sucks for them but it's true. The biggest difference from the Blue Jays and the two top teams is their margin for error. If Roy or AJ goes down they're screwed. If Wells or Rios has a bad year, they're screwed. Where as the Yanks and Sox can rebound from a few key losses to still post 90+ wins.

Key Player: Vernon Wells, Vernon Wells needs to show up this season for the Blue Jays. He's basically the most inconsistent player in baseball. One year he's amongst the top five players in the American league, the next he's in the lower half of outfielders in the league. The Blue Jays don't have enough talent to overcome a bad season from Vernon Wells.

Player to Eye: Dustin McGowan, King sideburns is actually a pretty good pitcher. Who knew? Last year he improved his ERA to 4.06 from the pitiful 7.24 level it was at in 2006. Could another significant improvement happen this season? Is there a possibility that McGowan matches Roy and AJ and gives the Blue Jays three top of the line starters? Sure why not.

Record Prediction:82-80

4. Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Hey looky here the Devil Rays may actually not completely suck this year. They have some good hitters in Upton, Crawford, and Pena as well as having three young solid starters in Kazmir, Shields and Garza. Hell they could potentially go .500 this season.

Key Player: Scott Kazmir, Kazmir will not start on opening day due to lingering injuries which immediately should make all Devil Rays fans highly worried. Kazmir never has been the image of perfect health. If he goes down then they can kiss .500 goodbye.

Player to Eye: Matt Garza, The man they got for Delmon Young in a straight prospect flip will be key for the Devil Rays success. Garza had a solid spring which comes after posting a 3.69 era in 15 starts last season. Garza seems like a candidate to capatilize on his potential this season and perhaps gives the Devil Rays 3 quality arms.

Record Prediction:79-83

5. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles summed up in a word for 2008 are awful. They have absolutely horrible pitching. They'll start Jeremy Guthrie on opening day. Guthrie was good last year but he certainly isn't a team ace. It won't help the Orioles at all to play the Red Sox, Yankees, and Blue Jays 19 times a piece. It's going to be a very very rough year for everybody in the DC area.

Key Player: Nick Markakis, Really the only young all star caliber player on the Orioles right now. Markakis should ascend to about 30HRs and 20 SBs this season while hitting around .300. He's basically amongst the best youngsters in the game but will be completely hindered by playing on such a miserable team.

Player to Eye: Adam "Not Pacman" Jones, When your traded for a person who easily could turn out to be this years Cy Young, there is a lot of pressure. Thankfully for Not Pacman, he will be playing for a miserable team completely under the radar. But it will still be interesting to watch to see how he emerges as a player now that he should receive every day at bats.

Record Prediction: 75-87

*Note: These Record Predictions actually do add up perfectly this year. Thanks excel. I have the AL winning 6 more interleague games than the NL.

Posted by Simon at 10:07 AM   Digg! submit to reddit BallHype: hype it up!


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