New York 69-93
I called this the most balanced division in the AL last season, well I was wrong there and also wrong in my predictions. Baltimore took the division with 88 wins and the only better than .500 record. There's a lot of offense in this division but just not enough pitching depth to make it very competitive. All four franchises had some facet of their team under perform and it will be interested to see if any of them can get a consistent performance this season, if any team can they are likely to walk to a division title.
Baltimore shocked the world last season, or at least just me, when they won the division after I predicted them to finish dead last in the AL East. The offense performed well and their pitching gave them enough to put away Boston the disappointing Red Sox by 9 games. There weren't any real stand out stars at the plate for the division winners, which gives a reason as to why their power numbers were so low (5th lowest HR total in the majors). Wilton Buchholz put up a solid season although lacked the power numbers you'd like to see from a first baseman. Rolando Feliz, not expected to be much of a contributor, put in a solid season with 26 homers and 96 RBI while stealing 32 bags. There were no major additions to the lineup in the offseason but with catcher Gary Wise departing the offense will take a slight hit but should still produce in S2.
No major departures on the hill for the Orioles combined with a youthful staff means you can expect the same level of pitching, if not better, for the O's this season. Barney Anderson posted the best season as a starter and looks to improve upon his performance. A rookie last season Lon Jefferies turned in a solid season but one would think he will be better in his sophomore season. He may be the key to another division title, and maybe even a bye in the playoffs, for this Baltimore squad.
Two nice Latin signings and a solid reliever taken with the final pick of the first round made up a successful year of acquiring young talent to stock the O's system with. While not world killers, SP/LR Gorkys Maradona out of Mexico and 2B Asdrubal Velazaquez out of the Dominican will definitely make their mark on the majors one day. When added to the depth that Baltimore already had in the minors and you have one of the best minor league systems out there. Another 2B prospect, Christian Grahe, and a five tool star in CF Humberto Rosado round out an excellent lot of position prospects for Baltimore.
P Barney Anderson
2B O.T. O'Leary
Boston Red Sox
Watching this team must have been a misery in the stands at Fenway last season; a high powered offense undone by an under-manned staff ... which also featured the AL Cy Young winner. Yup... just another season at Fenway. A preseason Cy Young favorite, Paxton Booker showed up and did his part with 19 wins and stellar 2.65 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, not to mention a K/9 of 9.14. But his effort was only undermined by bad performances like the one Flip Romero put in, 2 wins in 26 starts and an ERA just north of 8. Even great offensive performances like that of C Magglio Bennett, 54 HR, 141 RBI, and AL ROY Kazuya Chang, 34 HR/108 RBI/ 34 SB .300 AVG, couldn't overcome atrocious pitching.
This team could be a rollercoaster to watch once again. The late season call ups and of SP's Felipe Esposito and Alvin Wells showed the fans at Fenway a glimpse of what could be. With the two planted firmly on the big league roster to start the season the expectations are through the roof. There are plenty of teams who the phrase "If the pitching/hitting can perform just that much better they will be contenders" describes well, but that phrase may describe Boston the best. Even if the youngsters can improve the performance of the staff to a level just below average, as opposed to a terrible one, it would allow one of the most capable lineups in the majors to lead this team to a division win and, perhaps, a nice run in the playoffs.
As if they need anymore help on offense the Sox minors features two big bopping DH/C's in Hack Beaulac and Sean Murray. Even though Esposito and Wells have left the minors the Sox still have Brian Cheng, a very nice sandwich pick SP who is only a couple years from being ML ready, and a host of other ML quality relievers in their system.
P Paxton Booker
C Roger Michaels
RF Kazuya Chang
RF Kazuya Chang
An offense that was expected to be dependable and a pitching staff that was suspect on paper switched sides in a disappointing year for the Indians. The power in the bats was seemingly there as the Indians ranked in the upper half for home runs, but those dingers mostly came without ducks on the pond as the team ranked far into the lower half for RBI. AL ROY candidate Joey Oswalt showed why he was regarded as one of the to prospects after turning in line of 37/107 while hitting .292. Fellow rookie Everth Molina put up a respectable season but a little more remains to be desired from his performance at the plate.
Not a lot has changed on the mound for the Indians and Tribe fans hope to see another better than expected performance out of their staff this season. No one posted a stellar season, as evidenced by the fact that Cleveland had no All Stars, but Shawn Witt's is worth mentioning. As a 24 year old Witt threw 130 innings in splitting long relief duties with 18 starts. He threw up a team leading 3.18 ERA, and had the second best WHIP on the team at 1.16. Heading into S2 a lack of SP's with true starter stamina will present some road blocks and a lot of pressure will be put on youngster Mariano Limon, who had a disappointing rookie campaign.
With the 26th pick overall Cleveland was unable to come to terms with high school pitcher Sam Dickerson but did pickup a good reliever with the 74th overall in Marquis Albers.SP Anibal Guerrerao and RF Don Becker remain the to prospects of the Indians system with both only about a year away from being full time major leaguers.
New York Yankees
An all around below average team effort doomed the Yanks last season and the team I picked to finish second in the division finished last instead. The offense was unable to get it going despite the presence of two guys who stole a combined 156 bases last year; LF Mitchell Bass and rookie CF Allen Callaway. Willie Hand put up solid numbers at 37/113 but couldn't find consistency in his swing and only hit .269 at second base. After Bass, Callaway and Hand there wasn't much else to write home about as the rest of the offense struggled. Some call ups and FA signings will mix in this season although on paper none look to jump start the offense. Willie Julio is as pure of a power hitter as they come and if he can find a groove could possibly provide enough offense to propel this team in the WC chase.
As a rookie Todd Holloway impressed enough to make the All Star team, but his second half didn't match his first and he ended up with a pedestrian 12-10 record, allowing opponents to hit .261 with a 1.33 WHIP. Holloway needs to find his first half form for this team to compete. The team wins leader, Tom Collins put up decent numbers but an OAV of .272 raises some eyebrows for a guy who is supposed to be the staff ace.
How can any of us forget the infamous #1 overall draft pick by outgoing Owner/GM soxyanks12? Barry Harding will close out many wins while wearing the Pinstripes and is arguably a top 10 pick but the selection of a reliever at #1 will be a subject of debate for seasons to come in For Life. Seeking to add yet more RP depth to a system that already had it, soxyanks also signed Vladimir Aguilar, who has a plus sinker and slider but may only be a middle reliever at best, out of Mexico.
P Todd Holloway
LF Mitchell Bass
LF Mitchell Bass