AL East Predictions
New York Yankees -
Starting 9: Willie Hand will lead an above average lineup for the Yanks with help from Mitchell Bass and slugger Izzy Sutton. Twenty-four year old speedster Allan Callaway broke camp with the ML squad and will most likely leadoff for New York. Watch for this guy to be a strong rookie of the year candidate. With Callaway sparking the offense New York may just have what it takes, offensively, to make a playoff push.
Pitching staff: The rotation in New York has no real superstar talent, but a bunch of guys who can get the job done. Like fellow rookie Allen Callaway, Todd Holloway will be looking to make an impact on the club immediately. Among him are a handful of crafty vets who should make a fair share of quality starts for the Yanks. Unfortunately there aren't a lot of dependable arms to back the rotation, as Dmitri Pie figures to be the only reliever on the Yankee squad worth mentioning. Late inning heart-breakers may be in store for New York this season.
The future: There may be bullpen woes in New York this season and next but help is on the way. Ebenezer Berg and Cap Ducati, who may also compete for best name, lead a promising lot of arms in the Yanks minor league system. In a couple years this could be an airtight combination of relievers for the team to rely on.
Cleveland Indians -
Starting 9:In the pre-season the Indians projected to have one of the worst lineups in the league. However, the brass in Cleveland have promoted Evereth Molina and Joey Oswalt, two electrifying hitters whose presence in the lineup will be felt by opposing pitchers. They will team up with Oswaldo Gardel to create a formidable three headed monster. Timothy Baez and Manny Dong provide decent support for the trio and should form a very respectable first five hitters for the Tribe, who are more than capable of pushing runs across the board this season.
Pitching staff: The Indians staff features two very solid arms in youngsters Brandon Davis and Alex Feng. Unfortunately, neither looks to be pure starting material and may make their best impact in the bullpen. The veteran rotation for Cleveland will likely struggle over the long haul, but if they can manage to keep a lead their bullpen should be dependable enough to close it out.
The future: There is hope for the future of the rotation in Cleveland: Mariano Limon and Anibal Guerrero are bright young SP prospects who can one day make a great 1-2 punch. Jose Franco will likewise one day be a dependable reliever and a great complement to Limon and Guerrero's future stellar outings.
Boston Red Sox -
Starting 9: Boston will challenge Kansas City for the best offense in the AL. Roger Michaels, Bartolo Ramos, Magglio Bennett and rookie Kazuya Chang will form a formidable murderers row for opposing pitchers. Steven Sefcik and Enrique Matos will especially add to the misery for left handed foes. They should score a LOT of runs this season at Fenway.
Pitching staff: Paxton Booker will certainly make a case for the Cy Young and will be joined by Carlos Latos and Freddy Franco for a solid front end rotation. Joe Schilling looks to be a good option out of the pen but a lack of overall depth to the entire rotation may doom this team over the course of the season.
The future: It wouldn't be a big surprise if Felipe Esposito and Alvin Wells saw a lot of action in the bigs this season. Their addition to the ML roster could mean a big difference as they would very quickly tighten up the rotation. Blue chip catching prospect Hack Beaulac heads up an enviable stock of position prospects.
Baltimore Orioles -
Starting 9: The Orioles will bring an offense to the park which may not be as exciting as Boston or Kansas City's but may be capable of scoring just as many runs. Wilton Buchholz, Rabbit Guerrero and Gary Kirby figure to be the heart of the offense. Rookies Phillip Gross and Jim Ramriez will bring pop to the lineup as well. Baltimore also found a quality bat in late FA addition Gary Wise. Overall this is a well rounded offense who can score runs in an instant.
Pitching staff: Baltimore lacks a clear #1 starter and, instead, has a handful of pitchers who may be able to keep enough runs off the board for this team to win. Newly promoted Lon Jefferies adds depth to the rotation but is another unspectacular arm. The bullpen features a couple of dependable late inning pitchers in Corey Branson and Rey Hoiles.
The future: Christian Grahe and Max Case are future stars and part of a moderately deep minor league system. Still, Baltimore lacks the stellar SP prospects that could help push this team over the hump.
How they will finish: This may be the most balanced division in the AL. All four teams field capable offenses so it will be the arms who decide this division race. Top-end pitching talent wins games and Boston has a slight edge over the Yanks, Tribe or O's in that department. However, the lack of pitching depth is alarming (only nine pitchers at the ML level at the time of this post) and only clouds the picture in the AL East. The addition of three or four below average to average arms would be enough to set the Sox atop the division. Until they bolster their staff, though, fatigue will eat up the Boston pitchers quickly and give way to the three teams behind them. I'm going to assume the cavalry will arrive in Boston, soon after a division title will as well.