A rather quiet MLB offseason actually had some significant moves in the AL East. With some new sluggers like Giancarlo Stanton and J.D. Martinez and the departure of a familiar face in Evan Longoria, lets take a look at how the division will look heading into 2018.

Boston Red Sox

2017 & Offseason Review

Record: 93-69, AL East Champions

Postseason Result: Lost ALDS vs. Houston

Offseason Moves:

Key Signings: Signed J.D. Martinez, re-signed Mitch Moreland & Eduardo Nunez,

Key Departures: RP Addison Reed

Offseason Grade: B-

2018 Preview

Bovada’s 2018 Projection: 91.5.

The first year of the post David Ortiz era resulted in continued success for Boston. After winning 93 games last year, the Red Sox return with most of the 2017 squad still there, except for the skipper. After firing John Farrell after the 2017 season, the Red Sox went out and hired Astros bench coach Alex Cora as their new manager. The team that finished last in baseball in home runs in 2017 addressed it in a big way this offseason, as they added slugger J.D. Martinez, while also resigning utility man Eduardo Nunez and Mitch Moreland.  The Red Sox return essentially the same squad as the 2017 team that won the AL East. The Sox got a breakout year from 23 year old Andrew Benintendi, who batted .271 with 20 hrs and 90 rbis in 2017.

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Image courtesy of Zimbio

With the addition of Martinez and hopefully a healthy return of David Price, I expect the Red Sox to surpass this total.

Biggest Question: Health

SP Stephen Wright missed almost all of 2017 after getting knee surgery while David Price pitched only 74 innings last year, getting hurt in July and missing the remainder of the season until returning in a relief role for the playoffs. The Red Sox will need their rotation healthy if they plan to beat the stacked Yankees offense for the AL East.

Player to Watch: Hanley Ramirez, now age 34, has shown some signs of starting to decline, as his average and power both significantly decreased last year. The likely 3 hitter to open the season for Boston will be heavily relied on to produce.

Prediction: 93-69, AL Wild Card game.

I expect the Red Sox to be solid again this year, as the talent is there and when they aren’t playing the Yankees, the AL East will be prime to beat up on. However, I don’t think their lineup is on the same level as the Yankees and therefore I think the Red Sox will secure an AL Wild Card berth.

New York Yankees

2017 & Offseason Review

Record: 91-71, AL Wild Card, ALDS Champions 

Postseason Result: Beat MIN-AL Wild Card, Beat CLE, ALDS, Lost Hou-ALCS

Offseason Moves:  

Key Additions: Giancarlo Stanton, Neil Walker, Brandon Drury

Key Departures: Starlin Castro, Todd Frazier, Michael Pineda

Offseason Grade: A-

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Image courtesy of CBS New York

2018 Preview

Bovada’s 2018 Projection: 94.5.

The Yankees had quite a “rebuilding” year in 2017, making the ALCS and falling short to the eventual champion Astros. Young star Aaron Judge set the rookie home run record with 52, while young star catcher Gary Sanchez hit 33 of his own. As if they weren’t going to mash in 2018 enough, they also went out and acquired Giancarlo Stanton. This team is loaded with talent top to bottom in the order, and they’re going to put up a ton of runs.

And lets discuss the bullpen. The three headed monster of Chapman, Robertson, and Betances is downright terrifying. In an AL East that is rather weak other than Boston, I think this team will surpass the 94.5 projected win total.

Biggest Question: Starting Pitching. The only question mark I can see for the Yankees currently is the back of their rotation. They have a very solid 1-2-3, with Luis Sevirino, Masahiro Tanaka, and Sonny Gray. However, the projected 4-5 are CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery. Sabathia had a great 2016 winning 14 games, but is now 37. Montgomery, who had a 3.80 ERA last year, will look to continue his success but questions to remain at what his ceiling is.

Player to Watch: Brandon Drury:

After losing Todd Frazier, who played a fantastic third base for the Yankees after being acquired at the deadline in 2017, to the Mets, the Yankees went out and acquired Brandon Drury from Arizona in a three team deal. Drury is expected to hold down the fort at third, for now, as stud prospect Miguel Andujar is waiting in the wings. The Yankees will need Drury to contribute until he’s ready to be called up. Drury however, shouldn’t be overlooked, as he’s just one year removed from a season where he batted .282 with a .330 OBP. It would not surprise me to see him be a significant contributor in the friendly dimensions of Yankee Stadium.

Prediction: 97-65, AL East Champions.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

2017 & Offseason Review

Record: 80-82

Postseason Result: Missed Postseason

Offseason Moves:

Key Additions: Carlos Gomez, C.J. Cron

Key Departures: Evan Longoria, Alex Cobb, Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi, Lucas Duda

Offseason Grade: D

2018 Preview

Bovada’s 2018 Projection: 77.5

After being in the mix for most of the 2017 season, the Rays had a disappointing finish, finishing 80-82 and missing the playoffs. It seems as if the team is now committed to a rebuild as the Rays made some significant salary dumping moves. This offseason they traded franchise cornerstone Evan Longoria to the Giants, while shipping out all stars Corey Dickerson and Jake Odorizzi for very minimal in return. They also let SP Alex Cobb walk to free agency, although he has yet to be unsigned.

With a projected lineup that includes Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, Brad Miller and Adeny Hechavarria at the bottom of the order, the Rays are going to be depleted of power. The signing of C.J. Cron was a nice move, but he has yet to hit over 20 home runs in any season, and the Rays will struggle.

With that said, not all is lost in Tampa. The Rays rotation is still led by All Star Chris Archer, and young lefty Blake Snell, who had an average 2017, posting a 4 ERA and a 1.3 Whip. At just 25, the Rays hope he can continue to improve.  Unfortunately, the bullpen looks pretty bad. Although they return closer Alex Columbe, who they tried to trade but had no luck, the rest of the bullpen is void of talent.

Biggest Question: Attendance? Seriously, a team that struggles to draw crowds even when good is going to struggle even more this year. Even super fan Dickie V went on an extraordinary rant on ownership after the Longoria trade.

But for real, the health of this lineup is a huge question. Kevin Kiermaier has played more than 110 games once in his career, Matt Duffy didn’t play at all in 2017, and Wilson Ramos played in 64 games last year. If any of these guys miss significant time, the Rays are going to severely struggle. Even with them, it’s going to be a challenge. Therefore I believe they will finish under the 77.5 win projection

Player to Watch: Jacob Faria:

The 24 year old RHP had a very solid rookie year, posting a 3.4 ERA and a 1.1 Whip in 86 innings. It could have been better had he not suffered an injury costing him 2 months. Hoping to return healthy, Faria could very well be a bright spot in a long year for Tampa. Expect to also see top IF prospect Willy Adames at some point as well.

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Image courtesy of CBS Sports 

Prediction: 74-88, 4th in AL East

 

Toronto Blue Jays 

2017 & Offseason Review

Record: 76-86, 4th in AL East

Postseason Result: Missed Postseason

Offseason Moves:

Key Additions: Curtis Granderson, Yangervis Solarte, Randal Grichuk, Jaime Garcia

Key Departures: Jose Bautista

Offseason Grade: B

2018 Preview

Bovada’s 2018 Projection: 81

After back to back playoff appearances, Toronto came back down to earth last year, going 76-86. They were hit big by the injury bug, including missed time by Josh Donaldson, Troy Tulowitzki, Aaron Sanchez. Considering they started 1-9, they just couldn’t recover.

The Blue Jays should recover though after a decent offseason. The Blue Jays went out and acquired Yangervis Solarte from San Diego, and brought in Randal Grichuk and Curtis Granderson. In a hitter friendly park, they should be able to provide much needed power to a team that finished last in runs in the AL in 2017.

Looking at the rotation, there is significant talent, led by Marcus Stroman who will look to build off his great 2017, winning 13 games with a 3 ERA. J.A. Happ should be relied on for another consistent season, while the Blue Jays hope Aaron Sanchez can stay healthy. Marco Estrada and free agent signing Jaime Garcia fill out the rotation, while Robert Osuna remains in the closer position as well.

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Image courtesy of CBS Sports

Biggest Question: Age!

Most of the projected opening day lineup is over the age of 30, including Granderson, Martin, Solarte, Tulowitzki, and Smoak. It’s a rather old squad. Tulowitzki is already banged up once again.

For the Blue Jays to have any success this year it’s critical that Donaldson does not miss any extended time. If the lineup can consistently produce, they should be able to compete in the AL. It will be tough, however, as Toronto has to face Boston and New York 34 times.

Player to Watch: Aaron Sanchez

The 25 year old pitcher, coming off a 15 win all-star season in 2016, battled blister trouble and missed almost the entire 2017 season. If he can put the injury issue behind him and can return to form, it could very well be the difference maker between another 4th place finish and a wild card berth.

Prediction: 83-79, 3rd in AL East.

Baltimore Orioles

2017 & Offseason Review

Record: 75-87, Last in AL East

Postseason Result: Missed Postseason

Offseason Moves:

 

Key Additions: Alex Cashner, Colby Rasmus, Danny Valencia, Alex Cobb

Key Departures: JJ Hardy, Wellington Castillo

Offseason Grade: C

2018 Preview

Bovada’s 2018 Projection: 73

A year removed from the AL Wild card game, the Orioles took a crashing step back in 2017, finishing 75-87 and in last place. Baltimore is now facing a critical season as Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Zach Britton are all expected to hit free agency after this year. It could very well be a rough final season in Baltimore for them.

Let’s start with the projected lineup, which is actually pretty solid. The lineup which will include Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, Manny Machodo, Chris Davis, and newly signed Danny Valencia will have solid power and be able to put up runs.

The pitching, on the other hand, got slightly better this week as they signed Alex Cobb th. However, the rest is pretty messy. Before the Cobb signing, they were projected to enter the season with a projected rotation of Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Andrew Cashner, Chris Tillman, and Mike Wright, who all had an above 4.00 ERA in 2017, not to mention losing all-star closer Zach Britton to a torn achillies in the offseason, any hope for success will be hindered by the severe lack of pitching. Alex Cobb made perfect sense, but it’s still not enough.

Overall the pitching is underwhelming, and I believe there is a high chance the O’s could move their stud power bats around the deadline, as they look to begin their rebuild. Therefore I predict under 73 wins.

Biggest Question: The trade deadline

You have to wonder if this is the beginning of the end in Baltimore. There is no doubt that come July, Jones and Machado will be heavily discussed in trade talks. Will the Orioles bite, or simply let them walk at years end? There is a ton of value coming off the books, including relief pitcher Brad Brach. If in fact the Orioles are out of it, they can get significant return at this year’s deadline to set up their rebuild.

Player to Watch: Austin Hays

The 22 year old Orioles top prospect got some late season work in September last year, hitting .217 in 60 ABs. Hays will try to make the team out of camp, but expect him to get significant playing time this season, especially after the trade deadline.

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Image courtesy of Camden Chat

Prediction: 72-90.

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