Finally, the 2018 Major League Baseball season is among us. What was a rather blah off-season for most of the league; the AL East did see some notable changes among the oldest rivalry in sports. Both 2017 playoff teams, the division winner Boston Red Sox and the ALCS runner-ups the New York Yankees, parted ways with their skippers and added more power to their respective lineups. Meanwhile, smaller tweaks were done with the Orioles and Blue Jays in hopes to turn around their respective lackluster seasons. The Tampa Bay Rays look to begin yet another rebuild. What will make or break their respective chances in 2018?

Baltimore Orioles

Who’s New To Help Cause” –  Alex Cobb (FA from Tampa), Andrew Cashner (FA from Texas), Chris Tillman (FA re-signed.) Manny Machado (Signed a one year extension)

Addition By Subtraction?” –  Ubaldo Jimenez (FA), Wade Miley (FA to Milwaukee)

A Successful season for the Orioles looks like this:

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The O’s offense continuing their hitting ways, who were in the middle of the pack overall in the AL, but in the top five in home runs (232), hits (1,469), slugging percentage (.435), average (.260) and total bases (2,458).  Manny Machado continues to do Manny Machado wizard like things in the field, even with his shift to shortstop and in a contract year, there is no reason to think otherwise.

However a truly successful season for the Baltimore Orioles will center around their pitching.

Losing Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley in Free Agency is a blessing in disguise. Jimenez had 3 of 4 forgettable years with the birds, with an ERA never lower than 4.11 in that span and only one double digit win season nor did he ever eclipse the coveted 200-inning season. Miley did not fair much better, going 8-15 with a 5.61 ERA.

The addition of Free Agents Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner, and re-signing of Chris Tillman, should bolster the rotation behind Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, and provide them with  five (5) double-digit winning pitchers to aide in a rather intact offensive attack, save for Mark Trumbo will start on the DL but should be back mid-April to Early May.

Cobb and Cashner both had double digit wins, and ERA’s under 4 in the American League last year (12-10, 3.66 and 11-11, 3.40 respectively). Tillman minus last year’s injury to his shoulder will be able to ease his way into the season and get back to his double-digit winning ways four of the last five years.

An Unsuccessful Season for the Orioles looks like this:

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Brad Brach cannot hold down the back end of the bullpen where he collected 18-saves last season while Zach Britton, who has been put on the 60-Day DL, recovers from a torn Achilles putting the Orioles in a hole early with the American League East favorites New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

Machado and Jonathan Schoop take too long to get acclimated to the shift change in the middle of the diamond and the distraction of Manny’s future hangs over the team.

The pitching reverts to last years woeful group where the O’s were second to last in ERA (4.97), runs allowed (841), batting average against (BAA) allowing a .269 clip, while issuing the 2nd most walks in the American League with 579.

Absolutely Correct Prediction:

I have the Orioles going 81-81 while these other famous projections have them going like this:

AL EASTFanGraphsPecotaUSA Today
Boston Red Sox92-7087-7589-73
New York Yankees91-7196-6693-69
Toronto Blue Jays85-7778-8479-83
Tampa Bay Rays79-8384-7876-86
Baltimore Orioles72-9069-9372-90

Here’s why I will be right:

Despite it being an even year where the last three out of five years has earned the birds a playoff berth, I worry about the loss of the captain of the infield J.J. Hardy and more importantly, Welington Castillo’s offensive production. Despite splitting time with Caleb Joseph, Castillo will be missed more than anyone realizes. It was evident how much the fans and players respected J.J. Hardy in what everyone believed would be his last home game, last September. In addition, I expect Chris Davis‘ strikeout totals to go up and his slash line to continue it’s downward trend as it has the last three years. Furthermore, I worry about the Orioles bullpen without their anchor unavailable to the end of May, beginning of June at the earliest.

As an Oriole fan, I would enjoy every moment of Manny Machado and Adam Jones because I don’t see either of them back in 2019.

Boston Red Sox

Who’s New To Help CauseAlex Cora (Manager – signed from Houston), J.D. Martinez (FA from Arizona)

Addition By Subtraction?John Farrell (Fired), Chris Young (FA to Los Angeles Anaheim)

A Successful season for the Sox looks like this:

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No Drama! Leadership! Between last years Manny Machado and Dustin Pedroia lingering incident, lack of leadership and what seemed like a season long saga with David Price, while the Red Sox clinched the American League East, the team was missing that cohesiveness.

David Price returning to his 16+ win career average and Rick Porcello getting his sinker to sink, having a career average season giving up of 19.8 home-runs and 85 earned runs as oppose to last years league leading 38 long balls and 105-earned runs alongside another Chris Sale dominant (he looks to be good to go despite taking a line drive off the hip) season and the Red Sox will be as formidable as any rotation in baseball.

Offensive and defensive depth. The Sox re-signed Eduardo Nunez to play second while Pedroia works back from off-season surgery. They also have Brock Holt who can give all players in the infield and outfield a rest. And while J.D Martinez primary role will be DH, he can play the outfield corners as well.

The addition of J.D. Martinez should provide the much needed boost in power they were so sorely lacking. The Sox were last in the American League in home-runs with 168. Martinez has averaged more than 38 home runs and 100+ RBI’s when he has played a full season. This will help in alleviating the production gap since David Ortiz‘s retirement and hopefully reinvigorate Hanley Ramirez, who looks to fight for playing time with Mitch Moreland and Martinez. In addition, his ability to hit to the opposite field will be a welcomed sight.

The Red Sox will also need to rectify their errant ways where they not only created 107 errors, good for fourth worst but seemingly were thrown out at an alarming rate on the base paths by shoring up defensively and subscribing to smart base running.

An Unsuccessful Season for the Sox looks like this:

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The Killer B’s (Benintendi, Bogaerts, Betts and Bradley) all saw their averages plummet more than 20-points, with Mookie Betts seeing a 54-point decline in average from the previous season, as well as their collective slash lines.  If this trend continues, it will be a long season for the Red Sox as this is essentially half their lineup.

Not being able to find that 7th, 8th and 9th inning rotation. Trotting out Joe Kelly, Carson Smith and Craig Kimbrel, with two of the three in contract seasons, could solidify the back end of the bullpen. However, if Kelly’s inconsistency continues and Smith cannot stay healthy, Alex Cora will have a hard time patching his bullpen to get to Kimbrel, who seemingly can only work from a clean 9th.

An overworked bullpen and lack of scoring in the clutch, plagued the Sox in the playoffs.

Injuries. While every team has to worry about key injuries, with 2/5ths of their rotation up in the air with injury – Eduardo Rodriguez (right knee), Drew Pomeranz (left forearm) starting on the DL, before the season starts, could put a heavy workload on Sale, Price and Porcello and end up putting the Sox in a precarious position.

Continued drama. The story last year was not that they won the East but rather who was blaming who. Pedroia threw his teammates and manager under the bus. David Price was at war with the media and Twitter. There is some speculation that the Sox are looking for Hanley Ramirez to miss his plate appearance incentive to prevent his $22-Million option from activating, which could create friction as the season goes on. If the players cannot put team first, they definitely will not end up in first.

Absolutely Correct Prediction:

I have them going 92-70 while these other famous projections have them going like this:

AL EASTFanGraphsPecotaUSA Today
Boston Red Sox92-7087-7589-73
New York Yankees91-7196-6693-69
Toronto Blue Jays85-7778-8479-83
Tampa Bay Rays79-8384-7876-86
Baltimore Orioles72-9069-9372-90

 

Here’s why I will be right:

Alex Cora will be the key for the young stars re-ascension by providing a free and calming environment. The belief is the Killer B’s will all bring up their averages and the starting pitching rotation will be more consistent. J.D Martinez will help fill the lineup card out and it’s a good sign that Cora has implemented a different regiment for the pitchers to help ensure longevity and stronger arms as the season progresses, which always plagued the Red Sox under John Farrell. I see the Red Sox coming in second behind the Yankees but qualifying for the post season.

 

New York Yankees

Who’s New To Help CauseGiancarlo Stanton (Trade from Miami), Neil Walker (FA from Milwaukee),

Addition By Subtraction?Todd Frazier  (FA to NY Mets), Michael Pineda (FA to Minnesota)

A Successful season for the Yankees looks like this:

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A team makes it to game seven of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) and then they go and trade for the National League MVP and League leader in home runs.

I would never disrespect the Yankee history by comparing the legendary Hall of Fame players Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to the new tandem of Stanton and Aaron Judge. Although, I do envision some surreal moments from the EAST coast edition of the Bash Brothers to put up comparable numbers to those of Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco from ’87 thru ’90. Add in Gary Sanchez and you’re looking at possibly 120 home-runs and 300+ RBI’s among this trifecta. This doesn’t even account for Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner who both hit 20+ home-runs. That’s five (5!) 20+ home run hitters.

The return of Luis Severino, C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, the rookie Jordan Montgomery and a full year of Sonny Gray in the rotation with the likes of Chad Green, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve and flame throwing Aroldis Chapman in the bullpen, who collectively led the American League in Batting Average Against (.228), second in earned runs with 599 and third in ERA (3.72).

It cannot be understated, that the Green, Robertson and Shreve went 14-1, 2.21 ERA and a 0.784 WHIP.

Power like that combined with that pitching mean the Yankees will be the team to beat in the East.

An Unsuccessful Season for the Yankees looks like this:

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The bullpen pitching was so dominant last year, can it repeat last year’s dominance? Chapman struggled at times throughout the season and was demoted and even benched during the season. Can a Betances emerge again as the interim closer?

This warrants concern how the Yankees will respond under new manager Aaron Boone. Many believe Joe Girardi did a masterful performance last year in his final season as skipper. Can Boone pull the strings as Girardi did for Chapman last year to get him to refocus over the long season?

The market that is New York, and the pressure that comes with it, what if it rocks Sonny Gray? What if Stanton cannot adapt to the ferocious market that is New York? Will the loss of Pineda loom large?

 

Absolutely Correct Prediction:

I have them going 95-67 while these other famous projections have them going like this:

AL EASTFanGraphsPecotaUSA Today
Boston Red Sox92-7087-7589-73
New York Yankees91-7196-6693-69
Toronto Blue Jays85-7778-8479-83
Tampa Bay Rays79-8384-7876-86
Baltimore Orioles72-9069-9372-90

Here’s why I will be right:

The addition of players Stanton, Neil Walker, Brandon Drury and rookie Tyler Wade offer a lot versatility for manager Boone both in the infield and outfield. In addition, Boone has been handed a good starting rotation and solid bullpen. The success comes down to Boone’s in-game management of these pieces. However, their depth, assuming they stay healthy (here’s looking at you Stanton and Tanaka) the Yankees will be playing deep into October.

Tampa Bay Rays

Who’s New To Help CauseDenard Span (Trade with San Francisco), Christian Arroyo (Trade with San Francisco)

Addition By Subtraction?” – None.

A Successful season for the Rays looks like this:

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Wow! After the fire sale in Tampa this off-season, with only four returning starters, one would qualify winning 75-games as a successful season.

After losing a number of Free Agents, it – “The Fire Sale” – started with the trade of stalwart Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Denard Span and infielder Christian Arroyo, who are both slated as backups in the field. Yes, Span looks to be the new DH, replacing Lucas Duda who left in Free Agency to Kansas City but this is NOT an upgrade.

Followed out the door in February by way of trade was Steven Souza and Corey Dickerson to Arizona and Pittsburgh respectively.  Okay, I get it, Tampa Bay Rays fans don’t need to relive the off season.

A successful  season would be if the returning four starters, 2B Brad Miller, C Wilson Ramos, SS Adeiny Hechavarria and CF Kevin Kiermaier could all play a full season, it would be a win. If Matt Duffy can stay on the field, it would be a win.

If the Rays, who look to implement a four man rotation, can have a modicum of success, that would be a win. Only returning starter Chris Archer won double digit games last year, can he be the Ace their looking for because he needs to be.

Maybe Nathan Eovaldi can revert to the 2015 version where he won 14-games for the Yankees and the young-en’s, Jake Faria and Blake Snell, have breakout seasons.

An Unsuccessful Season for the Rays looks like this:

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It’s hard to classify an unsuccessful season with the expectations set so low. One to expect the Rays to contend in the loaded AL East is a tall order.

However, if Archer and Eovaldi get hurt due to the shortened rotation, leaving Tampa fielding essentially a minor league team in the majors would make for an even longer season for the Rays faithful.

Absolutely Correct Prediction:

I have them going 67-95 while these other famous projections have them going like this:

AL EASTFanGraphsPecotaUSA Today
Boston Red Sox92-7087-7589-73
New York Yankees91-7196-6693-69
Toronto Blue Jays85-7778-8479-83
Tampa Bay Rays79-8384-7876-86
Baltimore Orioles72-9069-9372-90

Here’s why I will be right:

The margin for error is beyond infinitesimal for them to win a game.  I just don’t know how they replace the 100+ home  run production they lost in the off-season. And while in theory  I can appreciate Kevin Cash‘s creativity in the rotation, if it could be done in the modern era, it would have already been done. But the motto “You can never have enough pitching,” is a motto for a reason. And in closing, facing their inter-division rivals 19-games a piece is going to be why their attendance will not even eclipse the 1,000,000 mark.

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The Rays highlight is going to be Kevin Kiermaier Superman like catches. He’s going to have to make a lot for the Rays to be relevant.

Toronto Blue Jays

Who’s New To Help CauseRandal Grichuk (Trade St. Louis), Curtis Granderson (FA), Jaime Garcia (FA), Tyler Clippard (FA)

Addition By Subtraction?Jose Bautista

A Successful season for the Jays looks like this:

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Russell Martin needs to stay healthy and lead his starting rotation, all capable of double-digit wins. This is a theme I have written throughout this article and for good reason. If any team, including the Blue Jays can get all of its starters in double digits, it most likely means it keeps their bullpen fresh throughout the year.

This isn’t a pie-in the-sky idea. Marcus Stroman, J.A.Happ and Marco Estrada all won 10+ games last year. Jaime Garcia acquired in Free Agency, had back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2015 and 2016 before spending time with three different teams last year.

Most notably, Aaron Sanchez looks to rebound and can reclaim his 2016 form, things will be looking up for the Jays.

Offensively, having Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales hitting 2-3-4 accounting for 30 HR’s and 80+ RBI’s each, which is not a stretch but a reality, will keep them in AL East hunt.

Overlooked is the Jay’s outfield with newly acquired Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk, sandwiching Kevin Pillar are upgrades over last years corner outfielders. Admit it Blue Jay fans, Bautista was a shell of himself last year. Trading for Grichuk got you 11-years younger in RF, saved you a bundle of money with his $2.6-Million salary all while replacing Bautista’s production and having him under control for two more years.

All this doesn’t even account the Jays keeping the bullpen intact with closer Roberto Osuna, Ryan Tepera who went 7-1 with a 3.59 ERA, along with Aaron Loup and Danny Barnes. In addition, they added Tyler Clippard to the relief group, who can save if need be.

An Unsuccessful Season for the Jays looks like this:

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The Blue Jays season could turn quickly if Marcus Stroman, who is battling shoulder inflammation gets injured, or worse,  needs surgery. Another year of Aaron Sanchez battling finger issues again will put a promising season in a precarious position.

While Donaldson did sign a 1-Yr $23-Million contract, lets hope it doesn’t become a distraction. Maybe its only the Boston media that makes mole hills into mountains.

Smoak, Morales and Donaldson, all on the wrong side of thirty start playing like it. If these things happen, it will be another year looking from the outside-in come playoff time.

Absolutely Correct Prediction:

I have them going 87-75 while these other famous projections have them going like this:

AL EASTFanGraphsPecotaUSA Today
Boston Red Sox92-7087-7589-73
New York Yankees91-7196-6693-69
Toronto Blue Jays85-7778-8479-83
Tampa Bay Rays79-8384-7876-86
Baltimore Orioles72-9069-9372-90

Here’s why I will be right:

While I do think the ceiling is high for the Jays this year, there is a feeling that they will underachieve and maybe that is because they have three out of the last five years. In all honesty with only five spots open with the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians, Astros, Twins and Angels all projected to finish higher, not to mention that Jays having to face the inter-division rivals 19-times apiece, its a long road. But that’s why they play the game.

Final Thoughts:

So, there you have it, I have it Yankees, Sox, Jays, Orioles and Rays. How do you see the division panning out?

Possibly The Most Accurate AL EAST Predictions Ever!

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