2018 MLB Preview: AL East

aleastThe American League East has always been one of the most watched divisions in the league with some of the biggest teams.

This is the home to some of the largest and most loyal fan bases but that will always bring a different level to the game.

There are no off years for teams in the East as many are expected to compete for the World Series every year.

Teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox are by far the most followed in the world of baseball with fans everywhere.

That is a lot of eyeballs on their game and when there are a lot of people watching there is a lot of pressure to succeed.

They have done that with mixed results over the years as the Yankees have struggled recently and the Red Sox were a team with one of the longest World Series droughts ever.

Both have also had a lot of success winning multiple championships over the years and being among the most successful franchises in the history of the league.

They have battled for decades and have brought a lot of attention to the AL East and with their success has come a lot of pressure for everyone in the division.

The Yankees and Red Sox have made a habit of spending to win games often buying the best players with big contracts.

For the other teams in the division that has put them at a disadvantage as they have to compete with payrolls rather than talent.

Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay are all consistently playing second or third fiddle to the two big teams.

They are never the teams that are talked about the most and when the big names come up they are rarely chosen over the big teams.

Although every team in the league is competing for the attention of the fans but in the east, it is a lot more difficult.

So teams consistently try to make moves in order to compete and take advantage of the small windows that they have to be near the top of the division.

It can be tough but all three other teams have had their success in the division even among the big payrolls of the other teams.

The Orioles have had a lot of success recently with a number of young players that have pushed them to the top.

Recently it hasn’t worked as well for them with their window possibly closing and as they struggled the Blue Jays rose to the top.

They began making a lot of moves and found themselves in the postseason but like the Orioles, their window might have closed.

The Rays were closing in too although their success wasn’t as long-lasting as any of the other teams.

Despite all of these brief moments the east has always been one where the Yankees and Red Sox have taken over, whether they can do it again will be up to the moves made by the other teams.

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The Baltimore Orioles were a team that was challenging the two powers in the division and they had put themselves into contention. Those days are gone though as the Orioles are now sitting in a strange spot with a team that is a shell of its former self. They still have talent throughout the roster but that talent is much more spread out than it used to be and they are struggling to compete with the other teams in the division. Yet despite baloriolestheir issues, the organization refuses to take any certain action to try to help improve their standing even if that means a rebuild. Before the 2017 season they made little to no moves to help them out and through the start of the season, they seemed to be headed that way. Then the moves stopped and the team seemed to be ready to stay with what they had. It wasn’t good enough and they ended the season at the bottom of the division. This year it was almost assumed that the Orioles would be letting most of their talent go to start a rebuild but once again they stayed relatively unchanged. It leaves them in a strange place as they start the 2018 season as they don’t seem to have the talent to compete but are refusing to go through the pain of a rebuild. That doesn’t bode well for their season as few changes from a last place team means there is not a lot of hope for this group this year. They will still be led by one of the best hitters in the game in Manny Machado who continues his move to shortstop. Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Jonathan Schoop all add to the offensive output in what is a pretty good group. Adding Colby Rasmus will be a good depth move while they also hope that Chance Sisco can step forward as their catcher of the future. Where the issues come are on the defensive side of the ball as the Orioles lack any major starting pitchers. Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are good but they are not close to some of the other top pairs in the division. The rest of the group is not the best and although their bullpen is good enough to hide some of their issues they are not good enough to bring them to the top of the division. The Orioles failed to make any moves to help them improve and without a commitment to a rebuild, they will fail to make an impression this season sitting outside the postseason once again.

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The Boston Red Sox went from one of the best teams in the game winning the World Series in 2013 and then fell apart the very next season. It looked like 2014 was the year that the age of the Red Sox was going to catch up to the team and they were going to fall to the back. It happens to every team as the most successful teams tend to rely on a host of veterans to bring them to the top of the league. Eventually, those veterans are bosredsoxnowhere near as effective at a certain point and things need to start changing, although most teams don’t realize that until it’s too late. The Red Sox saw that happen as their veteran-laden team struggled in 2014 but they were far more prepared for the dip than most other teams. Almost immediately the farm system began producing new potential stars and by 2016 they were back in the hunt for the postseason. The Red Sox are one of the rare teams that have gone through the transition of a veteran team to a young team with little suffering. Now they enter the 2018 season and have plenty of potential as a young team with a lot of talent. They made only a few moves in the off-season but one will sure to be a big one for the only real weakness for the team. That move was the addition of J.D. Martinez who brings 45 home runs to a team that lacked the power to keep up with their biggest rivals. Martinez should be able to fit in with Hanley Ramirez as a great one-two punch on offence. Meanwhile, the young guns continue to lead the group even if they don’t have the power that is prevalent in the AL East. Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are all big parts of this offence and need to continue their development to bring the Red Sox to the World Series. If their newest young star, Christian Vazquez, can keep up he will only add to the group. That offence will be without a key leader though as Dustin Pedroia will miss 7 months after knee surgery. The offence will be backed up by a deep group made up of Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. That group has their own back-up with a great bullpen anchored by closer Craig Kimbrell who remains one of the toughest late-inning matchups in the league. The Red Sox are a great team that have talent everywhere on their roster. They recovered very well from their short downturn and now have a team with young talent that continues to come through as they will once again compete at the top of the division.

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The Yankees are often referred to as the Evil Empire simply for the fact that they continue to win and everyone either hates or loves the best team in the league. They are a team that continues to be great no matter what and even when they are supposed to struggle they find a way. Last year was supposed to be that rare season where the Yankees weren’t going to compete with the best in the league. They were a team with too nyyankeesmany questions having a number of young players that hadn’t proved themselves and a decent but not great base of veterans. Then came the emergence of Aaron Judge and the unexpected surge from the rest of the Yankees. Although the Yankees were able to break through with a full team effort it was Judge who captured most of the attention as the Rookie of the Year got into a legitimate home run race with Giancarlo Stanton until the wear and tear of the season ended his run. The Yankees were back though and they came within one win of making the World Series. It was unexpected but the Yankees took what they had and decided to do what they do best, run with it and spend money. They made the biggest splash in the offseason when they signed the home run king from 2017 in Giancarlo Stanton giving them two of the best home run hitters in the league. With Stanton and Judge leading the way and Gary Sanchez adding more to the totals, this is the scariest heart of the lineup in baseball. Adding other hitters like Didi Gregorius, Greg Bird and Brett Gardiner to the mix only make this lineup even tougher. The rotation will be pretty formidable itself with Luis Severino stepping forward in a big way last year with a sub-3 ERA and almost getting his first Cy Young. Although CC Sabathia is not the same pitcher he used to be, there is still plenty left in the tank along with Masahiro Tanaka and Sonny Gray. Adding Aroldis Chapman to the stable of arms that includes Dellin Betances and David Robertson makes their bullpen its own challenge. The Yankees are certainly back and making the big moves shows that they are not going to wait around for the rest of the young talent to develop. They want to compete now as the brief slide is over and they will be competing at the top of the division for another year. They are a very talented team and the postseason is in their sights as they will have a shot at making a deep run this year.

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The Tampa Bay Rays have committed which has been an issue for so many teams in the MLB over the years but it doesn’t make anyone happier. The Rays have struggled for years but every year they continued to keep around some pretty good talent. Despite a good farm system, they could never replenish the team well enough to get to the point where they could actually compete. This off-season they finally did what had been tbrayscoming for a long time and began trading some of their biggest names away. The biggest name was, of course, Evan Longoria who had been the face of the team for almost an entire decade. He wasn’t the only one sent away though as Alex Cobb, Jake Odorizzi and Logan Morrison will all be in other uniforms this season. By most accounts, they didn’t get much back but the moves that they did make were not entirely uneventful. They brought back a few young players that could be great and they kept their best player to give the team something to see every five games. The move show signs that the Rays are ready for a rebuild and things might get pretty bad but looking at the roster they aren’t ready to be put out to pasture quite yet. They will look to Chris Archer for their biggest boost as he remains a great pitcher and can give them wins. Beyond Archer, there isn’t a whole lot to look at in the rotation as Blake Snell will be a serviceable number two while Jake Faria and Nathan Eovaldi fill out the rest of the group. It isn’t one that is going to inspire a lot of fear among other teams but there is still some talent there. They won’t get a lot of support on the offensive side either with the loss of Longoria meaning a lot less power. Two of the players they got back in the off-season offload could help add some offence as C.J Cron and Carlos Gomez hope to make an impact on their new team. Kevin Kiermaier remains one of the best defenders in the game but hopes to help lead the offence this time around alongside Denard Span. Overall the Rays are not as good a team as they were a year ago but they are still a team that can compete day-to-day. They won’t have the offence or the depth of pitching to be among the best teams in the division though and for that, they will sink to the bottom of the division with a lot more work to do in order to find their way back to the top.

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The Toronto Blue Jays were one of the more exciting teams only a few years ago as they had been without a postseason appearance for 20 years but broke that drought with some major moves. They quickly became a power in the East and with a solid group of veterans and young talent they were expected to continue to rise. 2017 seemed to end that rise though as the injuries piled up and many of their veterans began to slow down. tobluejaysIt wasn’t the year that they were hoping for and now they enter a somewhat strange period for the team. Most of the success came from moves made from Alex Anthopoulos but in the Mark Shapiro era, things seem to be different with one eye trained on the farm system. They still have a chance to be a good team though as the talent is still there as long as everyone can be a bit more durable this time around. One of the biggest spots that was hurt last year was the pitching rotation where one of their more promising players in Aaron Sanchez missed most of the season with blisters. He wasn’t the only pitcher to miss games last year but with a full rotation, they are a deep group. Marcus Stroman will miss opening day but he remains one of the best young pitchers in the league and with Sanchez, J.A. Happ, Marco Estrada and new addition Jamie Garcia they are a good group. The two youth leaders can be dominant and the rest can eat up innings with good pitching. Their bullpen could be a weakness against this year but Roberto Osuna still has the talent to be one o the best closers. On offence, the Jays have relied heavily on power and losing the 20 that Jose Bautista providing will take away from that. His average wasn’t good enough to keep around though and the addition of Randal Grichuk and Curtis Granderson should soften the low. With Josh Donaldson playing for a payday he might have a big year while the Jays keep a close eye on Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who are among the best prospects in the league and could make appearances this year. The talent is there for them to make a run but without a full commitment from the top, it might not be the most stable season. They have the talent and the depth with some of their additions to help them compete for a wild card spot but the fact is that there are stronger teams in the division that will keep them out of the top.

Prediction:
It will be another familiar season to the disappointment of many fans but the joy from the fans of the biggest teams in the AL East. The Yankees and Red Sox still look like the best teams in this division with a mix of young and veteran talent. Either could make a run at the World Series this year but the additions that the Yankees made will put them at the top of the division. The Jays will be reduced to battling for the second wild card meaning a bigger battle among the rest of the American League. The Orioles and the Rays will sink to the bottom as both are stuck in a spot where they have talented players but not enough talent to compete. The Orioles are just a little better as the Rays’ firesale will put them into the bottom of the division. In the end, the battle will be a good one but it will be the same one that most east fans are used to over the years.

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