By Lauren Woode
Follow her on Twitter: @LaurenIsLive
I know I am shocking the baseball world with this one. Everyone is talking about the Blue Jays and the O’s and the changing of the guard in the AL East. Nice story guys…I’m not buying it!
The Boston Red Sox have cleaned house from the manager on down and they are ready to win now. Yes, David Ortiz is ailing with the Achilles and the heels, so they’ll start with another DH. He’s the Godfather of the team with not much time left at the plate, so the Sox must be preparing for his exit soon anyway. Shortstop Stephen Drew continues to have concussion like symptoms and no one knows his timetable to return. But that is the end of the bad news. They have a ton of good clubhouse guys who are scrappy on the field: Dustin Pedroia, Jonny Gomes, Shane Victorino, David Ross, Will Middlebrooks, Mike Napoli. New kid on the block Jackie Bradley Jr. may end up in the outfield. The starting rotation will possibly include Lester, Buchholtz, Dempster, Doubrount, Lackey, and maybe Aceves. New manager John Farrell is familiar with the franchise and is an even keel kind of guy. Oh yeah, and Pedro Martinez was in camp helping the pitching staff out as well. What’s not to like? I predict redemption for the Red Sox in 2013.
The Tampa Bay Rays are my pick for second place. The young pitching staff led by David Price has a lot of upside, even with James Shields’s departure. Fernando Rodney is fresh off of stoutly closing for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Desmond Jennings is going to fill B.J Upton’s spot in centerfield well. James Loney, Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson will sure up the infield defense. They have great minor league prospects, including outfielder Wil Myers, and pitchers, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi, who may come up as needed. Frankly, the team has moxie and even when Longoria went down last year, they still managed to finish only 5 games out of first place. The names on the roster don’t shout out at you on paper, but with their talent, the Rays are always in the mix. Their hard work cannot be ignored in a division like this.
The New York Yankees have had an unusual offseason in terms of player acquisition. They waited until after the winter meetings to sign new players like Kevin Youkilis, who will replace Alex Rodriguez for God knows how long. They signed former Tiger, Brennan Boesch and former Angel, Vernon Wells to play in the outfield, since Swisher is gone and Granderson has a broken arm. Add to the list of limping or injured Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. I am only dropping the Yanks to third in the division because most of the players mentioned above will be better by the second half of the season. If their pitching holds up while the new guys play a little small ball, they’ll be fine. I may have even low balled them in the standings. Kuroda is looking great, Mariano is back and CC is practically skinny this spring. The sky is not falling in New York. Don’t count out the Yankees.
I think the Baltimore Orioles will wind up in fourth place this season. I am not sipping that Baltimore Kool Aid yet, although I am inspired by the way they talk about the game and the way they play it. The team is definitely a product of Buck Showalter’s philosophy. It’s not that I think Baltimore is going to fall off that much from last year, but I think the division is going to be really competitive among themselves in 2013. The O’s are a young team and Showalter says they are maturing. Catcher Matt Wieters is becoming a leader in the clubhouse, Manny Machado should hit even better this year and Adam Jones started the season playing for USA in the WBC. Baltimore has pitching depth and the rotation is not set in stone, but we do know Jason Hammel will start Opening Day. The Oriole’s are beginning to play good baseball, but they will not sneak up on anyone this year.
The Toronto Blue Jays are coming up last for me because I just do not believe in their pitching. R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Beuhrle look good on paper, but I’m not buying that they are going to push the team to the top of the division like a lot of others are predicting. The team will definitely hit with Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, and Joey Bats…but win the East? They have a long way to go. Every team in the AL East must find new ways to win with new faces or learn how to play well when fans are actually expecting them to win this season.
Think I’m crazy for picking the Red Sox to take the division? Let me know in the comments section or @LaurenIsLive on Twitter. Coming up very soon…the NL East!