The 2010 Major League Baseball season is almost here. That means it is time for predictions to run rampant. Without further ado, here is one prediction for the American League East.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees have the upper hand in this division. They added speed and defense with the acquisition of CF Curtis Granderson from Detroit and a stud starting pitcher in Javier Vazquez from Atlanta. On top of their 2009 World Series Championship roster, the addition of these two players will keep them not only at the top of the AL, but at the top of MLB as well.
If you want to nit-pick, the one question mark in the Yankees' line-up would be in left field. Brett Gardner is pencilled in as the every day LF, but Randy Winn will also be plugged in here and there to give Gardner a rest. It will be Gardner's first full season in MLB, so he may struggle a bit to begin with. But having Winn as a back-up to give Gardner a break is definitely not a bad option.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox couldn't land any big-name bats this offseason, but added a star pitcher in John Lackey via free agency, and also shored-up their defense by signing SS Marco Scutaro, 3B Adrian Beltre, and new CF Mike Cameron. We've all heard that defense wins championships, but it will take a few favorable rolls and bounces for the Sox to end the season with another World Championship.
Many people question the lack of power in the lineup with David Ortiz's struggles, but in a hitter-friendly park like Fenway, Beltre, Cameron, and Victor Martinez should all have some padded home run numbers at season's end.
Couple that with the stellar starting rotation the Sox have in Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka—if he gets his act together—Tim Wakefield, and Clay Buchholz, they will definitely put up a good fight. Also, with plenty of young talent, the Sox are expected to make a push for 1B Adrian Gonzalez come the July 31 trade deadline.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays are an intriguing team. They have a plethora of young talent both in the field and on the mound, and if their players continue to develop the way the organization has hoped, they are going to be a force for years to come.
James Shields, David Price, and Matt Garza are the top pitchers, and Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria look to bolster the offense and the defense, along with Carlos Pena, who is looking to bounce back from the 2009 campaign where he posted a .227 batting average.
The Rays also have returned most of their key players from the 2009 season, but added reliever Rafael Soriano and catcher Kelly Shoppach via trades. Akinori Iwamura was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates because the club felt that their Internal prospects could fill in at 2B for far less money and, hopefully, much more production.
The youth movement is not a surprise for the small-market club, but whether or not it will pay off could make or break their season. They are pegged by most to finish third in the division, and unless their young talents all have breakout seasons, or the Red Sox have unforeseen issues, that is probably where they will end up finishing.
The Baltimore Orioles are in the midst of a rebuilding stage, but they seem to be favored to take the fourth spot in the division. C Matt Wieters is expected to be one of the biggest break-out players of the 2010 season, and the O's have young pitcher Brian Matusz, who is high up on everyone's Top-Prospect list.
These two are the future of the organization, but it will take a year or two for them to bloom. Another young player that the O's will hope can produce is OF Nolan Reimold. He will most likely be playing in left field over Felix Pie, and this will be his first full season in the big leagues.
The team also brought back shortstop Miguel Tejada via free agency. He has had some age and steroid-related issues lately, but his defense made them look passed his less than positive offseason to bring him back to Baltimore. The club also added starting pitcher Kevin Millwood via a trade from the Texas Rangers to add veteran leadership and experience to a young staff.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays made the biggest move of the offseason in trading starter Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies. This blockbuster deal landed Toronto three stellar prospects in P Kyle Drabek, C Travis d'Arnaud and 1B Brett Wallace. Drabek is the closest of the three to making his way to the MLB, but all three are prized, former first-round prospects.
The glaring issue with the Blue Jays is in center field. Vernon Wells has an astronomical $18 million per year deal that lasts through the 2014 season. In a smaller market like Toronto, putting around one fifth of the cap space in one player is not the best of ideas.
The fact that Wells' numbers dropped significantly around the same time that the ink was drying on the contract is not something the Jays could have foreseen, but the team is now stuck with an unhappy, overpaid CF. The lack of cap space due to the deal was part of what led to the departure of Halladay and lack of a solid team around their young talent.
All signs are pointing to the Yankees taking the division while finishing with the best record in the MLB, meaning they earn the top spot in the playoffs. Most people think that the Red Sox will get the Wild Card spot in the AL.
Normally, the Yankees would play the Wild Card team, but if the Red Sox do end up in that position, they cannot play each other in the first round. The team that wins the AL Central and West but has the worst overall record will then play the Yankees, and the other team will play the Wild Card team.
The Sox getting the Wild Card is no guarantee, especially with the raw talent that the Rays have within the division, and the competition in the AL Central with the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. Either way, it will likely be the Yankees that win the AL Championship Series to advance to the World Series.
Regardless of the outcome, it will be an entertaining year in the AL East. These teams always compete with each other and beat each other up throughout the year. In arguably the best division in MLB, the entertainment value and level of talent on display day in and day out is some of the best in the game.