(This is one post in a series of posts where I will be predicting the outcome of each MLB division. The final post will include full 2016 MLB postseason predictions.)
I made some good calls and some big blunders in my 2015 MLB predictions. In the AL East, I sold all my shares in the Yankees and Red Sox before the season. The 2015 Red Sox were bad so I was right on that pick. However the Yankees made the playoffs, so I was way off on that one. Other than the Rays, the AL East teams all share the common strength of big time offensive firepower. The Red Sox went so big on offense in 2015, that they forgot you actually need competent pitching to compete. The Yankees lacked a true ace, and it hurt them in the Wild Card game. The Blue Jays scored more runs than any other team in the league and added David Price at the deadline to lead their playoff push. The Orioles lacked the starting pitching and hitting to compete with their division rivals. The Rays had the pitching advantage but couldn’t hit. Here’s what I see in 2016:
AL East: 1) NY Yankees (x) 2) Toronto Blue Jays (wc) 3) Baltimore Orioles 4) Boston Red Sox 5) Tampa Bay Rays
I bet against the Yankees in 2015. I thought the Senior Citizens Brigade aka Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran would decline into oblivion. I was dead wrong. A-Rod and Tex are so back. I won’t be betting against them this year. I think the three headed monster in the bullpen (Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, and Dellin Betances) can be historically good. The Yankees lacked an ace. And now they may have one in Luis Severino. Masahiro Tanaka had a torn UCL that would normally require TJ surgery. But seemingly he has a magic elbow with the mutant regeneration powers of Wolverine because it’s no longer an issue. He’s probably going to have a Cy Young caliber season too because they are the damn Yankees.
Toronto had the best offense by a ton. Now they have Troy Tulowitzki for a full season. They won’t be far off from their 2015 team offensive production. Hell they might surpass it. They did lose David Price though and replaced him with a bunch of mediocre starters namely J.A. Happ and Jesse Chavez. But Marcus Stroman is back and ready to emerge fully next season. I suppose they can always add a starter during the season if necessary, but they plan to just outscore everyone like last season. That strategy should work well for them again and lead to a Wild Card berth.
I think Baltimore is going to mash with Mark Trumbo, Chris Davis, and Pedro Alvarez. They had the 5th ranked pen in 2015, and it is still strong with Darren O’Day coming back. Yovani Gallardo probably is a downgrade from Wei-Yin Chen but not by much. I think they will battle with their division rivals for much of the season but are ultimately inferior to the Yanks and Jays.
Boston added arguably the leagues best starting pitcher in David Price and the leagues best closer Craig Kimbrel aka Dr. Kimbrel. But I’m still not sold on their rotation. Clay Buchholz stinks. I’m not a fan of Joe Kelly. Donald Trump told me Hanley Ramirez at 1B is going to be a disaster. Pablo Sandoval got paid, and has seemingly decided to channel his inner Homer Simpson by gaining enough weight to qualify for disability. It’s a really ballin move. But it sure as hell won’t help the Red Sox win a championship. The Big Papi retirement tour is going to yield a lot of crappy plaques and gift baskets, but I don’t think it will end with a playoff appearance. I just don’t see it.
I don’t get why Buster Olney and others are bullish on Tampa Bay. Chris Archer is a stud, and they have good young pitchers. But their rotation was 11th in ERA last season, and they still only managed to finish around .500. Their offense was anemic though. They tried to address that by adding Corey Dickerson to their OF and Steve Pearce for a 1B platoon. But they are competing against the two top offenses in the league in the Yankees and Jays. I’m not buying into the Rays. I think the Yankees and Jays will remain at the top all season long with the other three teams looking to avoid the cellar.