BC-BBA--AL East Preview Capsules
Capsules of American League East teams, listed in order of finish last year:
Boston Red Sox
2018: 108-54, first place, World Series champions.
Manager: Alex Cora (second season).
He’s Here: OF Gorkys Hernandez, RHP Jenrry Mejia.
He’s Outta Here: RHP Craig Kimbrel, RHP Joe Kelly, 2B Ian Kinsler.
Projected Lineup: LF Andrew Benintendi (.290, 16 HRs, 87 RBIs), RF Mookie Betts (.346, 32, 80, 129 runs, 30 steals), DH J.D. Martinez (.330, 43, MLB-best 130), SS Xander Bogaerts (.288, 23, 103), 1B Steve Pearce (.284, 11, 42, .890 OPS in 76 games with Toronto and Boston) or Mitch Moreland (.245, 15, 68), 3B Rafael Devers (.240, 21, 66), 2B Dustin Pedroia (played in only 3 games because of knee injury) or Brock Holt (.277, 7, 46 in 109 games) or Eduardo Nunez (.265, 10, 44), C Christian Vazquez (.207, 3, 16 in 80 games) or Sandy Leon (.177, 5, 22 in 89 games), CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (.234, 13, 59).
Rotation: LH Chris Sale (12-4, 2.11 ERA, 237 Ks in 158 IP), LH David Price (16-7, 3.58, 177 Ks in 176 IP), RH Nathan Eovaldi (6-7, 3.81 with Red Sox and Rays), RH Rick Porcello (17-7, 4.28, 190 Ks in 191 1/3 IP), LH Eduardo Rodriguez (13-5, 3.82, 146 Ks in 129 2/3 IP).
Key Relievers: RH Matt Barnes (6-4, 3.65), RH Ryan Brasier (2-1, 1.60), RH Brandon Workman (6-1, 3.27), RH Heath Hembree (4-1, 4.20, 76 Ks, 27 BBs, 60 IP in 67 games).
Hot Spots: Second Base and Closer. Pedroia was injured to start last season, then lasted only three games before returning to the disabled list and sitting out the rest of the year. The Red Sox are hoping he can remain healthy this time, with Nunez and Holt standing by as backup. The team is also looking for a closer after Kimbrel left as a free agent.
Outlook: After a franchise-record 108 wins last season, the only box left for the Red Sox to check is back-to-back World Series championships. They haven’t done that since 1915-16.
New York Yankees
2018: 100-62, second place, wild card, lost to Boston in Division Series.
Manager: Aaron Boone (second season).
He’s Here: LHP James Paxton, RHP Adam Ottavino, INF DJ LeMahieu, SS Troy Tulowitzki, LHP Gio Gonzalez.
He’s Outta Here: RHP David Robertson, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP Sonny Gray, RHP Lance Lynn, INF Neil Walker, INF Ronald Torreyes, SS Adeiny Hechavarria, LHP Justus Sheffield.
Projected Lineup: CF Brett Gardner (.236, 12 HRs, 45 RBIs, 16 SBs) or Aaron Hicks (.248, 27, 79; will start season on injured list with stiff back), RF Aaron Judge (.278, 27, 67, .919 OPS in 112 G), LF Giancarlo Stanton (.266, 38, 100, .852 OPS, 211 Ks), 1B Luke Voit (.322, 15, 36 in 47 games for Cardinals and Yankees), C Gary Sanchez (.186, 18, 53 in 89 games), DH Greg Bird (.199, 11, 38 in 82 games), 3B Miguel Andujar (.297, 27, 92), 2B Gleyber Torres (.271, 24, 77), SS Troy Tulowitzki (missed 2018 season with Blue Jays due to injury).
Rotation: RH Masahiro Tanaka (12-6, 3.75 ERA, 159 Ks in 156 IP), LH James Paxton (11-6, 3.76, 208 Ks with Mariners), LH J.A. Happ (17-6, 3.65 with Blue Jays and Yankees), RH Luis Severino (19-8, 3.39, 220 Ks; sidelined through April because of right shoulder inflammation), LH CC Sabathia (9-7, 3.65; sidelined first few weeks while recovering from knee surgery), RH Domingo German (2-6, 5.57 in 14 starts and 7 relief appearances) or RH Jonathan Loaisiga (2-0, 5.11 in 4 starts and 5 relief appearances; 6-1, 2.89 in 14 starts and 3 minor league levels) or LH Gio Gonzalez (10-11, 4.21 with Nationals and Brewers, likely to enter rotation when pitch count is built up) or LH Jordan Montgomery (2-0, 3.62 in 6 starts before Tommy John surgery that is expected to sideline him until the second half this season).
Key Relievers: LH Aroldis Chapman (3-0, 2.45, 32/34 saves, 93 Ks in 51 1/3 IP), LH Zack Britton (2-0, 3.10, 7 saves for Orioles and Yankees), RH Adam Ottavino (6-4, 2.43, 6 saves, 112 Ks in 77 2/3 IP for Rockies), RH Chad Green (8-3, 2.50, 94 Ks in 75 2/3 IP), RH Dellin Betances (4-6, 2.70, 4 saves, 115 Ks in 66 2/3 IP; sidelined the first few weeks because of right shoulder inflammation).
Hot Spot: Trainer’s Room. The key hot spots for the Yankees are flare-ups on medical scans, with shortstop Didi Gregorius (.268, 27, 86, out until summer following Tommy John surgery), Hicks, Severino, Sabathia and forgotten outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury all starting the season on the injured list. The biggest competition at spring training, between Voit and Bird for the first base job, is likely to extend into the season because of Hicks’ injury, which probably will lead to Bird as a designated hitter against right-handed pitchers until Hicks returns. Tulowitzki is the preferred starter at shortstop as he returns from heel surgery, but LeMahieu is expected to see time all over the infield.
Outlook: The Yankees set a major league record with 267 homers last year, three more than the 1997 Mariners, and if healthy for much of the season they could break the mark again. New York hopes a deep bullpen can overcome a rotation already reshuffled before opening day due to injuries. The Yankees also hope Sanchez and Bird rebound from dreadful seasons, Torres and Andujar have stellar sophomore campaigns, Stanton settles in after a subpar-for-him first season in pinstripes and Clint Frazier rebounds from a concussion that sidelined him for much of 2018. Given all the injuries to starting pitchers, the Yankees might use Green and Jonathan Holder as openers early in the season until Sabathia and Gonzalez are ready to join the rotation.
Tampa Bay Rays
2018: 90-72, third place.
Manager: Kevin Cash (fifth season).
He’s Here: RHP Charlie Morton, C Mike Zunino, OF Avisail Garcia, INF Yandy Diaz, OF Guillermo Heredia, RHP Emilio Pagan.
He’s Outta Here: Coaches Rocco Baldelli and Charlie Montoyo — left to become managers of the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays, respectively — OF Mallex Smith, 1B-OF Jake Bauers, RHP Sergio Romo, 1B C.J. Cron, RHP Chih-Wei Hu, OF Carlos Gomez, C Adam Moore, LHP Vidal Nuno.
Projected Lineup: RF Austin Meadows (.292, 5 HRs, 13 RBIs in 49 games with Pirates; .250, 1, 4 in 10 games with Rays), LF Tommy Pham (.248, 4, 41 in 98 games with Cardinals; .343, 7, 22 in 39 games with Rays), 1B Ji-Man Choi (.233, 2, 5 in 12 games with Brewers; .269, 8, 27 in 49 games with Rays) or Yandy Diaz (.312, 1, 15 in 39 games with Indians), DH Avisail Garcia (.276, 19, 49 in 97 games with White Sox), 3B Matt Duffy (.294, 4, 44) or Daniel Robertson (.262, 9, 24 in 88 games), 2B Joey Wendle (.300, 7, 61), CF Kevin Kiermaier (.217, 7, 29 in 88 games), SS Willy Adames (.278, 10, 34 in 85 games), C Mike Zunino (.201, 20, 44 in 113 games with Mariners).
Rotation: LH Blake Snell (21-5, 1.89 ERA, 221 Ks in 180 2/3 IP), RH Charlie Morton (15-3, 3.13, 201 Ks with Astros), RH Tyler Glasnow (1-2, 4.34 in 34 relief appearances with Pirates; 1-5, 4.20 in 11 starts with Rays), Openers will fill fourth and fifth turns in rotation, with LH Ryan Yarbrough (16-6, 3.91 in 38 appearances, 6 starts), RH Yonny Chirinos (5-5, 3.51, 18 appearances, 7 starts) and LH Jalen Beeks (5-0, 4.47, 12 appearances, 0 starts) among those following.
Key Relievers: RH opener Ryne Stanek (2-3, 2.98, 59 appearances, 29 starts), LH Jose Alvarado (1-6, 2.39, 70 appearances, 8 saves), RH Diego Castillo (4-2, 3.18, 43 appearances, 11 starts), RH Emilio Pagan (3-1, 4.35, 55 games with Athletics), RH Chaz Roe (1-3, 3.58, 61 appearances), RH Hunter Wood (1-1, 3.73, 29 appearances, 8 starts).
Hot Spot: Starting Pitching. While Cy Young Award winner Snell, who led the majors in wins and posted the AL’s lowest ERA, heads a potentially superb three-man rotation also featuring Morton and Glasnow, the Rays also plan to continue using “openers” — relievers who start games and generally face three to nine batters — in place of traditional fourth and fifth starters. The creative use of relievers was an integral part of Tampa Bay’s surprising success a year ago. In addition to catching the attention of other teams that have tried variations of the strategy, the concept also has critics who say it devalues the role of starting pitchers.
Outlook: Winning 90 games despite a massive roster overhaul has heightened expectations for a young team that wants to prove last season wasn’t a fluke. The Rays went 41-25 after the All-Star break, including 19-9 in September, and feel they have everything necessary — pitching, defense and the prospect for an improved offense — to close the distance between themselves and division rivals Boston and New York to contend for a playoff berth. The lineup will have a different look with the addition of Garcia and Zunino. Diaz and Meadows are young players who will be given opportunities to make an impact, as will Pham, who hit .343 with seven homers and 22 RBIs over 39 games after being acquired from St. Louis in a trade.
Toronto Blue Jays
2018: 73-89, fourth place.
Manager: Charlie Montoyo (first season).
He’s Here: RHP Clay Buchholz, INF Freddy Galvis, RHP Matt Shoemaker, RHP David Phelps, LHP Clayton Richard, RHP Bud Norris, RHP John Axford, INF Eric Sogard, RHP Jason Adam.
He’s Outta Here: Manager John Gibbons, C Russell Martin, RHP Marco Estrada, SS Troy Tulowitzki, INF Aledmys Diaz, INF Yangervis Solarte, RHP Oliver Drake, RHP Tyler Clippard, OF Dwight Smith Jr.
Projected Lineup: RF Randal Grichuk (.245, 25 HRs, 61 RBIs), 2B Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.281, 11, 35), 1B Justin Smoak (.242, 25, 77), DH Kendrys Morales (.249, 21, 57), LF Billy McKinney (.252, 6, 13 in 38 games with Yankees and Blue Jays) or Teoscar Hernandez (.239, 22, 57), 3B Brandon Drury (.169, 1, 10 with Yankees and Blue Jays), CF Kevin Pillar (.252, 15, 59), SS Freddy Galvis (.248, 13, 67 with Padres), C Danny Jansen (.27, 3, 8 in 31 games).
Rotation: RH Marcus Stroman (4-9, 5.54 ERA in 19 starts), RH Matt Shoemaker (2-2, 4.94 in 7 starts with Angels), RH Aaron Sanchez (4-6, 4.89 in 20 starts), LH Ryan Borucki (4-6, 3.87 in 17 starts as a rookie), LH Clayton Richard (7-11, 5.33 with Padres).
Key Relievers: RH Ken Giles (0-3, 4.65, 26/26 saves with Astros and Blue Jays), RH Bud Norris (3-6, 3.59, 28 saves with Cardinals), RH Ryan Tepera (5-5, 3.62, 7 saves; will miss start of season with elbow injury), RH David Phelps (missed 2018 season following elbow surgery), RH John Axford (4-1, 5.27 with Blue Jays and Dodgers; will miss start of season with elbow injury).
Hot Spot: Pitching Staff. There’s talent but also a history of injuries in the rotation. Stroman missed time with shoulder and blister problems last year, while Sanchez has endured consecutive seasons of blister and finger woes after winning the AL ERA title in 2016. If those two are healthy and effective, the Blue Jays will have a base to build on. Toronto added depth by signing Buchholz, a two-time All-Star, during spring training. While he won’t be ready for opening day, the veteran righty impressed by going 7-2 with a 2.01 ERA in 16 starts for Arizona last year. In the bullpen, arm injuries to established relievers began cropping up late in spring training, making the bridge to Giles uncertain.
Outlook: The Blue Jays can expect some growing pains as they take the first steps of a youth movement and rebuild. The centerpiece is star prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who will miss the beginning of the season because of a strained left oblique. Once healthy and ready for his big league debut, Guerrero could immediately add a dangerous bat to the lineup. While he certainly looks ready to hit at the major league level, there are still several questions to be answered about Toronto’s other young players.
2018: 47-115, fifth place, worst record in majors.
Manager: Brandon Hyde (first season).
He’s Here: RH Nate Karns, INF Richie Martin, INF Rio Ruiz, C Jesus Sucre, INF Hanser Alberto, SS Alcides Escobar, OF Dwight Smith Jr., INF Drew Jackson.
He’s Outta Here: Manager Buck Showalter, OF Adam Jones, INF Tim Beckham, C Caleb Joseph, DH Pedro Alvarez, LHP Donnie Hart.
Projected Lineup: CF Cedric Mullins (.235, 4 HRs, 11 RBIs in 45 games), 2B Jonathan Villar (.260, 4, 46 with Milwaukee and Baltimore), DH Mark Trumbo (.261, 17, 44 in 90 games), 1B Chris Davis (.168, 16, 49), LF Trey Mancini (.242, 24, 58), 3B Rio Ruiz (.083, 0, 0 in 15 games with Atlanta) or Renato Nunez (.275, 7, 20 in 60 games), RF Joey Rickard (.244, 8, 23), C Chance Sisco (.181, 2, 16 in 63 games), SS Richie Martin (Rule 5 pick from Oakland).
Rotation: RH Alex Cobb (5-15, 4.90 ERA, 102 Ks), RH Dylan Bundy (8-16, 5.45, 184 Ks), RH Andrew Cashner (4-15, 5.29), RH Mike Wright (4-2, 5.55), RH David Hess (3-10, 4.88).
Key Relievers: RH Mychal Givens (0-7, 3.99, 9 saves), LH Richard Bleier (3-0, 1.93), RH Miguel Castro (2-7, 3.96), RH Tanner Scott (3-3, 5.40), LH Paul Fry (1-2, 3.35, 2 saves), RH Nate Karns (2-2, 4.17 with Kansas City).
Hot Spot: Bullpen. Zack Britton and Darren O’Day were dumped as part of the late summer purge, leaving a variety of relievers with not much of a track record. Givens throws hard, but his performance last season represented a huge drop-off from 2017, when he went 8-1 with a 2.75 ERA. Bleier was sharp before sustaining a season-ending injury, and there’s no telling if he will return to form. Castro, Scott and Fry run hot and cold. The Orioles probably won’t have too many save opportunities, so it’s crucial they convert them when possible. Whether that happens is very much up in the air.
Outlook: The Orioles are in full rebuilding mode under Hyde and first-year GM Mike Elias. Untradeable veterans Davis and Trumbo stand in the middle of a lineup filled with players learning on the job, although Villar showed signs of promise after being acquired last summer from the Brewers. It’s essential that Cobb, Bundy and Cashner rebound from horrible seasons, or Baltimore will likely lose 100 games for the second year in a row. The goal for the Orioles is to be competitive and provide evidence that this overhaul has the potential to pay off down the road.
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