28 Jan 2017 AL East Preview: A View From The Nosebleeds
By: Chris Northrop
Ah, the AL East…that group of teams beating each other down until the end of the season when they all bunch up at the top of the division and hold a dogfight to crown the champion. In 2017, however, one team may have the most exciting pitching staff in all of MLB, and one team may the belligerence to to hit them hard anyway, that’s the AL East and this year, it’s the Red Sox who have the stellar pitching staff leaving the rest of the division to vie to be that one team who has the grit and power to beat them anyway. Take a look at what we can expect from each team in 2017:
The Boston Red Sox have the most fearsome fivesome in baseball right now, notwithstanding the Chicago Cubs, who might have a legitimate beef here, Rick Porcello, Chris Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Steven Wright. Every time I say this to another fan, unless they’re a Red Sox fan, they say, “But look what a rough year Price had…” I believe the Boston vibe is an acquired taste, if you haven’t had the good fortune to be born there in the first place, David Price will rebound this year, and woe to the division if he does. This rotation has the potential to produce another Cy Young Award performance–can it also deliver division and World Series championships? Of course, behind this staff, and hitting is no problem for these guys either, are Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Dustin Pedroia, that pesky, wily veteran (does he dance?), just to name a few comprising the juggernaut that will be the 2017 offensive unit of the Red Sox.
The Baltimore Orioles are managed by Buck Showalter. Just that alone means the Orioles are going to be in the mix for a division title, as Buck’s will alone propell them into a higher sphere than they actually had any right to inhabit in 2016. Ubaldo Jiminez. There. I said it. Jiminez embodies the Oriole’s season last year with his inexplicable failures and successes thus leaving fans in 2017 to wonder what they are in for this season. The pitching staff is lead by Chris Tillman, Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. The Oriole’s locked in Mark Trumbo over the winter to a 3 year contract and have Manny Machado picking it well and hitting at his usual torrid pace. The Orioles tied for second with the Blue Jays last year and will reprise this place in 2017, finishing second behind the Red Sox and very likely fighting with the Yankees late in the season to maintain it.
The New York Yankees 2017 will be defined when Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird and other potential talent, such as Luis Cessa and Luis Severino have a season in Yankee stadium to put up or shut up the whole “Baby Bomber” war cry! The youth movement is sure to have its successes and failures during the season, but it’s the Yankee veterans who, like last year, must succeed to avoid becoming traded at the deadline–Headley and Castro, the latter had a career year in 2016, need to succeed to remain relevant to the Yankees in their rebuilding efforts. Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda lead a three-man rotation with numbers four and five being whoever can succeed, namely, Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, or, Yankee fans are hoping to see minor league pitcher James Kaprielian, who is begging for the ball in the New York press!
The Toronto Blue Jays are those belligerent birds who not only believe they can hit the Red Sox starters, but WILL hit them, on occasion hard enough to set new exit velo records, but whose counting? The Blue Jays are always intense competitors with hot bats and hot tempers, and that’s just the fans! Led by the excellent pitching of Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ and by position players Josh Donaldson, Kevin Pillar, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzski, the Blue Jays, without Edwin Encarnacion, will run head first into the wall that is the Red Sox this year. The Blue Jays are contentious and always in contention. In 2016 they finished tied for second in the division with the Orioles, look for them to finish fourth in 2017.
Last, as in last in the division…again, the Tampa Bay Rays. Apart from acquiring Jose De Leon from the Dodgers in exchange for their once excellent 2B Logan Forsythe, the Rays are still the Rays. Destined to upset their division rivals by being pesky and taking one from right under their noses on an off night, Evan Longoria and company have few changes to look forward to from last season. Chris Archer is still with the team and will, with some luck, have a bounce-back season and terrorize AL East hitters once again. Last, last, last.
Hey, you say, where are all those stats we need to really evaluate these teams? I say, what the heck, it’s the nosebleeds, I’m not googling from up here! From a fan’s-eye-view, the Red Sox take the division behind stellar pitching and all around solid performances from their young guns–they may dance all the way to the World Series!