It’s fair to say that the AL East is the hardest division to pitch in. Apart from the Rays, every team has a very hard-hitting offense and has for several years, even the formerly cellar-dwelling Orioles. However, some teams in this division have managed to piece together very strong pitching rotations and some big acquisitions have been added this offseason.
1. Toronto Blue Jays: It’s impossible to tell how things will turn out in the season, but on paper, the Toronto Blue Jays have one hell of a pitching rotation. Their pitching struggled mightily in 2012, so what do they do? All they did was trade for 2012′s NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey (20-6, 2.73 in 2012), flame-throwing Josh Johnson (8-14, 3.81 in 2012), and the soft-tossing but consistently good Mark Buehrle (13-13, 3.74). Two of their starters from last year look to remain in the rotation– Brandon Morrow (10-7, 2.96) and Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.77), who is coming off a major down year. If this staff lives up to their potential, the Blue Jays will be near unstoppable in 2013.
2. Tampa Bay Rays: Even though the Rays never have a great rotation on paper, they always outdo themselves. They do have AL Cy Young winner David Price (20-5, 2.56) and young phenoms Jeremy Hellickson (10-11, 3.10) and Matt Moore (11-11, 3.81) heading the rotation. Beyond them, however, there are plenty of question marks for the Rays. These question marks are ones any team would love to have though– like which top prospect will be the fourth and fifth starters in the rotation. If I had to guess, I would say Alex Cobb (11-9, 4.03 in 23 starts) and Chris Archer (1-3, 4.60 in 6 appearances). Even if this rotation doesn’t look top notch, mark my words, they will be.
3. New York Yankees: Like the Rays, the Yankees also have a strong top three to their rotation and then question marks. However, the question marks following those three pitchers are not nearly so optimistic as the Rays’. Still, they do have a very strong top three headlined by C.C. Sabathia (15-6, 3.38), Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32), and Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87 in 12 starts), who at age 40 is not even a sure thing anymore. Beyond the aging stars, they have a couple of young question marks in Ivan Nova (12-8, 5.02) and Michael Pineda (coming off Tommy John Surgery). If Nova and Pineda can get back to their 2011 levels, where they put up 3.70 and 3.74 ERA’s respectively, the Yankees should have a solid rotation. However, if they can’t, then the Yankees will be in a tough place come 2013.
4. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox’ rotation is a very curious case. If they perform up to potential and stay healthy, they could be one of the best quintets in the league. If not, however, they could be what they were last year, when they ranked 12th in the American League as a unit. They have made some changes this offseason, namely signing Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.38) to a two year deal to replace a black hole in the rotation filled primarily by Aaron Cook in 2012. Their front two pitchers, Jon Lester (9-14, 4.82) and Clay Buchholz (11-8, 4.56) getting back to pre-2012 levels will be a huge first step for the Red Sox. Beyond them, hopefully the strikeout master Felix Doubront‘s development at age 25 will continue and John Lackey will return nicely from Tommy John Surgery. Overall, though, the Red Sox’ season should hinge on the performance of Lester and Buchholz.
5. Baltimore Orioles: All told, it was kind of amazing how the Orioles were a playoff contender in 2012 given the shoddy shape of their rotation. Everyone in the rotation besides Jake Arrieta (3-9, 6.20) performed above expectations, and it’s not easy to say they’ll do so again. Longtime journeyman Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.43) was very effective before going down with injury, Japanese import Wei-Yin Chen (12-11, 4.02) was very good, and aging prospects Chris Tillman (9-3, 2.93) and Miguel Gonzalez (9-4, 3.25) came up to the majors and performed brilliantly. Tillman and maybe Gonzalez have the stuff to get by, but I wouldn’t count on any of the others having sustained success in the AL East.