Like a throwback to the days of just a few years ago, the AL East is once again looking like one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. After tallying up the hitting and pitching rankings for all five teams, it’s looking like the AL East should be relatively close throughout. Of course, these results and rankings are not perfect but looking at the roster, it seems reasonable that this is how the AL East will shake out. Without further ado, let’s go to the rankings!
1. Boston Red Sox- There may be a bit of bias involved, but this algorithm projects the Red Sox to finish in first place by no small margin. The BoSox reached an average rank of 2.17 over every category (the next closest was 2.83) as they showed off both the best hitting and the best pitching in the AL East– neither by a large margin, but impressive nonetheless. The Red Sox boast arguably the deepest team in baseball, featuring a top-level farm system which is just starting to churn out major leaguers like Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr. They also have one of the best offenses in baseball, which produced the most runs in baseball in 2013, headlined by David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia and should be effective even after losing Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and likely Stephen Drew. Despite not having a true ace, the Red Sox also have a rotation which shows solid arms throughout. The Red Sox may not be the sexiest team in the league, but they will still be one of the best and project to lead the AL East once again.
2. Tampa Bay Rays- The Rays have spent the last six years as a competitive team on the strength of their pitching alone and never featuring an elite offense. Why can’t they do it again in 2014? The Rays have one of the best young rotations in baseball led by David Price, Matt Moore, and Alex Cobb– all under 30 years old. They will also show off a solid, if unspectacular, bullpen which should give them a top three pitching staff in the American League. The Rays also may show more offensive firepower in 2014 than they have in the past. They will benefit from a full season on 2013 Rookie of the Year Wil Myers and will still have middle-of-the-order threats in Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist. Assuming the Rays don’t pull a fast one and deal David Price before the season, they will have perhaps their best team in franchise history and will absolutely be able to make a run at the AL East title.
3. New York Yankees- The Yankees had a very curious 2013-2014 offseason. They made upgrades at a few positions, but added too much to the outfield and seemed to neglect other areas of need. While they did bring in Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, and Brian McCann– all of whom will bring serious firepower to the offense– they will also enter the season with serious holes in their offense. Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson both project to start at infield positions and it’s conceivable that Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira will not be able to hold down their positions after lost years in 2013. That’s not even mentioning their pitching staff, especially their bullpen, which looks awfully empty. The addition of Masahiro Tanaka may be enough to give the Yankees a roughly average starting rotation, but that still leaves David Robertson as the only impact reliever in the bullpen. The Yankees made a number of splashy moves this offseason, but there’s still not enough certainty in their roster to project them any higher than third.
4. Baltimore Orioles- The Orioles were hit pretty hard by regression in 2013, and they didn’t do enough this offseason to prevent the same thing from happening. Baltimore still has plenty of power in the lineup with 20+ homer bats in Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and J.J. Hardy. However, they also will enter the season without being able to expect much from a third of their lineup as Jonathan Schoop, Nolan Reimold, and Steve Pearce all project to start the year in the lineup. The top of the O’s lineup may be enough to outweigh the bottom, but that’s no guarantee. On the pitching side of things, the Orioles probably won’t be as bad as they were last year. They still lack a true ace but Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Bud Norris all could be solid middle-of-the-rotation starters and the Orioles’ bullpen is good-not-great. Overall, the Orioles should compete in 2014 but will likely wind up on the outside looking in.
5. Toronto Blue Jays- After going into 2013 with such great expectations, the Blue Jays had a terrible season and enter the 2014 season in a much less favorable position. Their vaunted pitching staff from the beginning of last year now looks old and decrepit; they lost Josh Johnson in free agency while R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle were mediocre in their first taste of the AL East. While the Blue Jays do possess a potentially dynamic bullpen, that rotation may hold them back again in 2014. On the offensive side of things, the Jays don’t look too bad as they have big power bats in Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Jose Reyes provides a spark plug, and the Blue Jays generally do have a high-upside offense. However, it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to tap into that upside and turn in a decent 2014 season.