Ranking the AL East position by position: results

Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox players rush the field after game six of the MLB baseball World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Fenway Park. The Red Sox won 6-1 to win the series four games to two. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Topics: Boston Red Sox

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  • Rick M

    Jays were the sexy pick for 2013 now bottom feeders. Sox the opposite. Will the entire AL East finish above .500?

    Each series could witness a change in the standings as they all appear that close. One massive injury/failure and, possibly, one unexpected success could flip a team into first….or last.

    I like the Sox depth. And I love the TB pitching. The Yankees have a huge potential upside. Never discount the O’s. And the Jays could resuscitate after 2013.

    This will be a fun season to watch the AL East.

  • Jeff

    I think overall it was a good series, but there were some flaws. First of all, there is a good argument for Encarnacion to be ahead of Davis, because, Encarnacion has proven himself to be an elite player. Based on last year there is a defenite case for Colby Rasmus over Adam Jones. Also Xander Bogaerts should not be third on the shortstop list, he played 18 games, and wasn’t even that good. We’ve already gone over the bullpen situation. Do you make the list last year? I look forward to seeing your work improve for next year.

    • Conor Duffy

      I understand your viewpoints to some degree but Davis was a top five offensive player in baseball last season and I can’t discount that. He probably will regress, but Encarnacion also has not proven himself to be an elite player– he has only really been much above average in his last two seasons, which were coincidentally his age 29 and 30 seasons. Adam Jones has taken his place as one of the best center fielders in the game and Rasmus only finally came into his own after years of stagnation– Jones clearly has the edge there. If both players continue on their current trajectory, then it could become very close though. Finally, Bogaerts is the #2 prospect in baseball and should be able to post better numbers than a broken-down Jeter and defense-only Yunel Escobar. If he can slash .260/.350/.400, which is well within his reach, then that should be enough. I understand that we have differing views but my work is backed up with plenty of statistical and scouting analysis and I’m pretty knowledgeable about the game.

      • Jeff

        You do realize that Colby Rasmus was significantly better than Adam Jones, right? He had a higher OBP,SLG,OPS, more walks, less k’s, and a better a higher WAR.also Colby Rasmus is an elite defender, while Adam Jones is actually quite awful. If Encarnacion isn’t an elite player, then what the hell is your definition of an elite player. And trust me, I’m also very knowledgeable about the game.

        • Conor Duffy

          An elite player is somebody who has done what Encarnacion has done for more than two years. You say that he has proven to be an elite player and that Davis hasn’t when Davis has posted a higher WAR over the last two years– the two best seasons of both players. Same thing with Rasmus. He had a better season that Jones last year but I would keep him behind Jones for the same reason that you would put Encarnacion ahead of Davis. Jones has been an above average hitter for the past five years and Rasmus just put up his first good year since 2010. In other words, while Rasmus did have a better year than Jones last season, he has not established himself over a larger body of work while Jones is more or less a known quantity.

          • Jeff

            That is just a BS excuse, because you clearly don’t like Encarnacion, and you also just seriously contradicted yourself.

          • Conor Duffy

            I don’t think I did. Davis has more WAR than Encarnacion the past two years (though it’s close at 8.8 to 8.2) and is three years younger. Jones has more WAR than Rasmus the past two years (and it’s not close at 8.5 to 5.9) and is just one year older with both players in the middle of their prime. However, I like both Rasmus and Encarnacion a lot; both are very underrated players and I’d be thrilled if either were on the Red Sox.

          • Jeff

            First of all, using the Davis and Encarnacion WAR comparison is quite flawed because Davis’s WARs are 2.0 and 6.8 while Encarnacions are 4.1 both times, so really it shows that Encarnacion is better because of his consistency. And the reason you were contradicting yourself is that you said the reason Adam Jones is higher than Colby Rasmus is the same reason Encarnacion would be ahead of Davis.

          • Conor Duffy

            I suppose it’s a bit of a contradiction if you look at it that way but I still stand by my rankings. You’re obviously entitled to your opinion and so am I, so let’s resolve our differences. We’re both clearly knowledgeable baseball fans so why don’t we just put this aside?

          • Jeff

            I can agree to that. Oh and by the way, as I said, in my original post, I do commend you for doing this especially at such a young age. It was certainly better than the one that the Yankees fan site did. It was also much better than your attempt at this last year.

          • Conor Duffy

            Honestly, it’s kind of nice to have spirited baseball debate in the middle of winter.

          • Jeff

            Lol, yeah that doesn’t happen often, but it’s fun when it does.