American League East Preview (Daryll and Giuseppe)

Sometimes it is difficult to remember that the Yankees actually did not win the AL East in 2017 (that distinction goes to the Boston Red Sox), and now it seems as if they have it already won, especially after the blockbuster acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton. Despite the Yankees’ newfound power to accompany their already stacked lineup, the Red Sox are still in this race and after acquiring J.D. Martinez to neutralize Stanton.

The American League East appears to be a 2-horse race (especially after the Rays began a rebuild this offseason), and Giuseppe and Daryll are here to predict what will take place in the AL East in this upcoming 2018 season, so without further procrastination, here is Doubleday Double Talk’s preview of the American League East.

GIUSEPPE VITULLI

1. New York Yankees 

Well, that was the fastest rebuild I have ever seen! The Yankees shocked the baseball world by not trading for a ton of over the hill talent and deciding to take the slow path to victory…the Yankee way. Their rebuild went about 5-years faster than anticipated and New York found themselves one game short of the World Series in 2018. After their incredible run, they fired Joe Girardi and hired Aaron Boone to manage the powerhouse and it is World Series or bust.

The Yankees have a star-studded pitching rotation headed by Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, C.C. Sabathia, and Sonny Gray, and one of the best bullpens in baseball led by Aroldis Chapman. One of the top up and coming catchers in baseball, Gary Sanchez, will be behind the plate keeping the pitchers under control. 

The Yankees will enter 2018 with arguably the most dominant lineup in baseball, especially after trading for superstar slugger Giancarlo Stanton this offseason. New York will now have the privilege of watching three of the best power hitters in baseball hit in their lineup. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Stanton combined for 132 home runs in 2017, and with Stanton in the hitter-friendly Yankees Stadium, 60 or even 70 is a real possibility. The Yankees also have a promising infield squad with Brandon Drury at third, “Sir” Didi Gregorius at shortstop, Tyler Wade or Neil Walker at second base (with Gleyber Torres on the way), and Greg Bird at first base. 

Upsets are common in baseball, but it is almost impossible for me to see the Division going anyone else’s way other than the Yankees.

2. Boston Red Sox 

It slips our minds every now and again that the Red Sox actually won this division last year, but after falling to the eventual champions in the division series, and watching their arch nemesis pick up the top power hitter in baseball, it seems impossible to imagine to Red Sox prevailing against the Bronx Bombers.

The Red Sox have a pitching staff headed by Chris Sale (who was a shoe-in for the CY Young before a second-half collapse), David Price, and Rick Porcello, and a great lineup to boot. Rising star Rafael Devers will man third and accompany Xander Bogarts on the left side of the infield. Dustin Pedroia will miss the start of the season but will continue to do what he always does when he returns from the DL. Hanley Ramirez will accompany the newly acquire J.D. Martinez (who was signed to neutralize Stanton) and be a big power threat. The Sox also have one of the best outfields in baseball with Betts, Bradley, and Benintendi from right to left.

Despite the fact that they are not going to beat the Yankees, the Red Sox will still be a great team in 2018. 

3. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays will have a solid outfield in 2018 with the newly acquired Randal Grichuk and Curtis Granderson at the corners and defensive wizard Kevin Pillar in center. With Josh Donaldson at third, Troy Tulowitzki at short, Justin Smoak at first, and Kendrys Morales at DH, the Jays will have a strong lineup. Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Sanchez will head a nice starting rotation, but health is a concern, and regardless, there is no way that the Jays could catch the Yankees or even the Red Sox in the division.  

4. Baltimore Orioles

It is sink or swim time for the Orioles in 2018, and I am not expecting much. 

Manny Machado will continue to produce at incredible rates and will be even better in 2018 (especially with free agency right around the corner), and Jonathon Schoop will accompany him in the middle infield (Machado is moving to shortstop) to create a dominate double play combo. Chris Davis will continue to hit home runs and strike out a lot, and Trey Mancini is expected to break out. Adam Jones will control the outfield once again, and be a veteran presence on a team that is more likely to struggle than succeed. The Orioles pitching is nothing to write home about and will be even worse in 2018 with Zach Britton (ruptured Achilles) out of the equation for the start of the season.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay was in the hunt for a Wild Card spot for a majority of the 2017 season, but after the front office decided to cut costs out of pure greed, the Rays don’t seem to be going anywhere in 2018.

The Rays decided to trade the greatest player in the history of their franchise in Evan Longoria to the San Francisco Giants, and Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi, and Steven Souza Jr. were soon to follow. The only good thing they did this offseason was sign Carlos Gomez, but even that signing will not save them from their impending doom. Don’t even get me started on their pitching staff with the exception of Chris Archer who will probably not finish the season with Tampa.

Its back to the closet for Rays fans!

DARYLL DORMAN

1. New York Yankees

The New York Yankees rebuild is officially over. Blink and you might have missed it. The reality is though the Yankees haven’t won the American League East since 2012, an eternity in Yankees terms. That streak should end this year, with homegrown talent in Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino becoming the new ace after a breakout 2017. By the way – they also added Giancarlo Stanton who hit 60 home runs last year in the off-season. The Red Sox definitely got better by adding JD Martinez – and they did, after all, win the AL East. Yet, the Yankees are back in “win now” mode and 2018 will be the year another banner flies above the Yankee Stadium rafters.

2. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox eventually signed the guy that everyone knew they were going to sign practically when the off-season began in JD Martinez. That should not dampen the potential impact for a team that was dead last in team home runs for the American League this year with just 168. The Yankees were first at 241 – so about a Giancarlo Stanton away.

Key to their 2018 hopes is David Price doing what he is supposed to do. Chris Sale did his thing last year, nearly winning the American League Cy Young but blowing it enough in the second half to cede that Award to Corey Kluber. With these two in top form at their rotation and continued improvement to the Red Sox Killer B’s (Benintendi, Betts, Bradley Jr), they should make a Wild Card spot and challenge the Yankees all summer long.

3. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays have finally moved on from Jose Bautista, but still, have some impact players who with the right buttons could make this team quite intriguing. Marcus Stroman, JA Happ and Aaron Sanchez with health can be a very powerful top three, but can they stay healthy?

Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki will either propel the offense in staying competitive in the East or be valuable trade chips this July. I’m betting on the latter rather than the former.

4. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles – holding onto Manny Machado who I expect to have a huge 2018 as he gets ready to enter free agency. Many baseball experts thought the Orioles should try and trade Machado before 2018 to maximize his value, but they selfishly held on hoping their pitching can keep them in games and their offense including Machado, Chris Davis, and Adam Jones can keep up with the rest of the big AL East teams. I don’t think they will, and I think the Blue Jays pitching has the edge over them in the division.

5. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays traded away franchise stalwart Evan Longoria and then kept going, trading away Corey Dickerson who was last year’s great free agent find as well as pitcher Jake Odorizzi. They still have Chris Archer, who had a good rebound 2017 campaign after struggling in 2016, but currently, their MLB depth chart doesn’t even show a 5th starter. In other words – the pitching will be tough. When Denard Span is your top DH option, the option is in a tough spot too…

Make sure to tune in tomorrow for Daryll and Giuseppe’s predictions for the American League Central.

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