The American League East was supposed to be one of the more competitive divisions in all of baseball last season, but the Red Sox ran away with it by winning 97 games, finishing 5.5 games ahead of the Rays and 12 games ahead of both the Orioles and Yankees. It’s expected that this year we’ll finally get that heated race that was promised a year ago.
Here are our American League East predictions for 2014:
Tampa Bay Rays (92-70), AL East Champs
The Rays once again have a tremendous pitching staff that will keep them in most every game this season. David Price, Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson lead a young, but talented staff and the Rays added closer Grant Balfour to the mix this offseason. The real question is will they be able to hit and score runs? As long as Evan Longoria stays healthy and Wil Myers has a breakout season like most expect, the Rays could be looking at their first AL East crown since 2010.
Boston Red Sox (89-73), Wild Card
Nearly everything went right for the Red Sox last season as they didn’t have many injuries to deal with and they had a number of players exceed expectations. It’s hard to expect the Sox to lead the league in runs again this season, especially with the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury at the top of the lineup. The team does return all five of its starters, but staying healthy will be the key, especially when it comes to Clay Buchholz. While the Red Sox may not repeat as AL East champs, they will make a return trip to the postseason by taking home the top Wild Card spot.
New York Yankees (87-75)
The Yankees lack of offense was the major reason for them finishing 12 games behind the Red Sox last season, but they addressed that in the off-season by adding Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. Even with the departure of Robinson Cano the offense should be much improved. The wild card with the Yankees is their pitching. How will CC Sabathia bounce back? How will Masahiro Tanaka adjust to pitching in America? Even with the questions on the mound, the Yankees should be hovering around the 90-win mark.
Baltimore Orioles (81-81)
Baltimore added Nelson Cruz to complement the power hitting Chris Davis and it should make the Orioles offense fun to watch this season. It doesn’t seem like they have the pitching to hang with the rest of the AL East, however. Even with the signing of Ubaldo Jimenez it would appear Baltimore will miss the postseason for a second-straight season.
Toronto Blue Jays (76-86)
Injuries plagued the Blue Jays last season but if they can stay healthy they could exceed expectations and compete with the rest of the division. A year after their influx of talent it looks as though they don’t have the horses to keep pace with baseball’s elite. They will be hurting on the mound, for sure.
Follow Metro sports writer Ryan Hannable on Twitter @Hannable84