BIRDS HOUSE: Mindzak’s picks – American league east

Written by on April 3, 2013 in Orioles, Sports - Comments Off

The Orioles opened their season on Tuesday, traveling to Tampa Bay. Will they improve on 2012? - File photo.

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If you’re like me you might want to seek professional help ASAP…Ahem—wrong column. If you’re like me and have been waiting all winter for baseball season, wait no longer! The 2013 baseball season is upon us, and the Baltimore Orioles fans have quite a bit to look forward to. Let’s take a quick look at the American League East and how the Orioles look to fare this year.

New York Yankees

In 2012, the Yankees went 95-67 for 1st place in the AL East.

The reigning AL East Champions are still the team to beat, but judging by how their roster has been decimated with injuries, this team—on paper, anyway—shouldn’t be too difficult to beat.

Currently, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Michael Pineda will all start the season on the DL, with most of them missing significant time.

The way I see it, Baltimore needs to jump on these guys early, because when their injuries recover, they will be their usual winning selves. I don’t see the Yankees finishing above third this year, but I’ve been wrong before. Fourth place seems like a legitimate appraisal.

Baltimore Orioles

In 2012 the Orioles went 93-69 for second place in the AL East.

They are returning with most of their lineup from that amazing season. One addition, Brian Roberts, has actually been on their roster all along. B-Rob is currently healthy, and if he can stay that way, their offense becomes very potent.

Baltimore’s outfield has Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, and Nate McLouth, a very strong lineup. Chris Davis will be the everyday first baseman now that Mark Reynolds is also in Cleveland (as are his near 200 strikeouts per season. Perhaps they felt it wasn’t windy enough out there?).  Baltimore’s pitching staff looks about the same minus Joe Saunders who did a great job coming over at the end of last season. Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez are a solid top three. Jim Johnson is back as closer and Pedro Strop will resume his setup duties after dominating the WBC and in spring training as well.

Overall, they have a great roster with potential to win the AL East. A lot of things went right rather than wrong last year; I only hope they can expand on that this year. I can see them finishing better than third, probably second and grabbing a wild-card spot.

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays went 90-72 for third place in the AL East last year.

This team scares me.  If you look at them on paper, there aren’t that many names that stand out. Sure they have the reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price in their rotation and All Stars

Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist, but other than that, they don’t look tough. Until they win the division, which I see happening this year. This team always seems to find a way to win, which is a tribute to manager Joe Maddon.

If Longoria can stay healthy, this lineup is pretty powerful with him, Zobrist, James Loney, Desmond Jennings, and Luke Scott (when he is on his game). Their bullpen is still strong with Fernando Rodney closing games and Joel Peralta setting up for him. Besides Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, and Alex Cobb are all good pitchers.  This is a scary team and should make a run at the playoffs this year, if not win the AL East.

Toronto Blue Jays

In 2012, the Jays went 73-84 for fourth place.

The old saying goes, “You can’t buy chemistry,” and it’s validity will be put to the test in Toronto this year.  The Blue Jays picked up most of the Miami Marlins’ good players and a few others to fill out their roster this year.  Offensively, this team should score 30 runs a game (OK, maybe not 30, but they can all hit). Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie, and Melky Cabrera should have no problems scoring.

As for their rotation, the reigning NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey will be the staff ace, and behind him will be Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and J.A. Happ—a pretty solid rotation if you ask me, but it will be interesting to see how Dickey and Johnson respond to the AL.

I am not sold on the Jays, and I think that if a team can hang with them into the latter innings, they have a shot to win. With all the hype around them, I would say third place for the Jays in 2013.

Boston Red Sox

The Sox posted a 69-93 2012 record for last place.

After their firesale last year—which saw them ship out Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez to the Dodgers—the Red Sox will have a new look this year.  They still return Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury (when he’s healthy) and a very old David Ortiz, and they have added Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino to give them some additional experience and talented bats.

Their rotation might be their downfall. Jon Lester is a good option, as is Clay Buchholz, but after that, it gets pretty thin with Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront, and John Lackey.  Their bullpen should be decent with newly acquired Joel Hanrahan closing games out.

I grant that this team got rid of the biggest source of their troubles, manager Bobby Valentine, but they still have a lot to work on. I don’t see them leaving the cellar this year.

How do you think the AL East will shape up?

by Andy Mindzak
birds@baltimoreguide.com

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