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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Previewing the American League East

The 2005 American League East Division:

New York Yankees
2004 finish: 101-61 (first)

Additions: Randy Johnson, Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, Felix Rodriguez, Tino Martinez, Tony Womack, Rey Sanchez, Mike Stanton

Losses: Javier Vazquez, Jon Lieber, Travis Lee, Miguel Cairo, Enrique Wilson

Projected Rotation:
LHP Randy Johnson
RHP Mike Mussina
RHP Kevin Brown
RHP Carl Pavano
RHP Jaret Wright

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Mariano Rivera
RHP Tom Gordon
RHP Paul Quantrill
LHP Mike Stanton
RHP Steve Karsay
RHP Felix Rodriguez
RHP Tanyon Sturtze

Projected Lineup:
C Jorge Posada
1B Tino Martinez
2B Tony Womack
3B Alex Rodriguez
SS Derek Jeter
LF Hideki Matsui
CF Bernie Williams
RF Gary Sheffield
DH Jason Giambi

Projected Bench:
C John Flaherty
IF Rey Sanchez
IF Andy Phillips
OF Ruben Sierra

Top Prospects:
1. Eric Duncan, 3B
2. Robinson Cano, 2B
3. Philip Hughes, RHP
4. Steve White, RHP
5. Christian Garcia, RHP

Top Pitcher: Randy Johnson
There have been three Randy Johnsons who have played in the major leagues and I think it is safe to say that this incarnation is the best of the three. He has been a dominating force for the past fifteen years and should continue to be so for at least another year or two, or so the Yankees have gambled. At the age of 41 Johnson is still one of the best pitchers in the major leagues and good for almost 300 strikeouts, 200 innings and 15 to 17 wins. It’s hard to imagine this guy once walked 152 batters in a major league season. And just think, if the Expos had not traded him in 1989 for veteran Mark Langston he might have been a Washington National…

Top Hitter: Alex Rodriguez
Perhaps one of the best hitters in the majors, A-Rod’s reputation has taken a big hit since his glory days in Seattle and he is no longer the golden boy of baseball. Rodriguez left Seattle for record-setting riches in Texas, which were one of the worst teams in baseball, despite his supposed desire to play for a winner. Well, that didn’t work out and now Rodriguez is a member of the Yankees, playing for a winner and still collecting his huge paycheck. Business aside, Rodriguez is a constant threat in the lineup and good for 35 to 50 home runs, 100 RBI and close to a .300 average.

Breakout Player: Andy Phillips
Phillips has had a heck of a time getting out of the minor leagues, while playing in an organization that favors veterans. He turns 28 this year, which is way too old to have a productive, above-average major league career for someone who has only played five games in the majors. That said, Phillips could develop into an awesome utility player for five or six years. He can play third base and second base and possesses power. He hit .318 .388 .569 last season in triple-A Columbus with 26 home runs. Phillips also has a minor league career average of .296.

Boston Red Sox
2004 finish: 98-64 (second)

Additions: Matt Clement, John Halama, Edgar Renteria, Ramon Vazquez, Jay Payton

Losses: Pedro Martinez, Doug Mientkiewicz, Dave Roberts

Projected Rotation:
RHP Curt Schilling
RHP Matt Clement
RHP David Wells
RHP Tim Wakefield
LHP Bronson Arroyo

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Keith Foulke
RHP Mike Timlin
RHP Byung Hung Kim
LHP Alan Embree
LHP John Halama
RHP Matt Mantei

Projected Lineup:
C Jason Varitek
1B Kevin Millar
2B Mark Bellhorn
3B Bill Mueller
SS Edgar Renteria
LF Manny Ramirez
CF Johnny Damon
RF Trot Nixon
DH David Ortiz

Projected Bench:
C Doug Mirabelli
IF Ramon Vazquez
IF Kevin Youkilis
OF Jay Payton
OF Adam Stern (Rule 5)

Top Prospects:
1. Hanley Ramirez, SS
2. Brandon Moss, OF
3. Jon Papelbon, RHP
4. Jon Lester. LHP
5. Anibal Sanchez, RHP

Top Pitcher: Curt Schilling
What is left to say about the one-ankled wonder that has been said in numerous news stories, documentaries and at every New England office water cooler? Like his former teammate, Randy Johnson, Schilling is one of the best pitchers in the major leagues and back at "home" with the team that originally signed him. It just took him 19 years to throw a major league pitch for the Red Sox. But, all things considered, it turned out pretty well for Red Sox fans. Expect another couple of star seasons for this pitcher, if he can stay healthy.

Top Hitter: Manny Ramirez
Considering that he was put on waivers two years ago, it’s hard to believe that Ramirez is one of the most feared hitters in the majors. But he also comes with an enormous contract and collected $22.5 million last season, which has kept the Red Sox from being able to improve the team around him as much as they would have liked. Again, though, it seems to have worked out for them. Believe it or not, his line of .308 .397 .613 is slightly below his usual output. I certainly wouldn’t scoff at 43 home runs or 130 RBI though.

Breakout Player: Bronson Arroyo
Arroyo teased the Pirates with his promise for years after being drafted out of the third round in 1995. It all came together for him in Boston, though, and he became one of the best No. 5 starters in the major leagues, which is no doubt one of the reasons the Red Sox won the World Series. He won’t get as many innings as other Red Sox starters if he stays in the five spot, but he could be good for 12-14 wins and 170-190 innings. There has also been a belief among scouts that Arroyo could make a solid closer someday.

Baltimore Orioles
2004 finish: 78-84 (third)

Additions: Sammy Sosa, Steve Reed, Steve Kline, Jay Witasick, Chris Gomez

Losses: Jerry Hairston, Marty Cordova

Projected Rotation:
RHP Sidney Ponson
RHP Rodrigo Lopez
RHP Erik Bedard
RHP Daniel Cabrera
LHP Bruce Chen

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Jorge Julio
RHP Steve Reed
RHP Jay Witasick (non-roster)
LHP B.J. Ryan
LHP Steve Kline
LHP John Parrish
LHP Matt Riley

Projected Lineup:
C Javier Lopez
1B B.J. Surhoff
2B Brian Roberts
3B Melvin Mora
SS Miguel Tejada
LF Jay Gibbons
CF Luis Matos
RF Sammy Sosa
DH Rafael Palmeiro

Projected Bench:
C Geronimo Gil
IF David Newhan
IF Chris Gomez
OF Larry Bigbie

Top Prospects:
1. Nick Markakis, OF
2. Hayden Penn, RHP
3. Adam Loewen, LHP
4. Val Majewski, OF
5. Jeff Fiorentio, OF

Top Pitcher: Sidney Ponson
I actually happened to be in Aruba this winter when Ponson was arrested in his homeland for allegedly punching out a judge in a beach dispute. Everyone on the island was talking about it and Ponson has decided to turn his back on Aruba and remain in the U.S. full-time. Whether his tumultuous off-season has any affect on his season remains to be seen, but he wasn’t overly effective last season after signing a lucrative free agent contract with the team that originally signed him. If everything goes well, Ponson should be good for 15 wins and 200 innings.

Top Hitter: Miguel Tejada
Once considered in the second tier of shortstops, after Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Nomar Garciaparra, Tejada has either joined them or surpassed some of them. A big money free agent signee by the Orioles two off-seasons ago, he did not disappoint in his first season with his new club. Tejada hit .311 .360 .534 and drove in an amazing 150 runs for a club that wasn’t all that good. At the age of 29, he should have quite a few more great seasons ahead of him.

Breakout Player: B.J. Ryan
What’s not to like when a left-handed reliever strikes out 122 in 87 innings. That’s right, nothing. Ryan is already a pretty darn good player, so why is he set to breakout? All signs point to him being anointed the Orioles’ closer this season over inconsistent incumbent Jorge Julio (another former Expo). There aren’t many left-handed closers outside or Billy Wagner, but Ryan has the nasty stuff to be just as successful.

Tampa Bay Rays
2004 finish: 70-91 (fourth)

Additions: Denny Neagle, Casey Fossum, Mark Guthrie, Travis Lee, Roberto Alomar, Kevin Cash, Alex Gonzalez, Danny Bautista, Josh Phelps

Losses: Jose Cruz, Tino Martinez, Geoff Blum, Rey Sanchez, John Halama, Chad Gaudin

Projected Rotation:
LHP Mark Hendrickson
LHP Denny Neagle (non-roster)
RHP Dewon Brazelton
RHP Doug Waechter
LHP Casey Fossum

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Danys Baez
RHP Travis Harper
RHP Jesus Colome
LHP Mark Guthrie (non-roster)
LHP Trever Miller
RHP Lance Carter
RHP Rob Bell

Projected Lineup:
C Toby Hall
1B Travis Lee
2B Roberto Alomar
3B Alex Gonzalez
SS Julio Lugo
LF Aubrey Huff
CF Carl Crawford
RF Danny Bautista
DH Josh Phelps

Projected Bench:
C Kevin Cash
IF Jorge Cantu
IF/OF Eduardo Perez
OF Joey Gathright

Top Prospects:
1. Delmon Young, OF
2. Scott Kazmir, LHP
3. Joey Gathright, OF
4. Jason Hammel, RHP
5. Reid Brignac, 3B

Top Pitcher: Denny Neagle
It’s kind of scary to think that a team’s best pitcher has battled injuries for two years, had Tommy John surgery and was arrested in the off-season for allegedly soliciting a prostitute. But everyone deserves a second chance and that’s what the Rays are for Neagle. And he also supplies the Rays with a solid veteran left-handed pitcher who won 20 games seven years ago. At the age of 36, coming off a major injury and the mental scars from pitching in Colorado, I’m not sure how much Neagle has to offer besides experience.

Top Hitter: Aubrey Huff
Huff edges out speedy Carl Crawford for the Rays best hitter because of his game-changing power, solid eye at the plate and good bat control. The only thing Huff does poorly (actually it’s horrendous) is field his position, whether it be third base, first base or the outfield. With Josh Phelps at DH and Travis Lee at 1B, though, Huff is going to find himself in the outfield this season. If he hits like he did two seasons ago, .311 .367 .555, his defence can be easily overlooked.

Breakout Player: Doug Waechter
If healthy this season, this local St.Petersburg boy stands to be a solid member of the Rays rotation. He has put up solid minor league numbers and possesses the stuff to be a solid third or fourth starter in the major leagues. Waechter struggled last season and posted a 6.01 ERA but he wasn’t hit really hard and only allowed 68 hits in 70 1/3 innings. That said, 20 of those 68 hits were home runs. His strikeout totals were down to 36 and he must learn to stop allowing teams to put so many balls in play, at least until the Rays improve their overall team defence.

Toronto Jays
2004 finish: 67-94 (fifth)

Additions: Corey Koskie, Billy Koch, Scott Schoeneweis, John McDonald, Shea Hillenbrand

Losses: Carlos Delgado, Chris Gomez, Dave Berg, Chris Woodward

Projected Rotation:
RHP Roy Halladay
LHP Ted Lilly
RHP Miguel Batista
RHP David Bush
RHP Josh Towers

Projected Bullpen:
RHP Justin Speier
RHP Billy Koch
RHP Brandon League
LHP Scott Schoeneweis
RHP Kerry Ligtenberg
RHP Vinny Chulk
RHP Jason Frasor

Projected Lineup:
C Gregg Zaun
1B Eric Hinske
2B Orlando Hudson
3B Corey Koskie
SS Russ Adams
LF Frank Catalanotto
CF Vernon Wells
RF Alex Rios
DH Shea Hillenbrand

Projected Bench:
C Greg Myers
IF John McDonald
IF Frank Menechino
OF Reed Johnson

Top Prospects:
1. Brandon League, RHP
2. Aaron Hill, SS
3. Guillermo Quiroz, C
4. Francisco Rosario, RHP
5. David Purcey, LHP

Top Pitcher: Roy Halladay
Halladay was the Cy Young winner two years ago but stumbled in 2004 after succumbing to injuries for the first time in his career. Halladay missed a chunk of the season mainly due to overuse in previous seasons, when he led the majors in innings pitched. The Jays have promised to lessen this bulldog’s load a little bit, in hopes of keeping him healthy after signing him to a lucrative contract after his Cy Young season. If healthy, he should be good for 15-20 wins, 230 innings and 200 strikeouts.

Top Hitter: Vernon Wells
Wells had an All Star 2003, but struggled in 2004 when he tried to do too much while slugging first baseman Carlos Delgado was out with injuries. This season, Wells must not try to do too much again now that Delgado has departed the team for sunny Florida. It will be difficult because he is now the Jays best hitter. If he stays within himself, Wells can be counted on for a .300 average, 30 home runs, 100 RBI and Gold Glove defence.

Breakout Player: David Bush
Bush burst onto the scene last season as a rookie after being drafted out of college as a senior in 2001. The most impressive part is that until 2003, Bush was a one-inning closer. The Jays were impressed with his repertoire of pitches and decided to give him a shot at the starting rotation and they are glad they did. In his first season starting, Bush won 14 games and had148 strikeouts in 158 innings while splitting the season between high-A ball and double-A. In his first taste of big league ball, Bush went 5-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 97 2/3 innings. Bush probably profiles as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the rotation.

Up next is the American League Central Division


  • At 12:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're on drugs if you think the Devil Rays are going to finish ahead of the Blue Jays with a rotation headed by Mark Hendrickson.

  • At 1:11 PM, Blogger Marc Hulet said…

    I appreciate your opinion and candor but the teams are listed as they finished in 2004 and are not my predictions for 2005.

    That said, last month I did do a prediction of how the standings might end up at the end of 2005 and I used a previously untried formula for predicting them, based mainly on past statistics for pitchers and hitters on each team (runs allowed by pitchers versus runs created by batters). Whether it comes close to accurately predicting the final standings remains to be seen... but the formula thought the Rays would do better than the Jays.

    The Rays really do have a nice, young offence to balance out their poor pitching. The Jays don't have a great pitching staff either, but it is improving. And they don't have the offensive potential of the Rays, even if Wells returns to his 2003 form.

    As a huge Jays fan, and given my druthers, I would like to say the Jays are going to finish third. But that is not what the numbers say...

    And regardless of what people might tell you, I am not on drugs... unless you count the excessive coffee addiction.

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