Because ESPN is biased as all hell and only cares about the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees it has become my duty to bring some real opinions to you. Along with every other division. We will go over some previews of players and expectations all leading up to the beginning of the Major League Baseball season.
New York Yankees. Derek Jeter WAS the New York Yankees. And playing Didi Gregorious at shortstop was new for the franchise. But he was a young guy with great potential and tons of opportunities for growth. He had a solid year hitting .265 with 9 homers and 56 RBI. Then the New York Yankees went and were the New York Yankees by getting Starlin Castro. A can’t-miss prospect with the Chicago Cubs, Castro only became expendable due to a very deep roster for the Cubs. He’s actually the same age as Gregorious and had a little more in power numbers. He’s been a very good fielder for a few years and while they will platoon these guys a little and figure out the best way to use talent without letting their old guys (basically everyone else) tire out. Look for Castro to be a game-changer if the Yankees are to compete.
Toronto Blue Jays. After the season Josh Donaldson had it would be easy to wonder how he may respond. And Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion both had blah years, yet they got their home runs in the end. Who knows what they may have in store. But the evolution of Troy Tulowitzki and just what he will bring to the table looks the most concerning. After being traded from the Rockies, Tulowitzki was pedestrian at best. Did Colorado finally make a good deal or is Troy ready to come back with better numbers? Still only 31, staying healthy is going to be biggest task. If that happens then the depth in this lineup will allow him to find a role without the pressure of being “the man”. Don’t expect 35 and 125, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see 25 and 90 with a healthy batting average.
Boston Red Sox. Very few players are able to come into big cities like Boston and produce as rookies. Mookie Betts had a great season. He hit near .300, showed a little power, and knocked some runs in from the leadoff spot. Betts was a capable fielder and was a solid contact hitter. He stayed healthy and solidified a position on a team that had no real idea what they were going to do in the outfield. As he continues to improve patience behind the place, his OBP will go up and his steals will follow suit. Finding some younger players to surround Betts will be the most difficult part if the Red Sox ever intend to rebuild.
Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have two true stars on this roster and that’s it. Evan Longoria has been so steady for so long that if he doesn’t get injured we’d expect the same solid production. And while there are many options at pitcher for such a designation, Chris Archer is the one who fits the bill. While he didn’t get tons of help last year, 12-13 with an ERA over 3 wasn’t the performance Tampa Bay needed. Sure, that was a good year for most guys (minus the record), but Archer really needs to be the leader this year and come out with a Cy Young season like we know he can. I just don’t see Matt Moore and Alex Cobb being the difference. They could. So could Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly. They could be an awesome staff, but Archer has to lead the way.
Baltimore Orioles. In an offseason that isn’t quite over (as far as transactions are concerned) for the Baltimore Orioles, the most important guys are the ones that they already have. And while a starting pitcher might make or break the season, it’s the offense that will make the difference. Even though Chris Davis is getting the big contract, Manny Machado is the best player on this team and it’s not even close (yes, I considered Adam Jones). While Machado stepped up his game at the plate with 35 home runs. Hitting .286 is okay, but the Orioles don’t need okay. They need great and Manny has to improve his numbers and cut down on strikeouts (because the rest of the lineup with take care of those). Getting back to his roots as a Gold Glove fielder will help with all that. Last year Machado more than doubled his errors from the year before and this team needs stability at the corner position.