AL East: The Orioles were uneasily quiet while the Blue Jays and Red Sox shook things up . Deep pitching and the return of injured regulars, though, make the O’s better than their longshot status.
By Greg DePalma, PSN Executive Producer
PREDICTION: 1st. FUTURES: 33-1.
MANAGEMENT: GM Dan Duquette, manager Buck Showalter.
2014 RECORD: 96-66 (1st).
NEW FACES: SS Everth Cabrera, OF Travis Snider, RP Wesley Wright.
KEY INJURIES: None.
FANTASY SLEEPERS: OF Steve Pearce, 1B Chris Davis.
ANALYSIS: The O’s were my pick to win last season and even after accomplishing the feat, they are a longshot play once again. The main reason the experts are staying away is their lack of roster turnover on the positive side after losing three impact performers in OFs Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and setup man Andrew Miller. While those losses hurt, don’t forget they get back injured stars in 3B Manny Machado and C Matt Wieters. I also expect a bounceback season from Davis . The bullpen should remain solid with closer Zach Britton and the rotation should receive a jolt by mid-season with prospects Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey arriving.
FUTURE INVESTMENT: Of course.
PREDICTION: 2nd. FUTURES: 25-1.
MANAGEMENT: GM Alex Anthopoulos, manager John Gibbons.
2014 RECORD: 83-79 (3rd).
NEW FACES: 1B Justin Smoak, OF Michael Saunders, 3B Josh Donaldson, C Russell Martin, 2B Devon Travis, SP Marco Estrada.
KEY INJURIES: SP Marcus Stroman (ACL/season).
FANTASY SLEEPERS: SP Daniel Norris, SP Drew Hutchinson.
ANALYSIS: The Jays have missed the playoffs the past 21 seasons, but this could finally be the season they return. A potent offense led by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion now reaps the addition of Donaldson and Martin. They also have some veteran arms to go along with some fine young ones. My main concerns are no clear No.1 ace, a weak bullpen that will bank on a new closer in Brett Cecil and a manager with a .495 win percentage.
FUTURE INVESTMENT: The big question is whether the Jays are in it to win it or will they remain patient with the top of their farm system and allow pitchers like Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez to grow at home. The Jays need to pull the trigger on a deal for a staff ace if they want to truly contend for a title, but unlike the Red Sox I don’t have to wait for the odds to drop my way. I’ll take the 25-1 now before it gets any lower.
PREDICTION: 3rd. FUTURES: 10-1.
MANAGEMENT: GM Ben Cherrington, manager John Farrell.
2014 RECORD: 71-91 (5th).
NEW FACES: RP Alexi Ogando, C Ryan Hanigan, RP Anthony Varvano, SP Wade Miley, SP Rick Porcello, SP Justin Masterson, OF Hanley Ramirez, 3B Pablo Sandoval.
KEY INJURIES: None.
FANTASY SLEEPERS: C Blake Swihart, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., OF Allen Craig.
ANALYSIS: The Sox are a trendy pick because no one wants to look silly like they did when they missed on the 2013 championship team. The difference between that team and this one is obvious, though. No Jon Lester, no John Lackey – no chance. Miley and Porcello are nice additions because they have upside, but expecting them to anchor a championship rotation alongside the inconsistent Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson is folly. A more realistic scenario is a mideason ace pickup like Cole Hamels.
FUTURE INVESTMENT: If I can get the Sox at 14-1 or higher and with a Hamels deal looming on the horizon you can be sure we will discuss a futures bid then – but not yet. Not at 10-1 and not without Hamels.
PREDICTION: 4th. FUTURES: 33-1.
MANAGEMENT: GM Brian Cashman, manager Joe Girardi.
2014 RECORD: 84-78 (2nd).
NEW FACES: RP David Carpenter, SP Nathan Eovaldi, 1B Garrett Jones, RP Andrew Miller, SS DiDi Gregorious, RP Justin Wilson.
KEY INJURIES: SP Ivan Nova (elbow/June).
FANTASY SLEEPERS: OF Chris Young, 2B Rob Refsnyder, 3B Chase Headley, SP Nathan Eovaldi.
ANALYSIS: The Yankees are your classic boom or bust team. If their aging players can remain relatively healthy as well as their top rotation arms, this is a bona-fide contender. The big decision Cashman might have by midseason is whether to deal away a player or two from their improving farm system if they find themselves in first place. Depth is still an issue down there and one big deal could erase gains from the past few seasons.
FUTURE INVESTMENT: Yes. What I like the most about this team is their future number. As a longshot I’m willing to take a chance, but only as a longshot.
PREDICTION: 5th. FUTURES: 66-1.
MANAGEMENT: GM Matthew Silverman, manager Kevin Cash.
2014 RECORD: 77-85 (4th).
NEW FACES: SP Erasmo Ramirez, C John Jaso, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, OF Steven Souza, C Rene Rivera, RP Kevin Jepsen, RP Ernesto Frieri.
KEY INJURIES: SP Matt Moore (elbow/June), RP Jake McGee (elbow/May).
FANTASY SLEEPERS: OF Kevin Kiermaier, OF Desmond Jennings, RP Brad Boxberger.
ANALYSIS: With too many injuries to their starting staff, which is supposed to be the strength of the team, and no offense to speak of past Evan Longoria, the Rays are destined for last place. They also go from Joe Maddon to Kevin Cash. It’s time to retool.
FUTURE INVESTMENT: Are you kidding?