Five teams have plausible path to victory. Somebody’s coming in fifth. Injuries and closers will dictate outcomes. Nearly impossible to pick a winner in late March.
Baltimore Orioles - Power at every position and deep — if arguably not fearsome — rotation with talent waiting in wings. Can Ubaldo Jimenez be the other consistent power pitcher alongside Chris Tillman? Trade for Steve Lombardozzi came late but appears to have yielded a true second baseman. The concern would be if rotation’s back-end – guys like Wei-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez – aren’t good enough to keep pace. A lot of blown saves could damage hopes as they did in 2013.
Boston Red Sox – The big pitching staff returns. So do the free agents Boston brought in for its 2013 title run. Can Koji Uehara keep up his magical pace in relief? Doubt it. They’re also very excited about Jackie Bradley Jr. in center field but excitement won’t by itself replicate Jacoby Ellsbury’s otherworldly production. Blog also wonders about David Ortiz and whether his age will catch up to him.
New York Yankees - Most either are battling or have battled significant injuries. The exceptions would be new catcher Brian McCann and stand-in, free-agent third baseman Kelly Johnson. The pitching corps looks to have big upside with its talented Japanese imports but the fact is the offense is likely to struggle to stay on the field. C.C. Sabathia is “only” 33 years old but the big lefty has 2,775 innings under his belt and his ERA leaped from 3.38 in 2012 to 4.78 in 2013. Are his best days behind him?
Tampa Bay Rays - Rays give opposing teams lots of looks and have a strong rotation now back-ended by Jake Odorizzi, acquired in trade that sent James Shields to Kansas City. It’s historically tough to beat them in their own house of horrors. Can they win another 50 games inside the carpet-stained and freedom-rock blasting confines of the Trop? That’s your playoff indicator right there. Aside to Orioles: Get up for those games, boys. They’ll dictate your future!
Toronto Blue Jays - Really, Jose Reyes is gimpy with a hamstring? Jays are going to have another home run-hitting offense and you can expect a bigger year from Brett Lawrie but ace R.A. Dickey’s best days are behind him. Tommy John survivor Drew Hutchison is probably the most interesting question here. Blog sees injuries plaguing this squad again.
Predicted order of finish:
Orioles, Rays and Red Sox closer to top and in playoff mix
Blue Jays and Yankees closer to bottom