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2015 MLB preview: the AL East

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Today we shift from the left coast and head over to the AL East.

You were expecting Jeter perhaps?
You were expecting Jeter perhaps?
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Previous entries:

We've covered that the 20 interleague games and 33 games against the AL West. Next we turn our attention to the AL East, which we will also play 33 times.

Blue Jays: Home (4/30-5/3); Road (8/31-9/2)

Orioles: Home (6/5-7); Road (6/26-28)

Rays: Home (6/19-21); Road (6/26-30)

Yankees: Home (8/11-13); Road (8/20-33)

Red Sox: Road (8/17-19); Home (10/2-4)

This division was basically a cakewalk for the Orioles last year. They grabbed the lead in early May, fell back by 6.5 games in early June, and then took the lead just after the Fourth and July and never relinquished it, finishing twelve up on the Yankees. The Yankees could get no closer than 3 games after late July. The Blue Jays had the lead in late May, but a poor June and August doomed them. Neither the Rays or Red Sox were a factor after May.

Boston Red Sox (71-91, 5th)

Key Losses: Burke Badenhop (RP), Ryan Dempster (SP), David Ross (C), Yoenis Cespedes (LF), Alex Wilson (RP), Rubby De La Rosa (SP), Allan Webster (SP), Anthony Ranaudo (SP)

Key Adds: Hanley Ramirez (LF), Pablo Sandoval (3B), Rick Porcello (SP), Wade Miley (SP), Anthony Varavaro (RP), Robbie Ross (RP), Alexi Ogando (RP), Rusney Castillo (CF), Justin Masterson (SP)

Injuries: Castillo, Joe Kelly, Koji Uehara

Projected Position Players: Christian Vazquez, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts, Sandoval, Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Shane Victorino, David Ortiz

Projected Rotation: Clay Buchholz, Porcello, Kelly, Miley, Masterson, Steven Wright

Projected Fire Squad: Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow, Edward Mujica

Similar to the San Francisco Giants, the Red Sox have been doing this on again, off again thing only being good in odd years, while the Giants have been good in even years. A 26 game swing landed them in the cellar and GM Ben Cherington decided to tweak the lineup. Two third basemen were signed in Sandoval and Ramirez, with Hanley moving to left field.

Where the major tweaking occurred was in the rotation. Porcello and Miley were added to bolster it after the Lester deal last summer. Kelly was also a midseason pickup last year. Masterson is being given a chance to recapture his younger self. If the injury to Uehara is severe enough, that will affect the pen pretty severely. I don't see the pendulum swinging all the way back for Beantown this year, but I do see enough improvement that they finish around 82-80. ZIPS likes them to win the division at 87-75 though.

Tampa Bay Rays (77-85, 4th)

Key Losses: Cesar Ramos (RP), Jeremy Hellickson (SP), Joel Peralta (RP), Jose Molina (C), Sean Rodriguez (UT), Matthew Joyce (DH), Ryan Hanigan (C), Wil Myers (RF), Yunel Escobar (SS), Ben Zobrist (2B)

Key Adds: Ernesto Frieri (RP), Kevin Jepsen (RP), Rene Rivera (C), Burch Smith (RP), Stephen Souza (RF), Asdrubal Cabrera (SS), John Jaso (DH)

Injuries: Ronald Belisario, Alex Cobb, Alexander Colome, Nick Franklin, Jake McGee, Matt Moore, Drew Smyly

Projected Position Players: Rivera, James Loney, Franklin, Cabrera, Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier, Souza, Jaso

Projected Rotation: Cobb, Chris Archer, Smyly, Jake Odorizzi, Nate Karns, Moore, Colome

Projected Fire Squad: Grant Balfour, Brad Boxberger, Jeff Beliveau, McGee

The six year run for the Rays hit a severe speed bump last season. A myriad of injuries and poor seasons left them under 0.500 for the first time in seven seasons. Manager Joe Maddon left after the season as did GM Andrew Friedman, both for larger market teams. The new guy, Matthew Silverman, was left to clean up the roster. There were a number of moves, but I don't believe they got much better. Longoria anchors this lienup, but other than Jaso, no other bat really scares me.

Cobb is excellent as the ace, but the rest of the rotation will be the key for this season. Archer was very good last year, but is that his true persona. Smyly was the key pickup for Price last year, but still hasn't taken control of his spot yet. My guess is the bottom falls out this year while Silverman tries to come up with a new game plan. I am going to say a 65-97 finish. Again ZIPS is higher than me, coming in at 81-81.

Toronto Blue Jays (83-79, 3rd)

Key Losses: Melky Cabrera (LF), Casey Janssen (CL), Colby Rasmus (CF), Dustin McGowan (SP), Brandon Morrow (RP), Adam Lind (DH), Anthony Gose (CF), Brett Lawrie (3B), Sean Nolin (SP), J.A. Happ (SP)

Key Adds: Justin Smoak (1B), Marco Estrada (SP), Russell Martin (C), Josh Donaldson (3B), Michael Saunders (LF), Johan Santana (SP), Dayan Viciedo (OF)

Injuries: Edwin Encarnacion, Maicer Izturis, Kevin Pillar, Ramon Santiago, Saunders, Marcus Stroman

Projected Position Players: Martin, Smoak, Ryan Goins, Jose Reyes, Donaldson, Saunders, Dalton Pompey, Jose Bautista, Encarnacion

Projected Rotation: R.A. Dickey, Drew Hutchison, Mark Buehrle, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, Estrada, Santana

Projected Fire Squad: Brett Cecil, Aaron Loup, Steve Delabar, Miguel Castro

The Jays entered last year as the hot pick, but they too were hit by a decent amount of injuries. GM Alex Anthropoulos let a few key guys walk and then traded for potential MVP candidate Donaldson. Martin should be a decent signing as well, at least initially. The lineup is very dangerous with Encarnacion and Bautista still around. I think they finish top 5 in scoring.

But it is the rotation that is the major concern for this team. Dickey struggled quite a bit last year and Buehrle is clearly on his downward swing. Hutchison may be good, but I don't like the rest of the rotation much. The pen should be around average, or maybe a tad below. I'll say the Blue Jays finish at 74-88 while ZIPS has them at 81-81.

New York Yankees (84-78, 2nd)

Key Losses: Rich Hill (RP), Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda (SP), Brandon McCarthy (SP), David Robertson (CL), Ichiro Suzuki (OF), Francisco Cervelli (C), Shane Greene (SP), David Phelps (SP), Martin Prado (3B), Shawn Kelley (RP)

Key Adds: Justin Wilson (RP), Andrew Miller (RP), Didi Gregorius (SS), Nathan Eovaldi (SP), Garrett Jones (DH), David Carpenter (RP)

Injuries: Chris Capuano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Ivan Nova, Jose Pirela

Projected Position Players: Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Stephen Drew, Gregorius, Chase Headley, Brett Gardner, Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez

Projected Rotation: Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, C.C. Sabathia, Eovaldi, Capuano, Adam Warren, Nova

Projected Fire Squad: Dellin Betances, Miller, Carpenter, Wilson

The Yankees missed the playoffs for the second straight season, which hasn't happened since the dark days of the 80s and early 90s. The last bastion of the last dynasty, Jeter, finally stepped aside. GM Brian Cashman gave the unenviable taskof replacing him to Gregorius. Good Luck kid. This lineup is fraught with guys over 30, with many of them who already struggled last year. I don't think any of them find the fountain of youth.

The pickup of Miller was nice for the pen, and I think Betances will do fine taking over for Robertson, but I think the rest of the pen is mediocre at best. The loss of Kuroda will hurt as I think C.C. is cooked. Tanaka should be fine as should Pineda, but both need to stay healthy. And if they are counting on Capuano, ouch. I see another stumble backwards, finishing at 76-86. ZIPS has them at 82-80.

Baltimore Orioles (96-66, 1st)

Key Losses: Nelson Cruz (DH), Kelly Johnson (IF), Nick Markakis (RF), Andrew Miller (RP), Johan Santana (SP), Nick Hundley (C)

Key Adds: Wesley Wright (RP), J.P. Arencibia (C), Travis Snider (RF)

Injuries: Matt Wieters

Projected Position Players: Wieters (Caleb Joseph), Chris Davis, Jonathan Schoop, J.J. Hardy, Manny Machado, Alejandro De Aza, Adam Jones, Snider, Steve Pearce

Projected Rotation: Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez, Kevin Gausman, Ubaldo Jimenez

Projected Fire Squad: Zach Britton, Darren O'Day, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz

The Orioles had a dream season last year as almost everything went right, save the Wieters injury. But GM Dan Duquette basically stood pat this winter. He let Cruz, Markakis and Miller walk but only picked up a backup catcher and Snider to take over in right.

The good news is that I still think they are the class of the division. Even though they didn't improve, I think they still repeat as division champs. But I think they fall back to a 87-75 record this year. And again, ZIPS and I are nowhere close as they have them pegged at 80-82.

Conclusion:

I think this division will be the worst overall in baseball in 2015. I can easily see just one winning team, which will be the Orioles. I see severe drop-offs for the Blue Jays, Rays and Yankees, with the Red Sox the most likely to challenge for a positive record.

So what say you? Put your rankings below.