American League East preview: Can talent put Toronto over the top?
The American League East was tight enough with New York, Tampa Bay and Boston constantly in the postseason mix. Now that the Toronto Blue Jays have loaded up for an October run, the AL East is the undisputed toughest division in baseball heading into the 2013 season.
Baltimore Orioles (2012: 93-69 - +36.83 units, 71-86-5 over/under)
Division odds: +600
Season win total: 78.5
Why bet the Orioles: The lineup is getting deeper despite losing Mark Reynolds. If Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis can somehow stay healthy, this is a dangerous group No. 1 thru No. 9. Manny Machado is a year older and has solid potential. The O’s have a deep bullpen as well with a lot of power arms that can shut teams down late in games.
Why not bet the Orioles: Unlikely they will perform as well and be as lucky in close games this season after going 54-23 in games decided by two runs or less last year. The pitching staff is full of question marks as Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and Jake Arrieta don't have a consistent pedigree of success. Everything seemed to go right for the Orioles last year, but the division is tougher this season.
Season win total pick: Under 78.5
Boston Red Sox (2012: 69-93 - -36.85 units, 78-77-7 over/under)
Division odds: +600
Season win total: 83.5
Why bet the Red Sox: No one is expecting success, so Boston is no longer the hunted but the hunter. Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz present a solid one-two combination in the pitching rotation. Joel Hanrahan is an upgrade at closer as well. Jacoby Ellsbury is playing for a free-agent contract which will make him more motivated to succeed.
Why not bet the Red Sox: The lineup is no longer a potent unit. David Ortiz is a year older and there's a chance guys like Jonny Gomes, Stephen Drew, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will struggle. The rest of the pitching rotation is a question mark with John Lackey and Felix Doubront being depended upon to win ballgames in a tough AL East division.
Season win total pick: Under 83.5
New York Yankees (2012: 95-67 - +3.74 units, 71-86-5 over/under)
Division odds: +250
Season win total: 87.5
Why bet the Yankees: Mariano Rivera is making his swan song this season and will be motivated to get to the playoffs. He backs a bullpen that was pretty good last season even without him. David Robertson, Cody Eppley, and David Phelps got valuable experience last season. C.C.Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda are solid at the top of the rotation and Michael Pineda could help as well if he returns healthy by mid-season.
Why not bet the Yankees: Injuries are already killing this team with Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson out until May. They will also be without Alex Rodriguez until July and are hoping that Derek Jeter will recover from his ankle injury. Kevin Youkilis joins the team, but he was not a good hitter last season hitting only .233 with Boston and .236 with the White Sox. The star power on this team is aging and may no longer be able to win a division.
Season win total pick: Under 87.5
Tampa Bay Rays (2012: 90-72 - +6.02, 64-91-7 over/under)
Division odds: +300
Season win total: 86
Why bet the Rays: Strong pitching led by David Price who is 33-11 versus AL East teams during his career. Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore are still young, but improving. Trading James Shields for Wil Myers addressed a need for more offense in a lineup that struggled to score at times last year. The bullpen is fantastic once again and filled with many arms that can win close games.
Why not bet the Rays: Fernando Rodney can't be as good as he was last year when he sported a 0.60 ERA as the team's closer. A lot is being asked from 1B James Loney and SS Yunel Escobar, who are inconsistent at best. The batting lineup is not very deep and could still use another addition or two, especially if Evan Longoria has trouble staying healthy after missing 88 games last year.
Season win total pick: Over 86
Toronto Blue Jays (2012: 73-89 - -12.0 units, 77-77-8 over/under)
Division odds: +175
Season win total: 89
Why bet the Jays: This is the most talented team in the division. The rotation will be tough to beat with R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson joining Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle. Jose Bautista will now have more help in the lineup with Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera joining the team. Brett Lawrie hit .319 against lefties last season and could be good protection for Bautista if Edwin Encarnacion fails.
Why not bet the Jays: Toronto has suddenly become a popular pick this season after taking the Marlins' stars in an offseason trade. Keep in mind, these are the same Miami players who went through a team's offseason spending spree last year, only to underperform. Ricky Romero lost 13 straight games at one point last season. The bullpen is dicey and filled with youth outside of Darren Oliver. Colby Rasmus is a question mark after fading the past two seasons.
Season win total pick: Under 89