Finishing up in the American League we come to the division that is a microcosm for payroll disparity in the sport. The Red Sox and Yankees can spend their way into contention and are always in the discussion. The Rays are the antithesis of that, using a great farm system to compete with Big Money. Toronto is loaded with potential and could be a sleeper. Then there’s Baltimore who’re in baseball’s toughest division and won’t be relevant for 5 years or so. With Tampa Bay my pick to win the division and the newly added second wild card, it’s not unrealistic to think that the Yankees and Red Sox could capture both of them. This of course would cause the East Coast biased media to declare the concept the greatest thing in baseball.

1) Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are perhaps baseball’s model small market franchise with smart drafting and key signings their MO. Their offense has potential but could struggle. Atop the order will be 20/40 threats in LF Desmond Jennings and CF BJ Upton while 3B Evan Longoria and 1B Carlos Pena will supply most of the power. 2B Ben Zobrist and RF Matt Joyce are other contributors, though SS might be a sinkhole as last year players there were bad offensively. If the offense struggles, then the rotation can pick them up and it might be one of the best in baseball. David Price, James Shields and latest Rays pitching sensation Matt Moore could all put up low ERAs and K totals close to 200. AL Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson is back with Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann battling for the last spot. In the bullpen, closer Kyle Farnsworth leads a solid cast.

2) New York Yankees
The Bronx Bombers had the best record in the AL and there’s no reason to think they won’t be up there again. Their calling card is offense with CF Curtis Granderson, RF Nick Swisher, 1B Mark Teixiera, 2B Robinson Cano and 3B Alex Rodriguez taking care of homers and LF Brett Gardner could reach 50 SBs. Jeter is still there, but he, like alot of the roster, are aging and it could catch up with them this year. Perhaps the smartest move GM Brian Cashman made was settling CC Sabathia’s contract. CC will contend for the Cy Young, but there are questions behind him. Hiroki Kuroda is a newcomer, Ivan Nova will be hard pressed to match his big year last season and Phil Hughes has to bounce back from a injury shortened season. The wild card is Michael Pineda, who has a t0n of potential. The Yankees might have the best options for the last 3 innings in their bullpen. Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are good setup men and Mariano Rivera is getting older but can still be one of the best closers in baseball.

3) Boston Red Sox
Both New York and Boston had great offenses that will be showcased as they both compete for second. Speaking of offense, what’s not to like about Boston’s? CF Jacoby Ellsbury and 2B Dustin Pedroia are power/speed threats while 1B Adrian Gonzalez and DH David Ortiz bring the lumber. A letdown last season, Carl Crawford must bounce back and a consistent SS must be found. The rotation has a solid top 3 in Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Bucholz but the final two spots will likely be taken up by Daniel Bard and Alfredo Aceves who are both transitioning from the bullpen. The pen gets a makeover with the move of the aforementioned two and the departure of Jonathan Papelbon. Replacing him is Andrew Bailey with Mark Melancon and Matt Albers among a solid backend that will keep the Red Sox in games.

4) Toronto Blue Jays
Canada’s Team hast he potential to grab the extra wild card if one of the Big Three falter in the division. Still, the Jays feature arguably the game’s  best hitter in home run king and RF Jose Bautista. 3B Brett Lawrie and C JP Arencibia are young power hitters ready to break out with 1B Adam Lind a power threat as well. 2B Kelly Johnson and CF Colby Rasmus have upside, but must fix their low averages. The Blue Jays finally have a true ace in Ricky Romero who put up great numbers last year. However, after him there are several unknowns. Brandon Morrow has top stuff, but is too inconsistent, Brett Cecil and Dustin McGowan give up too many runs and Henderson Alvarez is unproven. Sergio Santos arrives to take over the closer duties from the White Sox and former closer Francisco Cordero is the set up man. Darren Oliver, Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen are solid middle relief options, but could have more work if the rotation struggles.

5) Baltimore Orioles
Residing in the cellar of the AL East for the next few years are the Baltimore Orioles. Their offense will keep them in contention, but their pitching is another story. Matt Wieters is developing into an elite catcher and CF Adam Jones is progressing as well. SS JJ Hardy and RF Nick Markakis will contribute as well. 3B Mark Reynolds will hit home runs as well, when he’s not striking out. Unless they magically find an ace hiding somewhere, they will have one of the worst rotations in the majors. Brian Matusz has yet to deliver on his considerable promise, while Zach Britton and Jake Arrieta need to as well. There are several other options, including Chris Tillman and Jasom Hammel, but this staff will still give up alot of runs. The bullpen doesn’t look better. Kim Johnson is the de facto closer with Matt Lindstrom and Kelly Gregg having experience there as well, but the pen will have the same run preventing problems as the rotation.