al-east-logoIn recent baseball history, the AL East has always been one of the most top heavy divisions in baseball. The Yankees and Red Sox dominated for the past decade, both on the field and off it. However, recently the Rays and Orioles have joined the discussion. However, the offseason headlines in the division were dominated by the Blue Jays and their massive makeover. It shook up the division in a major way. This might be the season where the changing of the guard truly begins as both the Yankees and Red Sox have major questions and the possibility of both not making the playoffs. Whatever happens it will certainly be a competitive season in the AL East.

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5) Boston Red Sox
How the mighty have fallen. Last season was their owrst in recent memory and it doesn’t look like it’ll change anytime soon. While they purged themselves of some big contracts, but going out and signing OF Shane Victorino and c/1B Mike Napoli instead when both are past their productive years doesn’t bode well. DH David Ortiz, CF Jacoby Ellsbury and SS Stephen are all doubtful for the start of the season, so the offense may stumble out of the gate but at least they have 3B Will Middlebrooks. The rotation has its own question marks. Can Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz bounce back from subpar seasons? Will John Lackey finally contribute something? At least steady vet Ryan Dempster is there to eat innings. The bullpen will be better with the addition of Joel Hanrahan as closer but it will be a long and trying season for the Sox.

4) New York Yankees
Speaking of the fallen, the Yanks will have their own troubles. They’re still getting older and with that comes some injuries. SS Derek Jeter won’t start the season, 1B Mark Teixeira and CF Curtis Granderson are out until May and who knows what’s going on with 3B Alex Rodriguez. The fact that they’ll depend on DH Travis Hafner, 3B Kevin Youkilis and recently acquired Vernon Wells should scare fans. At least they can take solace in 2B Robinson Cano posting his usual 30-100-.300 line. The injury also hit the rotation as Phil Hughes will start the season in the DL. They have a true ace in CC Sabathia and productive vets in Andy Pettitie and Hiroki Kuroda, but the backend doesn’t look good. The team must prepare for the end of an era as this is Maraino Rivera’s last season and you can be sure he’ll be motivated to have a great final hurrah. Whether it’s enough to rescue the team remains to be seen.

3) Baltimore Orioles
The Birds’ massive turnaround and charge to a wild card berth was one of the bigger stories last season, but it’ll be difficult to sustain that momentum in the AL East. CF Adam Jones and RF Nick Markakis are both young guys in their primes, while 1B Chris Davis, SS JJ Hardy and C Matt Wieters each hit 20 or more homers. Add in heralded prospect 3B Manny Machado and the offense should be just fine. The rotation is solid but lacks a true ace and the team has several young starters that have yet to tap into their potential. Jim Johnson had a breakout 51 save season as closer and there are several underrated arms in the bullpen. They were very lucky in one run games last season, but the continued development of their young guys should compensate for that. The team has been to the postseason and they know what they must to try to get back there.

2) Tampa Bay Rays
Whether they don’t have high paid stars or big name players, the Rays always find a way to compete. 3B Evan Longoria is back from injury and the only big producer on offense, because RF Ben Zobrist, CF Desmond Jennings, LF Matt Joyce and 2B Kelly Johnson, while all solid hitters, aren’t stars. That could change when top prospect Wil Myers eventually makes his way to the majors. That’s alright for the team because they have an incredibly deep rotation despite the trade of James Shields. David Price won the AL Cy Young last season, Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore will only get better, while Alex Cobb and Jeff Neimann are great 4 and 5 starters. This is to say nothing of the incredible depth they have in the minors. Closer Fernando Rodney is unlikely to replicate his absurd 0.60 ERA from last season, but he will still be one of the best closers in the league.

1) Toronto Blue Jays
This might seem like jumping on the bandwagon, but the Jays have too much talent. They already had firepower in 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion, CF Colby Rasmus, C JP Arencibia, 3B Brett Lawrie and of course Joey Bats. Adding speed in SS Jose Reyes and 2B Emilio Bonifacio diversifies the offense and who can forget PEDman Melky Cabrera? However, the biggest turnover came in the rotation. They got Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle in the blockbuster with Miami and NL Cy Young winner RA Dickey from the Mets. Add in the underrated Brendan Morrow and the team has the makings of one of the best rotations in baseball. Lost in all the upheaval of the offseason is how solid the bullpen was with Casey Janssen as closer and should be even better with the return of Sergio Santos from injury. Like the Nats in the NL, Toronto is stacked and will be formidable this season.