Can the Sox Return to Greatness? – MLB Preview

Joe Clark

Welcome to Part 1 of Pantherbook’s 7 part MLB Season Preview. In each part, we will look at every division and predict standings and records for each team. In the 7th part, we will make our award and playoff predictions. For part 1, we start off looking at the AL East.


AL East



  • Toronto Blue Jays (91-71)


The Blue Jays will mash their way to a second consecutive AL East title. Led by Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion, the Jays have one of the most potent lineups in the league. They have a shaky rotation however, and without a clear ace, Toronto will have to rely on contributions from Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ, while hoping Marcus Stroman can keep pitching like he did in his return from a Torn ACL last season (4-1, 1.67 ERA in 4 GS in regular season, 4.19 ERA and 10 SO in 19.1 IP in playoffs). The Jays lineup is dangerous enough to cover up their flaws in the rotation, and they should be the only AL East team to reach the 90 win plateau.


  1. Boston Red Sox (88-74)

With the acquisition of David Price, the Red Sox get themselves the ace they lacked throughout last season. They boast a potentially dangerous lineup, with Mookie Betts, David Ortiz, Xander Bogaerts, and Dustin Pedroia all returning. The Sox however, will have to hope Hanley Ramirez can revert back to something reminiscent of his 2014 form, where he hit .283/.369/.448 with 13 HR and 71 RBI in 128 games. In his contract year, the Red Sox will also need Clay Buchholz to pitch the way he did before getting hurt last year, when he was 7-7 with a 3.26 ERA and 2.68 FIP in 113.1 IP. With the trade to acquire All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel from the Padres and Set up man Carson Smith from the Mariners, the Sox successfully shored up the back end of their bullpen. However, with too many questions in their rotation, I can’t see the Sox doing any better than a wild card appearance.


  1. New York Yankees (84-78)

With Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman in their bullpen, the Yankees have the best bullpen in baseball. Smart teams have been focusing more and more on their bullpen in recent years, and with the Royals run to the World Series in 2014 and World Series win in 2015, the proven success of having a strong bullpen is well documented. However, unlike the Royals of the past two years, the Yankees don’t have nearly as established a rotation. Masahiro Tanaka is always an injury risk, and when healthy his performance can be shaky. Behind him, Michael Pineda pitches well when healthy, although he is rarely healthy. Young arms Nathan Eovaldi and Luis Severino pitched well last season, and the Yanks will need them to replicate their performance if they want to make the playoffs again. The Yankees lineup isn’t without it’s question marks, either. Mark Texeira isn’t getting any younger, and is injury prone. In the infield, he is joined by ex-Cub Starlin Castro, who very well could have a breakout season after struggling for much of the last season on the south side. Castro has a career .281 average, and he just turned 26. One of the biggest questions for the Yankees this year will be their outfield, where they have 3 aging, injury prone outfielders in Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Carlos Beltran. The acquisition of Aaron Hicks from the Twins certainly helps their outfield depth, and Hicks can also serve as a pinch runner. The Yankees have a good team, and the best bullpen in the bigs, but a weak, aging lineup and a questionable rotation may prevent the Yankees from their 2nd straight playoff appearance.


  1. Tampa Bay Rays (82-80)

Since their surprise World Series run in 2008, the AL East has learned to never count out the Rays. One of the most forward-thinking organizations in baseball, the Rays have routinely built a roster that finds a way to win games. This season, on paper, the Rays look intriguing, but not necessarily good. They return team icon Evan Longoria, in addition to Chris Archer, who has emerged into one of the best pitchers in the league. Joining Archer in the Rays deep rotation is Drew Smyly, Matt Moore, Jake Odorizzi, and Erasmo Ramirez. Alex Cobb will start the season on the DL, but when he returns he could help the Rays make a playoff push. The issue for the Rays lies in their lineup. They have a logjam at 1B, with Logan Morrison, James Loney, and Steve Pearce all vying for playing time. Loney is likely to be traded or released within the first month of the season, while the Rays will hope Morrison can bounce back after a couple of rough years in Seattle and Miami. While solid defenders, the Rays 2B Logan Forsythe and SS Brad Miller are light with the bat. While Forsythe hit .281/.359/.444 with 17 HR and 68 RBI. Taking last year out of the equation, Forsythe is a career .235/.303/.343 hitter, with 18 HR and 83 RBI in 338 games. The Rays strength in their lineup comes in their outfielders, where they feature the oft-injured Desmond Jennings, along with Kevin Kiermaier and Steven Souza Jr. They also added Corey Dickerson from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for relief ace Jake McGee. Dickerson provides positional flexibility and a reliable bat off the bench. Despite the Rays rotation depth and very good outfield, there are too many question marks in the lineup to consider the Rays a contender.


  1. Baltimore Orioles (78-84)

Following last seasons 81-81 finish, the Orioles lost pitcher Wei-Yin Chen to the Miami Marlins. The loss of Chen has dealt a huge blow to the Orioles rotation, significantly weakening their depth. The O’s shaky rotation, led by Chris Tillman and FA acquisition Yovani Gallardo will be their downfall this season. The Orioles lack an ace, and while Yovani Gallardo is consistently solid, a 3-4-5 of the disappointing Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman, whom the O’s are hoping will have a breakout season after 37 decent starts over the last two seasons (11-14. 3.91 ERA, 191 SO in 45 appearances, 37 starts in last two years), and Mike Wright, who’s 6.04 ERA last season was somehow better than his 6.13 FIP. The Orioles lineup is talented however, with slugger Chris Davis, young star 3B Manny Machado and CF Adam Jones. Those 3 alone are arguably in the top 20 of all position players in baseball, but the rest of the lineup is littered with question marks. The Orioles will need Mark Trumbo to return to his 30 HR form, and will hope for the same with DH Pedro Alvarez. If both those things happen, the Orioles could lead the league in HR, and if C Matt Wieters can return to his pre-Tommy John surgery form, this prediction could be way off. I just don’t think their rotation has enough in it, even if Gausman can provide 25-30 solid starts and if they can get a couple of good starts out of former top prospect Dylan Bundy, who has dealt with injuries his entire MLB career. The Orioles will need a lot of things to go right for them with their lineup, and will need at least league average production from Jimenez. Buck Showalter always manages to squeak a few extra wins out of this team, but I can’t see anything more than 83 wins.