AL East: Yankees' youth movement arrives

Reuters

NEW YORK YANKEES

2017 record: 91-71, second in AL East

What's new

Acquiring All-Star Giancarlo Stanton and slotting him into the middle of the lineup with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez has many wondering if the Yankees can score 1,000 runs, something only achieved in the Bronx by the 1930, 1931, 1932 and 1936 editions in 154-game seasons. Last season, the trio combined for the following numbers: 134 home runs, 336 RBIs and 326 runs. The Yankees made less splashy moves to fill second and third base, signing Neil Walker late in spring training and acquiring Brandon Drury in a trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Walker and Tyler Wade will platoon at second base until Gleyber Torres is ready. Drury takes over at third, backed up by Walker.

Youth movement

The youth movement already is in full swing with Judge and Sanchez, but there is more on the way, plus assuming he stays healthy, Greg Bird is entering his first full season after being nagged by injuries. Torres could arrive in New York this season, Miguel Andujar drew raves for his bat early in spring training, and pitchers Chance Adams and Justus Sheffield could also arrive by next season. Of course, the Yankees are already trending younger by naming Luis Severino as their Opening Day starter and using Bird at first base after injuries kept him sidelined until late August last year.

Fearless prediction

Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka continues serving up homers but continues his effectiveness from late last season. Tanaka gave up 35 homers in 2017 (second most in team history) but also posted a 3.77 ERA after the All-Star break. CC Sabathia continues his evolution as a crafty left-hander with diminished velocity and helps at the end of the rotation. Sanchez improves his defense and hits more than enough that defense becomes an afterthought. The Yankees make another move for a starting pitcher at the trade deadline, helping them win the AL East for the first time since 2012.

Projected rotation

RHP Luis Severino

RHP Masahiro Tanaka

LHP CC Sabathia

RHP Sonny Gray

LHP Jordan Montgomery

Projected lineup

LF Brett Gardner

RF Aaron Judge

DH Giancarlo Stanton

C Gary Sanchez

SS Didi Gregorius

1B Greg Bird

CF Aaron Hicks

3B Brandon Drury

BOSTON RED SOX

2017 record: 93-69, first in AL East

What's new

The answer is not much other than J.D. Martinez, who slugged 45 home runs and amassed 104 RBIs in 2017. The Red Sox were the favorites to sign Martinez and eventually got the job done, adding to a lineup that managed 168 homers last year, the fewest in the AL. Boston was among the least active teams during the offseason other than the courtship and eventual signing of Martinez, whose career has taken off since being released by the Houston Astros. The Red Sox's other notable move was changing managers by hiring Alex Cora away from Houston to replace John Farrell after five seasons. Like the Yankees with Aaron Boone, the Red Sox felt like a new voice was needed.

Youth movement

Like the Yankees, a decent amount of youth is already in the majors. Boston's outfield is flanked by 25-year-old Mookie Betts and 23-year-old Andrew Benintendi. The duo combined for 46 homers and 192 RBIs last season. The Red Sox got a two-month look at third baseman Rafael Devers, and the results were good: a .284 average in 58 games. The Red Sox are also hoping for a rebound from Eduardo Rodriguez, who was 6-7 with a 4.19 ERA last year while working through a knee injury that required offseason surgery.

Fearless prediction

Chris Sale approaches 300 strikeouts again and is among the leaders in innings pitched while getting to 20 wins with improved run support. Martinez fits in seamlessly to the lineup and hits at least 35 home runs, including several against the Yankees. Martinez's presence ensures the Red Sox don't finish last in the AL in home runs. Drew Pomeranz continues his success with throwing curveballs once he gets through a forearm strain, and the Red Sox challenge the Yankees before losing the AL East in the last week of the season.

Projected rotation

LHP Chris Sale

LHP David Price

RHP Rick Porcello

LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

RHP Hector Velazquez

Projected lineup

RF Mookie Betts

LF Andrew Benintendi

1B Hanley Ramirez

DH J.D. Martinez

SS Xander Bogaerts

3B Rafael Devers

2B Eduardo Nunez

C Christian Vazquez

CF Jackie Bradley Jr.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

2017 record: 76-86, fourth in AL East

What's new

For the first time since 2008, Jose Bautista will not be on the Blue Jays. He came back last year on a one-year deal but like the rest of the team faltered. Age snuck up on the Blue Jays, and to address it they swung trades for Randal Grichuk, Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte. Grichuk will replace Bautista in right field. The pitching staff is mostly the same other than signing Jaime Garcia. It will be strange to see the Blue Jays without Bautista, and now star third baseman Josh Donaldson is headed toward free agency next winter.

Youth movement

Most of the youthful bats are in the minors, and they are players with some notable fathers. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is the top prospect and is regarded as among the best hitters in the minors. He could be the successor at third base if the team trades or doesn't re-sign Donaldson. Toronto's second-best prospect is second baseman/shortstop Bo Bichette, the 20-year-old son of Dante Bichette. The front end of the rotation is youthful with Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman while closer Roberto Osuna (39 saves in 2017) is only 23.

Fearless prediction

The Blue Jays stay avoid their occasional tradition of awful Aprils, then remain relatively healthy and in the race for a second wild-card spot before falling short. Donaldson will not get traded but will hit free agency in a class with Manny Machado and Bryce Harper coming off another 30-homer season. Newcomers Diaz and Solarte get enough at-bats and are productive when second baseman Devon Travis and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki go down with injuries -- and Tulowitzki will open the year on the disabled list due to a bone spur in his right heel.

Projected rotation

LHP J.A. Happ

RHP Aaron Sanchez

RHP Marco Estrada

RHP Marcus Stroman

LHP Jaime Garcia

Projected lineup

LF Curtis Granderson

2B Devon Travis

3B Josh Donaldson

1B Justin Smoak

C Russell Martin

DH Randal Grichuk

CF Kevin Pillar

SS Aledmys Diaz

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

2017 record: 75-87, fifth in AL East

What's new

Baltimore's rotation was historically brutal while posting a franchise-worst 5.70 ERA in 2017. The Orioles are hopeful they addressed the problem by adding Andrew Cashner and Alex Cobb in free agency and bringing back Chris Tillman on a one-year deal. Cashner was 11-11 with a 3.40 ERA for Texas in his first season in the American League. Cobb is no stranger to the AL East after posting a 48-35 career record in 115 starts for Tampa Bay in the previous six seasons. The Orioles added little to a lineup that hit 232 homers, but Colby Rasmus will be the Opening Day right fielder after Seth Smith was not re-signed.

Youth movement

Baltimore's lineup features a mix of veterans and youth. While speculation about 25-year-old Manny Machado will be rampant, Trey Mancini is being counted for a strong sophomore season after batting .293 with 24 homers and 78 RBIs as a rookie. Jonathan Schoop, 26, is coming off a breakout season with 32 homers and 105 RBIs. Another source of youth could be behind the plate. Chance Sisco, who turned 23 in spring training, will be the backup to Caleb Joseph for now.

Fearless prediction

The Orioles will pitch better, but it won't be enough to keep pace with the Yankees and Red Sox. Machado makes the smooth transition back to shortstop, helping the team stay on the fringe of the wild-card race while playing out the season in Baltimore before reaching free agency. The potent offense will slug more than 200 home runs thanks to the presence of Schoop, Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones and Chris Davis, who rebounds from hitting 26 homers after belting 47 two years ago. The success of this lineup also hinges on Trumbo, who went from 47 to 23 homers in his second season with the Orioles. He will start the season on the disabled list due to a right quad injury.

Projected rotation

RHP Dylan Bundy

RHP Andrew Cashner

RHP Kevin Gausman

RHP Chris Tillman

RHP Alex Cobb

Projected lineup

3B Tim Beckham

SS Manny Machado

2B Jonathan Schoop

CF Adam Jones

1B Chris Davis

LF Trey Mancini

DH Pedro Alvarez

C Caleb Joseph

RF Colby Rasmus

TAMPA BAY RAYS

2017 record: 80-82, third in AL East

What's new

Gone from Tampa Bay's lineup are 77 homers with the departures of third baseman Evan Longoria along with outfielders Corey Dickerson and Steven Souza Jr. In their place are Carlos Gomez, Denard Span and Matt Duffy. It's unlikely the new trio will approach 77 homers, cementing Tampa Bay's place as a mediocre offense in a division full of potent lineups. Duffy is getting the first chance to succeed Longoria, and the Rays have waited a long time to see him. Duffy was obtained from the Giants in 2016 for left-hander Matt Moore but missed last season due to a second Achilles surgery. Another newcomer is Nathan Eovaldi, who missed all of last season following Tommy John surgery.

Youth movement

At 29 years old, Chris Archer is the ace of the rotation, though he is coming off two losing seasons in which he went a combined 19-31. He is followed by some youthful potential in Blake Snell and Jake Faria. Snell was 5-7 with a 4.04 ERA in 24 starts last season while Faria was 5-4 with a 3.43 ERA in 16 starts. The Rays also acquired Christian Arroyo from the Giants in the Longoria trade, and he likely will appear at some point in the majors if he does well at Triple-A Durham. The Rays lost top pitching prospect Brent Honeywell to Tommy John surgery.

Fearless prediction

The offense dips, and despite a decent rotation, the Rays wind up losing at least 90 games for the second time in three seasons. Tampa Bay fields endless calls about Archer, who is signed for four more seasons, but keeps him when numerous teams try to make lowball offers for the most durable pitcher in baseball. Kevin Kiermaier continues to shine on defense in center field and is among the more productive hitters in an otherwise shaky lineup.

Projected rotation

RHP Chris Archer

LHP Blake Snell

RHP Jake Faria

RHP Nathan Eovaldi

RHP Matt Andriese

Projected lineup

DH Denard Span

3B Matt Duffy

CF Kevin Kiermaier

RF Carlos Gomez

2B Brad Miller

C Wilson Ramos

1B C.J. Cron

SS Adeiny Hechavarria

LF Mallex Smith

--Field Level Media

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