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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

2017 AL East Preview


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2016 RECORD: 93-69, No. 1 in AL EAST

After two consecutive seasons of last-place finishes, the Red Sox rebounded sharply in 2016, winning the American League East decisively. Backed by a historic pre-retirement season from first baseman David Ortiz, a breakout year from right fielder Mookie Betts, and the brilliant pitching of AL Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, Boston looked like one of the favorites to win the World Series. However, their dream ended quickly, when they were swept in three games by the Cleveland Indians in the AL Divions Series.

Even though the Red Sox lost Ortiz to retirement in the offseason, they gained a major asset in starting pitcher Chris Sale. Sale was traded by the White Sox, with which he had several great seasons and became regarded as a top pitcher in baseball. Between Sale, the consistently great David Price, and the aforementioned Porcello, the Red Sox’s pitching rotation looks like one of the best in baseball.

The offense is solid as well. Betts, in just his second full season, had an excellent season in which he knocked in 113 runs, led the league in total bases, and finished second in the AL MVP voting behind Mike Trout. Another young player, shortstop Xander Bogaerts, established himself as one of the best shortstops in baseball, while veteran second baseman Dustin Pedroia had an batting average of .318 last year, at age 32. Despite the loss of Ortiz, the offense, which led the AL in batting average and runs scored last year, once again looks potent.

With the addition of Sale, and the maturation of players like Betts and Bogaerts, expect the Red Sox to once again be strong contenders to win it all in 2017.

2017 PREDICTION: 93-69, No. 1 in AL EAST


2016 RECORD: 89-73, T-2
nd in AL EAST

The Orioles were last seen losing a heartbreaking American League Wild Card game, defeated by the Toronto Blue Jays 5-2. Controversially, star closer Zach Britton was never used in that game, despite going into extra innings. Many baseball pundits speculated the failure of manager Buck Showalter to bring Britton into the game cost Baltimore a shot at moving onto the ALDS.

Britton had his best season last year. In his third season as the Orioles’ closer, he saved 47 games, giving up just four earned runs in 67 innings. For his efforts, he was voted fourth place in the AL Cy Young balloting. It’s unrealistic to expect Britton to be that good again, but he posted an ERA below 2.00 in 2014 and 2015, so he’s hardly a one-year fluke.

The strength of the Orioles lies in their offense. Third baseman Manny Machado, the best baseball player in the D.C.-Baltimore area (sorry Bryce Harper), posted career highs in just about every major category last year, en route to finishing fifth in the AL MVP voting. He won’t turn 25 until July 6, so it’s more than likely his best years are still ahead of him. A MVP win by Machado this season would not surprise anybody.

A big off-season move by the Orioles was the re-signing of slugger Mark Trumbo. He hit 47 home runs last year, leading the American League. Between him and first baseman Chris Davis, who hit 38 long balls of his own last year and has led the AL in homers twice, there should be no shortage of long balls flying out of Camden Yards this year.

While catching Boston in the AL East race will be a tall task, don’t be surprised to see playoff baseball in downtown Baltimore this fall.

2017 PREDICTION: 90-72, No. 2 in AL EAST


2016 RECORD: 84-78,
No. 4 in AL EAST

The story of last year’s Yankees was the emergence of catcher Gary Sanchez. Called up from the minor leagues in mid-August, the youngster tore up the American League in his first few weeks, hitting 20 home runs and knocking in 42 runs in just 53 games in 2016. Despite a late-season slump, he came in second place in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. With former catcher Brian McCann lost to free agency, Sanchez will play his first full season behind the plate in 2017.

The rest of the Yankees’ offense is a bit questionable. First base duties will be split by the young Greg Bird, who missed all of 2016 with an injury, and Chris Carter, who hit 41 home runs for the Milwaukee Brewers last year while striking out a staggering 206 times. The middle infield of second baseman Starlin Castro and shortstop Didi Gregorius is solid, if unspectacular. The outfield will once again be anchored by Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury, both of whom are in their mid-30s.

On the pitching side, the best starting pitcher by far is Masahiro Tanaka. He went 14-4 with an ERA of 3.07, setting a career-high in strikeouts of 165. After a few difficult seasons, CC Sabathia had a bit of a comeback season, finishing fourth on the team in Wins About Replacement with 3.0. In the bullpen, the Yankees re-signed Aroldis Chapman, whom they had traded to the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline last year. After Chapman helped the Cubs win the World Series, the Yankees re-signed him to a five-year contract worth $86 million. Dellin Betances and Tyler Clippard will provide some extra reinforcement in the bullpen.

There’s a lot of “what-ifs” regarding the Yankees this season. If their youngsters play well once again this season, this team could be a playoff contender. If not, it won’t be pretty.

2017 PREDICTION: 85-77, No. 3 in AL EAST


2016 RECORD: 89-73, T-2
nd in AL EAST

Last year, the Toronto Blue Jays made it to the ALCS for the second straight year. Unfortunately for them, they lost for the second straight year, falling to the Cleveland Indians in five games.

The Jays suffered a major loss this offseason, losing slugging first baseman Edwin Encarnacion to the aforementioned Indians. They did manage to re-sign outfielder Jose Bautista, but he declined sharply in 2016 from his once-excellent form. Considering he’ll turn 36 next season, a return to his glory days is, at best, unlikely.

Of course, the Jays still have plenty of great hitters. Third baseman Josh Donaldson was the AL MVP in 2015, and had a very good campaign in 2016, leading the team in runs scored while hitting .284. Second baseman Devon Travis led the team in batting average at .300. The team signed designated hitter Kendrys Morales in the offseason, and while he won’t replicate Encarnacion’s production entirely, he should be good for plenty of home runs.

The crown jewel of the starting pitching staff is the young Aaron Sanchez. At age 23, he led the American League in ERA last year, at 3.00. J.A. Happ was one of the few 20-game winners in the AL last year, with an impressive 20-4 record. Marcus Stroman hopes to bounce-back off a disappointing 2016 year, even though he did lead the team in strikeouts, at 166.

While the Jays still have guys like Donaldson and Sanchez, the loss of Encarnacion and the continued decline of Bautista may not be enough to get them back to the playoffs.

2017 PREDICTION: 83-79, No. 4 in AL EAST


2016 RECORD: 68-94,
No. 5 in AL EAST

Tampa was one of the most unremarkable teams in baseball last year, finishing a distant last in the division. Perhaps their best player was outfielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has established himself as one of the best defensive outfielders in the sport. Shortstop Brad Miller hit a career-high 30 home runs, while franchise third baseman Evan Longoria had his typical very good season, hitting 36 homers and knocking in 98 runs. However, Longoria will be entering this season at age 31, a year in which many players start to decline. Second baseman Logan Forsythe is a big loss from the roster after he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for pitching prospect Jose DeLeon.

The pitching staff, too, is nondescript. Chris Archer, despite striking out a very impressive 233 batters in 201 innings, only managed a 9-19 record, thanks to a lack of offensive support. Jake Odorizzi had the lowest ERA on the staff, at 3.69.

The Rays did not do much to get better in the off-season, and considering just about everyone else in the East has a shot of being better, it would be extremely difficult for Tampa to leave the valley of last place.

2017 PREDICTION: 69-93, No. 5 in AL EAST

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2017 AL East Preview