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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

AL East Preview



Last year, the Yankees took on a role that was very unfamiliar to the franchise: underdog. Although not many expected the Yankees to be contenders in 2017, New York managed to secure a spot in the American League wild card game after totaling 91 regular season victories. After defeating the Minnesota Twins in the wild card game, the club went on to shock the Cleveland Indians in the American League Division Series. However, the team then dropped the American League Championship Series in seven games to the eventual world champion the Houston Astros.

The Yankees improved further in the offseason as they acquired superstar right fielder Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins in a trade. Last year, Stanton hit 59 home runs, which was the most for any player since 2001. His efforts earned him the National League’s Most Valuable Player award. He will join a power-heavy lineup that includes fellow right fielder Aaron Judge, who led the American League with 52 home runs in his rookie season. Last year, the Yankees hit 241 home runs, and with these two sluggers leading the way this year, they could break the MLB record of 264, which was set in 1997 by the Seattle Mariners.

Fresh off of a breakout 2017 campaign, hard-throwing right hander Luis Severino will lead the Yankees’ staff. After struggling in 2016, the 24-year-old put it all together in 2017, and he finished third in American League Cy Young voting. Severino ended the year with an earned run average of 2.98 and 230 strikeouts. He will be joined in the rotation by Sonny Gray, who pitched serviceably after being acquired from the Oakland Athletics in July. CC Sabathia will also return for the Yankees. The former Cy Young winner had a renaissance season last year. Japanese righty Masahiro Tanaka will look to capitalize on his 2017 second half success in 2018. Southpaw Jordan Montgomery finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting, and will look to pick up where he left off in the new year.

In the bullpen, Chad Green figures to be a secret weapon of sorts for New York. Pitching in relief last year, he struck out a remarkable 13.2 batters per nine innings. In the ALCS, he threw 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball over the course of the series. Green is joined in the bullpen by David Robertson, who allowed just four earned runs in 35 innings for the Yankees last year, along with closer Aroldis Chapman, who saved 22 games last year with a 3.04 ERA. Not to mention hard-throwers Tommy Kahnle and Dellin Betances. Bottom line: this is the most talented bullpen in all of baseball.

There aren’t many weak spots on this team. If all breaks right, a trip to the World Series could be in order for the Yankees.


Not to be outdone by the Yankees’ offseason moves, the archrivals from Beantown went out and signed designated hitter J.D. Martinez in free agency. Martinez turned heads last year with an impressive performance in the second half of the season. In 62 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Martinez hit .302, with 29 home runs and 65 runs batted in. He also led the major leagues in slugging percentage at.690. Moving into hitter-friendly Fenway Park should only improve Martinez’s numbers. He will join a lineup that already includes perennial MVP candidate Mookie Betts, who is not only one of the best hitters in the American League, but one of the best defensive outfielders as well.

The Boston starting rotation will be anchored by 2017 strikeout king Chris Sale. He finished second in the American League Cy Young voting last year, as he struck out a remarkable 308 batters to go along with a 3.09 ERA. Both Rick Porcello and David Price have been great in the past, but struggled last year. Rebound years for both will be crucial to the success of the Red Sox.

There are a lot of expectations for the Red Sox this year. In each of the past two years, they won the American League East only to lose in the first round of the playoffs. The key for them will be to not just make the playoffs, but to advance past the first round and make a serious run at the World Series.


Toronto will feature a vastly different lineup this year. For the first time since 2008, outfielder Jose Bautista will not be on the team. After a disappointing season in 2017, the aging slugger went unsigned throughout the offseason. The Jays will try to plug the hole in the outfield with Curtis Granderson, who hit just .212 last year while splitting time between the New York Mets and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Despite the low batting average, he managed to slug 26 home runs between the two clubs. The Toronto infield also got a boost this offseason. The club acquired Aledmys Diaz and Yangervis Solarte from the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Diego Padres, respectively. They will fill in for veteran shortstop Troy Tulowitzski, who will begin the season on the disabled list and has a history of injuries.

A lot of Toronto’s success this year will depend on Josh Donaldson. The 2015 AL MVP took a step backwards last year, playing just 113 games while experiencing declines in his on-base percentage and batting average. The 32-year-old third baseman was a major part of the Jays’ success in 2015 and 2016, when they made the ALCS back-to-back years. If they want to contend, a rebound season from him is pivotal.

The pitching staff has also struggled with injuries. Staff ace Marcus Stroman battled shoulder inflammation throughout the spring, but will make his first start later in the week. Last year, he finished in eighth place in the Cy Young Award voting. Toronto hopes he can rebound from injury and continue his brilliance from last year. J.A. Happ will make the start on opening day instead. Two years ago, he won twenty games and finished in sixth in the Cy Young balloting. Last season, he won just ten games, while also seeing an increase in earned run average and a drop in strikeouts.

While there is talent on the Toronto roster, a lot of things must go well for them to get to the postseason. A healthy roster will be crucial.


The offseason for the Rays was a controversial one. They traded away third baseman Evan Longoria, considered the best player in team history, to the San Francisco Giants, and dumped pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Minnesota Twins. Outfielder Corey Dickerson, one of the team’s best hitters last year, was designated for assignment, and subsequently dealt to the Pittsburgh Pirates. It is safe to say the Rays took a step backward for 2018.

The best player on the team remains outfielder Kevin Kiermaier. In fact, out of Tampa Bay’s top six players in 2017 in terms of Wins Above Replacement (WAR), he is the only one still on the team in 2018. Last year, he played just 98 games due to injury, but he has shown himself to be competent with both the bat and the glove when playing full-time. In 2015 and 2016, he won the Gold Glove as one of the best outfielders in the American League.

Tampa Bay will test an interesting experiment with their pitching rotation this year. Rather than having five starters, the team will carry only four, with various relievers filling in every fifth day. This will place more pressure on their starting pitchers, including Chris Archer, Blake Snell, and Nathan Eovaldi, to pitch well during their turns in the rotation, to avoid putting too much of a workload on the relievers. If this backfires, the fallout could be devastating for the Rays.


After contending for most of 2017, the Orioles fell apart in September, going just 7-21 in the month. This led to a disappointing 75-87 record, which landed them in last place in the division. The 2018 season could end up being a crossroads of sorts, with superstar shortstop Manny Machado, outfielder Adam Jones, and reliever Zach Britton all eligible for free agency after the season. If the team gets off to a rocky start, all these players could be traded by the July 31 trade deadline, emphatically announcing the end of an era in Baltimore.

Machado will be a key part of the Orioles’ success this year. He struggled last year, hitting .259 with an on-base percentage of just .310. After finishing in the top five in MVP voting in 2015 and 2016, Machado did not receive a single MVP vote in 2017. Tim Beckham, who hit very well in fifty games for the Orioles last year, will trade defensive positions with Machado. A full season of Beckham, who hit .306 and slugged .523 for Baltimore in 2017, could be very important to the Orioles’ chances.

Second baseman Jonathan Schoop had his breakout season last year. He represented the Orioles at the All-Star game, and he hit a solid .293 while finishing in the top ten in runs batted in and total bases. The 26-year-old still has plenty of time to improve, and figures to be one of the biggest parts of the Orioles’ season.

The Orioles shored up their pitching staff as well, recently signing free agent Alex Cobb. Cobb had a strong year for the Rays last year, winning 12 games with an earned run average of 3.66. Entering his age-30 season, he figures to be the ace of the rotation. He will begin the season in the minor leagues, and he will make his debut for Baltimore in mid-April.


*Photo courtesy of besibolinloa via*

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