A look ahead at the American League East division in 2012:
There's not much new in the AL East, except that the expanded wild card could open the door for more than half of the division to make the playoffs. The Yankees should be strong with a much deeper rotation, the Red Sox enter a new era but still have plenty of talent, the Rays will try to overachieve again, the Blue Jays are on the precipice of contention, and the Orioles, should be, well, the Orioles. They did win a meaningful game to end last season, beating the Red Sox in the finale to help put Tampa Bay in the playoffs.
Top 3 Impact Newcomers
- Michael Pineda, Yankees: The 6-foot-7 Pineda teams up with the 6-8 CC Sabathia at the literal top of the New York rotation. And like Sabathia was at age 23, there's a very high ceiling for Pineda, who should have a lot more run support from his new team than he had in Seattle.
- Matt Moore, Rays: We got a glimpse of this promising lefty in the playoffs last season, and he could be a special part of a really good starting rotation in Tampa Bay, one with the potential to be among the best in the game. That should keep Tampa Bay in contention all year.
- Andrew Bailey, Red Sox: Jonathan Papelbon is gone, and into the fire goes Andrew Bailey. Bailey was an All-Star in perhaps the ultimate under-the-radar location: Oakland. He can't hide in Boston. Can he as effective as he was for the A's in 2010.
Top 3 Story Lines
- Deeper Yankees: GM Brian Cashman addressed the starting rotation in a big way, trading big-time prospect Jesus Montero to Seattle for Pineda and picking up Hiroki Kuroda in free agency. Add the comeback of Andy Pettitte and manager Joe Girardi suddenly has the deepest rotation in baseball, a year after having one of the most shallow. The Yankees' lineup might be aging quickly, but this could be some kind of last hurrah.
- Valentine's day: With Bobby Valentine in charge, it should give the Red Sox a jolt. But Boston never seems to stay healthy these days, and they need bounce-back seasons from quite a few players (Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, etc.)
- Blue Jays ready for a move: Perhaps no team benefits more from the expanded wild card than Toronto, which finished a not-so-distant fourth the last two seasons. They've got Jose Bautista anchoring a pretty good lineup (the division's third-best) and a young rotation that's maturing.
- Blue Jays: SS Yunel Escobar, LHP Eric Thames, RF Jose Bautista, 1B Adam Lind, DH Edwin Encarnacion, 3B Brett Lawrie, 2B Kelly Johnson, C J.P. Arencibia, CF Colby Rasmus
- Orioles: SS J.J. Hardy, RF Nick Markakis, CF Adam Jones, C Matt Wieters, 3B Mark Reynolds, DH Wilson Betemit, LF Nolan Reimold, 1B Chris Davis, 2B Robert Andino
- Rays: LF Desmond Jennings, 2B Ben Zobrist, 3B Evan Longoria, 1B Carlos Pena, CF B.J. Upton, DH Luke Scott, RF Matt Joyce, SS Sean Rodriguez, C Jose Molina
- Red Sox: CF Jacoby Ellsbury, 2B Dustin Pedroia, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 3B Kevin Youkilis, DH David Ortiz, LF Carl Crawford, RF Cody Ross, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Mike Aviles
- Yankees: SS Derek Jeter, CF Curtis Granderson, 2B Robinson Cano, 3B Alex Rodriguez, 1B Mark Teixeira, RF Nick Swisher, DH Raul Ibanez, C Russell Martin, LF Brett Gardner
- Blue Jays: LHP Ricky Romero, RHP, Brandon Morrow, LHP Brett Cecil, RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Dustin McGowan
- Orioles: RHP Jake Arrieta, LHP Wei-Yun Chen, RHP Tommy Hunter, RHP Jason Hammel, RHP Brian Matusz
- Rays: RHP James Shields, LHP David Price, RHP Jeremy Hellickson, RHP Wade Davis, LHP Matt Moore
- Red Sox: LHP Jon Lester, RHP Josh Beckett, RHP Clay Buchholz, RHP Daniel Bard, LHP Felix Dubront
- Yankees: LHP CC Sabathia, RHP Michael Pineda, RHP Hiroki Kuroda, RHP Ivan Nova, LHP Andy Pettitte (after May 1)
Predicted order of finish
1. New York Yankees (99-63); 2. Tampa Bay Rays (92-70, wild card); 3. Boston Red Sox (89-73); 4. Toronto Blue Jays (87-75); 5. Baltimore Orioles (71-91)