2017 Real Deal Moneyball Preview & Predictions: American League East
Ah, Opening Week of Baseball! This is arguably my favorite time of year. This marks the true start of Spring and the realization of our last four months of drafting, trading and overbidding for free agents. I’m going to attempt to provide some interesting reading this season as long as my time permits. At least to start the season, I wanted to take a few weeks to preview the season and make some predictions. So during the month of April, I will be breaking down one division at a time and offering some predictions for the season. Should this have been done in the off-season? Probably, but I was too damn busy and now that the season has started, I figured I’d give us some things to argue about. I won’t be using early season results to impact my previews, but past season stats and off-season trends to hopefully spark some lively debate on the chat boards and perhaps generate a trading frenzy.
Best of the American League East
Best Lineup – Boston Red Sox
This was a tough call. It was difficult not to put a lineup with Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Bats, Josh Donaldson and Tulo as the best in the division. TOR won over 100 games last season and their offense had much to do with that. I give the nod to BOS because their lineup is
longer, overall younger and deeper with productive reserves.
There is not much production expected from the catching position, but the infield can hang with anyone. At 1B, Hanley Ramirez had a resurgence last season and reached the 30 HR, 100 RBI plateau after two tough seasons. At age 33, he won’t be running like he did for the Marlins, but he can still hit and now a full time DH in real life, he should rake again this year. 2B is a solid Logan Forsythe who should see a boost hitting in that Dodgers lineup IRL compared to Tampa. At 3B is Eduardo Nunez who broke out as a full time player after being cast off by the Yankees a few years back. Now and All-star caliber player that can hit and could pitch in on the wSB category. Finally at SS is young stud Xander Bogaerts. The 24-year-old will contribute in all offensive categories except ISO. Infield depth include Mark Reynolds, Jimmy Paredes, Justin Smoak, Scooter Gennett and Luis Valbuena. All these guys can fill in for short injury stints, but will be exposed in some categories if active every day.
Starting outfield features two of the best young players in ALL of baseball. Mookie Betts should be an MVP candidate and Andrew Benintendi likely wins the AL Rookie of the Year. Both should be Sabremetric monsters. Betts had an incredible 4.7 RC27 with a K/9 of only .11. Benintendi has all the tools to contribute in every category as well. Mark Trumbo should provide power production and was a better Moneyball performer than I expected. He could meet or exceed .350 wOBP, .850 OPS, .250 ISO, and 3.50 RC27. That’s pretty damn productive. Rounding out the OF corp are usually part-timers Matt Joyce and Jarrod Dyson. Both these guys are expected to see higher At Bats that usual but will still sit somewhat regularly against southpaws.
It is important to note that BOS also has uber prospect Yoan Moncada and Top 20 spec, Bradley Zimmer waiting in the wings. Both should be in the Majors by the All-Star break.
The scariest thing about this lineup, is that other than old guys HanRam and Trumbo, all the rest of their sluggers make under $2M and under club control for several years.
Best Rotation – Toronto Blue Jays
The defending AL East Champs weren’t just carried by offense, they had a decent rotation for this league. Looking at the teams in this division, they pretty much all have strong #1 and # 2
starters and most have a decent #3. After that the SP depth dries up with the exception of two teams. I nearly but the NYY here but there are way too many question marks regarding health and productivity to give them the nod. Toronto actually has a legitimate five man rotation which is quite feat in a league this deep.
- Marcus Stroman
- Aaron Sanchez
- R.A. Dickey
- Ivan Nova
- Brandon McCarthy
McCarthy is always an injury risk but the other four should be able to go 175+ innings and give some consistency to the rotation. There isn’t any SP depth on this team and there isn’t any prospects close to the Majors on his Farm. Perhaps the TOR owner will flip some of his highly regarded hitting prospects to sure give depth to the best starting five in the division.
Best Bullpen – Boston Red Sox
We head back to Fenway for the AL East top ‘pen. It is built in the image of a true MLB ‘pen and will be the strength of the best pitching staff this season.
- CL – Seung Hwa Oh
- 8th – Koji Uehara
- 7th – Hector Neris
- LHS – Brett Cecil
- MID – *Carson Smith
- MID – Antonio Bastardo
- MID – Heath Hembree
- LR – Bryan Mitchell
In a league were meeting the five minimum RP requirement is a struggle for some owners, BOS breaks out a bullpen staff with eight productive pitchers. Carson Smith is projected to return in June and will solidify and already deep bullpen that could feature 5-6 guys with 10+ K/9.
Best Farm System – New York Yankees
TOR has definitely build up the farm on the offensive side but most of their top prospects are far away from impact in the Majors. NYY on the other hand, was three rookies on their 25 Man roster now (Swanson, Judge, Montas) with another handful of the fifteen Top 100 prospects in AA or higher. You could list an entire lineup and rotation with the top prospects in this organization.
- C – Tom Murphy, Zack Collins
- 1B – Chris Shaw, Rowdy Tellez
- 2B – Jorge Mateo
- SS – Dansby Swanson, Gleyber Torres
- 3B – Jeimer Candelario
- OF – Aaron Judge, Blake Rutherford, Kyle Lewis
- SP – Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes, Triston McKenzie, Justus Sheffield, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka
Final Standing Predictions
- *Toronto Blue Jays 90 – 48
- New York Yankees 78 – 60
- Tampa Bay Rays 73 – 65
- Boston Red Sox 70 – 68
- Baltimore Orioles 66 – 72
I peg TOR to repeat easily with approximately the same winning percentage as last year. The projected records are based on the new 138 game schedule. They will likely be the only team to represent the AL East despite an overall strong division. NYY takes a huge stride as their moves throughout last season already begin paying off with a jump from last to 2nd. They have enough offense to be competitive in hitting categories and they could have seven SP if everything breaks right during the season which keeps them competitive in pitching categories. It likely won’t be enough to earn a playoff spot, but gets them close. TB has another decent season, but they don’t have enough pitching or hitting depth this season. If DeLeon and Honeywell reach the Majors and stick, that could give them a boost. BOS has the best lineup AND the best bullpen so why are the just over .500? They likely will be penalized every week for failing to reach pitching GS minimums, otherwise they would contend for the devision with TOR. There are a few nice pieces in BAL, but the core hitters outside of Machado are getting older and the rotation is short. They can compete with many teams but will split too many weeks to make up for the weeks they get clobbered by the top teams in the league.
Should be a fun year in this division where the 2nd thru 5th teams cannibalize one another to ensure only the top team makes the post-season. Hopefully there is significant wheeling and dealing to totally screw up these predictions. Who really cares what I think…let’s hear your thoughts on the Moneyball AL East this season!!!