2009 AL East Preview (Featuring Pete Abraham)
I am reporting from Ft. Myers and heading over to City of Palms Park this afternoon, so it only seems fitting that we would have a look at the AL East today. Last week we previewed the NL East.
Here’s the deal. For hitters we take PECOTA and the four projection systems on Fangraphs. Fangraphs, by the way, is awesome. They are doing terrific, differentiated, value-add work and if you are a regular reader of Baseball Prospectus and/or The Hardball Times, you should add Fangraphs to your favorites as well. Anyway, we average all five of these projection systems to give you a sense for how the number crunchers see the players performing this season.
Chipping in from Baseball Analysts today with commentary is Marc Hulet, contributor here and also at Fangraphs. We are also very thankful to have Pete Abraham, Yankees beat writer for the The Journal News.
AVG OBP SLG Navarro, D. .267 .334 .389 Varitek, J. .236 .328 .390 Posada, J. .273 .366 .448 Barajas, R. .243 .303 .392 Wieters, M. .298 .382 .499
Pete: I think Jorge Posada will bounce back this year offensively. Throwing was never his strength, so he just needs to be able to keep runners a little honest. I wonder how much we'll see of Matt Wieters. It doesn't make much sense for Baltimore to start his clock yet.
Sully: Wieters in the Minors would be an absolute mockery. After he wins the MVP this season, I fully expect him to fix Healthcare and restore economic prosperity in America.
AVG OBP SLG Pena, C. .254 .370 .500 Youkilis, K. .283 .377 .474 Teixeira, M. .290 .383 .525 Overbay, L. .265 .343 .419 Huff, A. .279 .340 .471
Pete: Mark Teixeira will start slow; he always seems to. But will be bounce back in New York? That'll be interesting to watch. I don't think Kevin Youkilis is as good as he was last year. Carlos Pena, either.
Marc: The addition of Teixeira to the AL East obviously has huge implications. It will be interesting to see if Youkilis can repeat his stellar 2008 season, or if he reverts to his still-productive-but-not-a-star former self. I have to disagree with Peter. Offensively, I think Pena will be OK; he's still in his prime and should drive in 100 again.
Sully: Tex is hands down the best in the division and I have to agree with Pete. Youk's slugging jump last year was a blip, and not a new established norm. He's a really nice player, but not a perennial MVP candidate type.
AVG OBP SLG Iwamura, A. .270 .346 .389 Pedroia, D. .307 .368 .456 Cano, R. .292 .331 .450 Hill, A. .277 .334 .408 Roberts, B. .282 .359 .424
Pete: I like Brian Roberts. Not sure I like him for four more years and $40 million. It's too bad Robinson Cano doesn't have the desire to be great that Dustin Pedroia does. The Yankees thought they did the right thing with his deal last year and then it blew up on them. He's a big project for Joe Girardi.
Marc: This position is definitely a strength in the division, with Pedroia, Roberts and Cano. If Aaron Hill is fully recovered from the concussion he suffered last season, you can add his name to that list too. Cano should definitely rebound; he's taken his lumps in the media and has something to prove.
Sully: That four year extension for Roberts was hard to figure for where Baltimore currently stands in the success cycle.
AVG OBP SLG Longoria, E. .273 .347 .499 Lowell, M. .275 .336 .444 Rodriguez, A. .291 .387 .548 Rolen, S. .263 .342 .434 Mora, M. .271 .337 .431
Pete: (ed note: submitted pre-injury) A-Rod loves the drama and will have a huge year. Of course he'll then hit .052 in the playoffs. If he starts slow, however, the fans could really get ugly. They're already mad about the price of tickets. I'll be curious to see how Mike Lowell takes Boston trying to get rid of him all winter.
Marc: The injury to A-Rod changes the dynamics of this position with vague reports on exactly when he'll be back. The Yankees definitely did not have a fallback plan for the position. I'm betting 2009 is the year Mora plays like he's 37 years old.
Sully: Lowell's a pro and will handle the situation accordingly. So long as his fielding does not drop off, he will be a very valuable player once again.
AVG OBP SLG Bartlett, J. .274 .332 .366 Lowrie, J. .265 .346 .410 Jeter, D. .299 .367 .419 McDonald, J. .231 .278 .312 Izturis, C. .259 .310 .325
Pete: It speaks poorly of the shortstops in this division that Derek Jeter is still the guy you want over any of the rest of them. It's amazing how the Red Sox can't find a decent answer there. I'd like to point out that I once selected John McDonald to an American Legion All-Star team in Connecticut and gave him a Norwich Bulletin t-shirt.
Marc: Cesar Izturis should impress defensively in Baltimore but his offense will be abysmal. If Jed Lowrie wrestles the full-time job away from Lugo in Boston than the club will likely be better off offensively, but I like Lowrie a lot as a super-sub. The position is extremely weak offensively in Toronto with McDonald and Marco Scutaro, who is going to start regressing soon at the age of 33. It's hard to believe Toronto used No. 1 draft picks on college shortstops in 2002 and 2003 and never did end up with a long-term solution at the position.
Sully: With defense factored, will Lowrie be better than Jeter this season?
AVG OBP SLG Crawford, C. .291 .334 .433 Bay, J. .272 .364 .487 Damon, J. .279 .352 .423 Lind, A. .281 .330 .458 Pie, F. .263 .317 .410
Pete: Johnny Damon is actually a pretty good defensive left field (well, not including throws). I think we're going to see some serious regression at the plate, however. His legs are not what they once were.
Marc: Generally speaking, I am really looking forward to watching the young outfield in Baltimore play, with Felix Pie, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis included. Pie was a steal from Chicago and, if motivated, could be just as good as the other two players. Toronto could have the AL Rookie of the Year with Snider in left, who will share the position (and DH) with Adam Lind, another good, young player.
Sully: Out of Jason Bay and Carl Crawford, I will be interested to see who ends up as the better player at the end of the season according to Fangraphs. Bay has the good stick but can't field, Crawford's offense leaves a bit to be desired but can track anything down in left.
AVG OBP SLG Upton, B. .279 .376 .432 Ellsbury, J. .293 .350 .415 Gardner, B. .260 .342 .359 Wells, V. .274 .329 .457 Jones, A. .274 .324 .420
Pete: Pecota has B.J. Upton not being so special. I can't argue against the math, but I do think what he did in the postseason could vault him forward. You could see him mature every day in October. If Brett Gardner can somehow get a .360 OBP, he'll change the way the Yankees look. But his swing might be too big for that.
Marc: I am a big Jacoby Ellsbury fan. He's going to really step up his game this season. The position in New York is thin... hmm, just like third base. There are a lot of cracks in the roster considering the payroll. Those pitchers better stay healthy. Count me as someone who thinks Upton is going to breakout in a big way this season.
Sully: We have consensus on Upton. I think he goes off in '09.
AVG OBP SLG Joyce, M. .247 .324 .448 Drew, J. .270 .381 .460 Nady, X. .278 .332 .462 Rios, A. .285 .338 .459 Markakis, N. .297 .378 .477
Pete: J.D. Drew showed up hurt, which saves time. I'm surprised Brian Cashman didn't trade Nick Swisher or Xavier Nady. That probably speaks to Hideki Matsui's knees. I'll trust Tampa that Matt Joyce will help them.
Marc: I am not sold on Joyce, and his injury definitely hurts his chances of making the Opening Day roster in Tampa. Can Alex Rios finally breakout offensively (and consistently)? Please?
Sully: I laughed when I saw Pete and Marc's comments because I can't figure out why you hand Joyce a starting gig on a championship aspirant club.
AVG OBP SLG Burrell, P. .245 .368 .464 Ortiz, D. .281 .387 .543 Matsui, H. .279 .358 .442 Snider, T. .262 .330 .462 Scott, L. .261 .343 .477
Pete: Tampa had a lot of good choices and went with Burrell. Bobby Abreu would have been a good fit. I think Hideki Matsui is close to finished. He can barely run. It's also hard to know what to make of David Ortiz given his health in recent years.
Marc: Heath is definitely the big area of concern with the big two: Ortiz and Matsui. Will Aubrey Huff's big season of a year ago continue? I doubt it. It will be interesting to see how Burrell does in the AL with Tampa.
Sully: Give me the under on Papi and the over on Luke Scott.
W-L K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Shields, J. 13-9 7.23 1.89 1.18 3.70 Kazmir, S. 10-8 9.75 3.86 1.30 3.68 Garza, M. 10-9 6.95 3.12 1.32 3.92 Price, D. 3-4 6.82 3.55 1.40 4.35 Sonnanstine, A. 11-9 6.31 1.94 1.26 4.07
W-L K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Beckett, J. 13-8 8.25 2.32 1.21 3.68 Matsuzaka, D. 12-7 8.35 3.96 1.33 3.75 Lester, J. 11-8 6.85 3.45 1.37 4.00 Wakefield, T. 9-8 5.70 3.23 1.35 4.32 Penny, B. 8-7 5.76 3.27 1.44 4.30
W-L K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Sabathia, C. 15-9 8.02 2.20 1.19 3.37 Burnett, A. 13-9 8.77 3.45 1.31 3.81 Wang, C. 11-6 4.63 2.79 1.37 3.96 Pettitte, A. 11-10 6.59 2.69 1.41 4.31 Chamberlain, J. 6-3 9.60 3.36 1.24 3.25
W-L K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Halladay, R. 15-12 6.54 1.76 1.17 3.37 Litsch, J. 10-10 5.40 2.36 1.29 4.07 Purcey, D. 6-7 7.27 3.63 1.40 4.52 Richmond, S. 5-6 6.43 2.89 1.39 4.57 Janssen, C. 3-3 5.82 2.59 1.31 3.85
W-L K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Guthrie, J. 9-9 5.98 2.97 1.33 4.09 Uehara, K. --------------- Waters, M. 6-8 5.51 4.17 1.55 5.12 Hill, R. 6-6 7.68 4.07 1.38 4.25 Liz, R. 6-7 7.34 5.05 1.58 5.30
Pete: The Yankees could be overwhelming and they have Phil Hughes in reserve. Boston took too many chances. Tampa was freakishly healthy last season.
Marc: New York is the beast in the starting pitching department, obviously. I can't see the A.J. Burnett deal working out in the end; he'll start strong and be dominant early, but the history of inconsistencies and injuries is sure to come back and bite. Boston's depth at starting pitcher is impressive.
Sully: Sort of like San Francisco's offense heading into last season, I am nothing short of astounded at how bad Baltimore's pitching looks. Of course San Fran wasn't the historically bad lineup I thought they would be so maybe there is hope for that O's staff.
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Percival, T. 7.42 4.06 1.29 3.94 Wheeler, D. 7.81 3.03 1.23 3.63 Balfour, G. 10.82 2.56 1.23 3.12
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Papelbon, J. 9.70 1.99 1.02 2.49 Okajima, H. 8.08 3.08 1.22 3.36 Masterson, J. 7.60 3.76 1.33 3.75
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Rivera, M. 8.33 1.71 1.04 2.67 Marte, D. 8.85 3.87 1.32 3.65 Bruney, B. 8.24 5.21 1.46 4.09
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Ryan, B. 9.09 3.85 1.27 3.45 Downs, S. 7.36 3.47 1.30 3.54 League, B. 6.33 3.48 1.39 4.02
K/9 BB/9 WHIP ERA Sherrill, G 9.17 4.45 1.35 3.76 Ray, C. 7.98 3.54 1.27 3.77 Johnson, J. 6.10 3.62 1.44 4.32
Marc: Mariano Rivera is a robot. I am convinced of that; he'll still be dominating the AL East in 15 years. Baltimore will be helped by getting Chris Ray back (Tommy John surgery). The closer role could be a weak spot in Tampa, as well as Toronto - if B.J. Ryan cannot regain some consistency.
Sully: Personally, I think Bruney's walk numbers will plague him. Justin Masterson will be one to watch this year.
Pete: The Yankees treat the bench like an ashtray in a $100,000 car. It's there but they really don't pay much attention to it.
Marc: New York's bench will be almost non-existent. The Rays club has the best depth on the bench, with the likes of Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar, Gabe Gross, etc. Toronto should have a lot of versatility. The Kevin Millar addition is growing on me, as long as it doesn't take at-bats away from Adam Lind and Travis Snider.
Who are the awards candidates from the AL East?
Marc: I like Snider as the AL RoY (followed by David Price). C.C. has to be given mention as a Cy Young candidate, as does Halladay - although he'll get forgotten about by a lot of people when Toronto has a terrible season. AL MVP sleeper: Nick Markakis.
Sully: Sabathia for the Cy, Teixeira for MVP, Price for ROY.
Any surprises this year?
Pete: I think the Blue Jays could lose 90 games They have a chance to be dreadful.
Marc: If the Yankees continue to have injury woes, the depth is not there to patch the holes. Even with the starting rotation, I can see them finishing third in the division... but more likely they'll be in second place.
Sully: I am with Pete. Toronto is going to be horrendous.
Sully: As I get ready to head over to the Red Sox-Marlins game, is it any surprise that I am with Marc here?
Special thanks to Pete for taking time out of his busy schedule. NL Central is up next week...