Opening Night this year features one of the biggest rivalries in sports and gives fans a jump start on this season’s Yankees – Red Sox feud. Who wins the war and more importantly, who wins the division?
1. New York Yankees
They were the only team in all of baseball to win more than 100 games last season and this offseason they only made themselves stronger. Adding Curtis Granderson gives them a gold-glove center fielder and more depth to their line up. Robinson Cano will be moved into the 5th spot in the line up so his production will only increase and don’t forget that Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter still wear the pinstripes. Pitching is another strength of the Bronx Bombers. Andy Pettitte, C.C. Sabbathia and A.J. Burnett are solid starters and they have one of the deepest bullpens in baseball. Joba Chamberlain can provide both short relief or be the guy to mop up a bad starting outing and at the back end of that bullpen, Mariano Rivera. This team will be close to 100 wins again this year and will win the division.
2. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had a good offseason and look to make a run at the division title. In my opinion the biggest move they made was signing Adrian Beltre. Sox fans can admit that David Ortiz is in decline and they can’t afford to give him the time they did last season. Adding Beltre will allow them to move Youkilis to first and use Ortiz strictly as a DH. That alone gives them much more flexibility and improves their offense. They got stronger on the pitching side as well. John Lackey comes to beantown and will bring more depth to a rotation that already has talent in Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. The bullpen is my only real concern. They have a great closer in Johnathon Papelbon but the only other name I really remember in their pen is Manny Delcarmen and lets just say he isn’t who I’d want coming into a tight game. I think they will win 90+ games and should win the wild card this year.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have plenty of talent and are still a team to keep an eye on in this division. With young starts Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena this team has the fire power to keep them in contention all year long. The big question is can they pitch their way into contention? David Price is a young but talented lefty and Matt Garza is also a solid #2 for the rotation. James Shields also brings depth to the rotation and should be the “ace” for the Rays. The bullpen is what really concerns me. Last year it was a weak spot and it doesn’t seem to be improved at all. I think the Rays will be interesting to watch but I don’t think they can compete for the division. They could have an outside chance at the wild card if they can stay healthy but this could be the last year we talk about the Rays as a few players are nearing the end of their contracts.
4. Baltimore Orioles
This team might not look like a lot on paper but they are still very young. Adam Jones is a stud. He will be one of the top players in the game when he is fully developed. Brian Roberts is a gold glove 2nd basemen and they still have Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada. Pitching isn’t that deep for the Orioles though. Kevin Milwood will lead their staff. Right now I see them finishing 4th but not overall not that many games higher than the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays have a few pieces to the puzzle but honestly they are going to be a very weak team. I don’t think they will be as bad as a few National League teams but they won’t finish above .500. Vernon Wells, Adam Lind and company should settle in now because these it will be along summer before this blue birds can fly south for the winter.