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JetNation 2006 AL East Preview

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In the coming days we will break down each division in MLB.  Provided to you will be the projected lineup and starting rotation, along with team notes and the project record this season.

 In today’s installment JetNation.com’s very own Mavrik breaks down the AL East.

April is upon us and that means many things to many people in anticipation of baseball season. The sound of the crack of the bat, the zip of a fastball, and of course, many attempts to hide the syringe. Yes, baseball is here, and with it new expectations for everyone and their favorite teams. This season should no doubt be an exciting one for many reasons. Last season saw the Chicago White Sox pull off an improbably run to a World Series championship. Chicago narrowly edged out Cleveland for the AL Central title before pulling it into high gear and literally dominating the playoff circuit, going 11-1 en route to their first in nearly 80 years The White Sox will no doubt see fierce competition to reclaim their spot of AL supremacy from both the rest of the league and their own division as well.

AL EAST
New York Yankees
(95-67, Division Championship, Lost to ANA in ALDS)
New York Projected Lineup:
1.Johnny Damon
2.Derek Jeter
3.Alex Rodriguez
4.Jason Giambi
5.Gary Sheffield
6. Hideki Matsui
7.Jorge Posada
8.Bernie Williams
9.Robinson Cano
Projected Rotation: Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright
The Yankees come into 2006 with a lineup that has the potential to put up a TON of runs this season. The Yankees acquired star centerfielder Johnny Damon to lead off an already potent lineup that at least from 1-6 will be punishing to opposing pitching. Jorge Posada still has another year of two of relatively good production left in him, but the Yankees will be hard-pressed to see any positive offensive production from Bernie Williams in the DH spot. The Yankees improved the bullpen this off season with the acquisition of flame throwing righty Kyle Farnsworth, who will setup 8th innings for always reliable closer Mariano Rivera and work with Tanyon Sturtze and Aaron Small in the pen. The starting rotation will be the Yankees major concern. Randy Johnson will be 42 this season and Mike Mussina isn’t getting any younger as well. The Yanks also have major injury concerns in Carl Pavano. Health and age will be a concern throughout the season and look for the Yankees to try and add a starting pitcher by the deadline, as well as dump someone like Pavano.

The Yanks lineup will get them to the playoffs but the rotation is too questionable to get them where Steinbrenner wants them, a World Series Championship.
Prediction: 93-69 (1st)Toronto Blue Jays (80-82, 3rd in AL EAST, no playoffs)
Projected Lineup
1. SS Russ Adams
2. RF Frank Catalanatto
3. CF Vernon Wells
4. 3B Troy Glaus
5. 1B Lyle Overbay
6. DH Shea Hillenbrand
7. C Bengie Molina
8. RF Eric Hinske
9. 2B Aaron Hill
Projected Rotation: Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Gustavo Chacin, Josh Towers, Ted Lilly

The Blue Jays finally bought into the notion that might makes right in the AL East. After being relatively small spenders for the past several seasons, the Blue Jays opened up the checkbooks. They inked former Marlin pitcher AJ Burnett and new closer B.J Ryan to contracts combining nearly $102 million. Late in the off season, they also signed former Anaheim catcher Bengie Molina to a 5 million dollar contract and made trades that brought Troy Glaus and Lyle Overbay to the team. The Jays lineup should be very productive. Expect a big season out of CF Vernon Wells, who will no doubt benefit from having Glaus behind him in the lineup. The starting rotation will pitch well, but I am one of the few that doesn’t buy into the hype of AJ Burnett, at least from a money standpoint. Burnett has averaged 7.94 K/9 innings and has a career 3.73 ERA, but has never won more than 12 games in a season and career wise is 49-50. Burnett has also battled injuries often throughout his career (including Tommy John surgery) which could be a concern this season. BJ Ryan should pitch well in the closer role. The Jays will be better this year, but not good enough to win the division.
Prediction: 86-76 (tied 2nd place)

Boston Red Sox (95-67 2nd in AL East, swept by CWS in ALDS)
Projected Lineup
1.CF Coco Crisp
2. 2B Mark Loretta
3. DH David Ortiz
4. LF Manny Ramirez
5. RF Trot Nixon
6. C Jason Varitek
7 3B Mike Lowell
8. 1B Kevin Youkilis
9. SS Alex Gonzalez
Projected Rotation: Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement, David Wells
It was an interesting off season to say the least. Boston lost perhaps their most popular player in years in Johnny Damon, who left for free agency and signed with the Yankees. The Sox replaced Damon by trading briefly acquired 3B prospect Andy Marte to the Indians for CF Coco Crisp. Crisp has a lot of upside, including great speed, and range. He batted .300 last year with 15 HRs and 69 RBIs and could do a nice job of replacing Damon in center. The rest of the lineup will remain consistent throughout. The Sox are hoping Mike Lowell can rebound to his usual form after his horrible year last year which saw him bat .236 with only 8 HRs and 58 RBIs. If they can find more production from Lowell, which is reasonable, The Sox could possibly lead the league in runs scored for the fourth year in a row. The Sox bullpen should continue to give the Sox some problems in games, but their starting rotation is arguably the biggest question mark of all. Almost everyone in the projected rotation has faced injury problems in the last few years. The Sox hope newly acquired pitcher Josh Beckett can be a strong #2 starter, but his ongoing blister problems could be an issue again later in the season. Schilling, Wakefield, and Wells are all either 40 or pushing it and could see a production drop off this year. The Sox will be competitive, but I don’t see them winning the division, or the wild card this year.
Prediction: 86-76(tied 2nd place)

Tampa Bay Devil Rays (67-95, 5th in AL East, no playoffs)
Projected Lineup:
1. SS Julio
2. LF Carl Crawford
3. 2B Jorge Cantu
4. 3B Aubrey Huff
5. DH Jonny Gomes
6. CF Rocco Baldelli
7. 1B Travis Lee
8.C Toby Hall
9.Jody Gathright
Projected Rotation: Scott Kazmir, Seth McClung, Casey Fossum, Mark Hendrickson,Doug Waechter

Last season was another year, and another losing season for the Devil Rays. The Rays weren’t active in the free agent market this off season, and for a long time even considered changing their names and uniform colors. Not exactly the traits of a strong, competitive team. Luckily, there is hope for Devil Ray faithful (at least the few that exist) The Devil Rays farm system is soon to produce some top quality players, including ready-to-go prospect Delmon Young, brother of Detroit Tigers DH Dmitri Young. Young pretty much ran away with the triple crown at class A before getting promoted to AA last season. He’ll be in the regular lineup by midseason. The Rays also look to see bigger and better things from much heralded Ace Scott Kazmir, whose command has been erratic at times, but at other times shows some great stuff. It will be a few more years before the D-Rays become competitive, but rest assured there is hope.
Prediction: 69-93, (4th)

Baltimore Orioles (74-88, 4th in AL EAST, no playoffs)
Projected Lineup:
1. 2B Brian Roberts
2 3B Melvin Mora
3. SS Miguel Tejada
4. RF Jay Gibbons
5. 1B Javy Lopez
6.DH Kevin Millar
7. C Ramon Hernandez
8. LF Nick Markalis
9. CF Corey Patterson
Projected Rotation: Rodrigo Lopez,Erik Bedard, Kris Benson, Daniel Cabrera, Bruce Chen

The Orioles started out on an absolute tear last year, leading the AL East for much of the first couple months of the season, but played into everyone’s pre-conceived expectations and quickly sank. A 2005 roster that was thought to be loaded with offensive talent exploded in their faces. Rafael Palmeiro was caught red handed taking steroids and Sammy Sosa’s almost embarrassing display on the field helped turn the Orioles from contenders to bottom feeders by the All-Star break. The O’s dumped Palmeiro and Sosa and added a few bats in Millar, and Corey Patterson, but nothing big enough to get them in the hunt with Boston, Toronto, and New York. The addition of Kris Benson to the rotation shouldn’t help too much. Benson wasn’t great in NY, despite what his wife, I mean ex-wife would say he was. There will be promising talents Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard to watch for, who could continue to improve on last year’s surprise performances.
Prediction: 65-97 (5th)

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