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Behind the Backstop: 2014 Predictions - AL East

Tory Hernandez

Tory Hernandez

Tory's experience in the baseball industry includes a four-year stint as the Manager of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where his responsibilities were comprised of contract negotiation, advance scouting, and the development and implementation of the organization's statistical research methods and use of analytics. Most recently, Tory served as the Director of Pro Scouting & Recruiting for Boras Corporation.

The 2014 Major League season is officially upon us, and with that I am offering my predictions for the 2014 season. This is a seven part series focusing on each division and culminating in the final part of the series that will discuss the postseason and award winners.

Part 1 in our series begins with the American League East.

1. Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox didn't do much this offseason except that they stuck to their long-term vision of not signing free agents to mega contracts or giving up draft picks. Last year was a perfect storm of events and the Sox need that same sort of trend this year if they are going to repeat as World Series champs. Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew are gone, but the Sox have capable replacements in Xander Bogaerts and the possible emergence of Grady Sizemore. Their starting staff and bullpen is much the same with a solid addition in Edward Mujica and a full year from Jake Peavy. If there is one Achilles heel it is the starting staff. They have plenty of depth in the minor leagues and they should be expected to play a role this year. Peavy and Clay Buchholz shouldn't expected to post 34 starts and their depth will be necessary to carry some of that lost load.

Biggest Additions: A.J. Pierzynski, Edward Mujica, Grady Sizemore
Biggest Subtractions: Stephen Drew, Jacoby Ellsbury

Most Important Player: Dustin Pedroia
Most Important Pitcher: Jon Lester
Most Important Reliever: Koji Uehara
Closer in Waiting: Junichi Tazawa
Best Young Player: Xander Bogaerts
Mid-Season Impact Callup: Matt Barnes
Biggest Mid-Season Need: Starting Pitching Depth
Injury Watch: Grady Sizemore, Shane Victorino

2. New York Yankees

The Empire is back and shades of the old Boss George Steinbrenner seemed to be lurking from above Yankee Stadium, maneuvering his infamous power strokes of years past. The Yankees wanted to be fiscally responsible and stay below the luxury tax this year. Whereas the Red Sox have a great farm system that allowed them to avoid big expenditures, the Yankees were forced to spend with not a lot of impact help on the way. So, they blew well past the luxury tax, but in doing so they put together a championship caliber club. Their starting rotation is very good and if CC Sabathia is somewhere between his prime and what he was last year, they are going to be real tough to beat. Michael Pineda as a healthy fifth starter could pay huge dividends and provide the Yanks with one of the best rotations in baseball. Mariano Rivera is gone but David Robertson should fill the role very nicely. The bullpen is the biggest concern and I would suspect that general manager Brian Cashman will be constantly working on that area all summer. The offense is not as fierce as we're used to seeing, but it's much better than it was a year ago. A healthy Mark Teixeira could make all the difference.

Biggest Additions: Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran, Masahiro Tanaka
Biggest Subtractions: Robinson Cano, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera

Most Important Player: Jacoby Ellsbury
Most Important Pitcher: CC Sabathia
Most Important Reliever: David Robertson
Closer in Waiting: Shawn Kelley
Best Young Player: Michael Pineda
Mid-Season Impact Callup: Slade Heathcott
Biggest Mid-Season Need: Bullpen
Injury Watch: Mark Teixeira

3. Tampa Bay Rays

As per the norm, the Rays kept quiet this offseason and made subtle moves to keep them in contention. They focused on defense, depth, and versatility. Their biggest move was the decision to keep David Price. Ultimately, if they are to win a World Series, Price will be needed to shut down the premium offenses in October. There aren't any major holes as the starting staff is stifling, the bullpen always finds a way to be good, and the offense should be good enough. A full season of Wil Myers could prove huge for this club and could finally be that second power piece to pair with Evan Longoria. If there is one major area of concern it's probably their bullpen depth. Grant Balfour was a nice addition but he's showing signs of decline. Expect the Rays to be in it all summer and in competition for that second Wild Card spot.

Biggest Additions: Ryan Hanigan, Grant Balfour
Biggest Subtractions: Fernando Rodney, Kelly Johnson, Roberto Hernandez

Most Important Player: Wil Myers
Most Important Pitcher: David Price
Most Important Reliever: Grant Balfour
Closer in Waiting: Brad Boxberger
Best Young Player: Wil Myers
Mid-Season Impact Callup: Hak-ju Lee
Biggest Mid-Season Need: Bullpen Depth
Injury Watch: Jeremy Hellickson

4. Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays did all of their heavy lifting in the 2012-2013 offseason and will rely on that source of procurement to contend in 2014. They will be better, but still fall short of a playoff berth. They just don't have the frontline pitching to contend. Their bullpen could be a worry if Casey Janssen doesn't perform as the closer as they lack premium depth. Offensively, if they stay healthy and Jose Reyes gets a full season in, they will score a lot of runs.

Biggest Additions: Dioner Navarro
Biggest Subtractions: Rajai Davis, Darren Oliver, Josh Johnson

Most Important Player: Jose Reyes
Most Important Pitcher: R.A. Dickey
Most Important Reliever: Casey Janssen
Closer in Waiting: Sergio Santos
Mid-Season Impact Callup: Marcus Stroman
Biggest Mid-Season Need: Impact, front line starter
Injury Watch: Jose Reyes & Casey Janssen

5. Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles continue to surprise me, but I think this year the division is so tough, that they are destined for a fifth place finish. I wouldn't be surprised if every team in the AL East finishes with 85 wins or more. The O's just don't have the impact starters to front a rotation and compete with the beasts in the east. The offense should score a lot of runs again but I worry about the bullpen. Tommy Hunter has great stuff, but lefties hit him well and their usual strong bullpen could be a huge issue for them in 2014.

Biggest Additions: Nelson Cruz, David Lough, Ubaldo Jimenez, Ryan Webb
Biggest Subtractions: Nate McLouth, Brian Roberts, Jim Johnson, Scott Feldman

Most Important Player: Adam Jones
Most Important Pitcher: Miguel Gonzalez
Most Important Reliever: Darren O'Day
Closer in Waiting: Tommy Hunter
Mid-Season Impact Callup: Dylan Bundy
Biggest Mid-Season Need: Closer
Injury Watch: Manny Machado