Every team, no matter what sport, has its strengths and weaknesses, what are biggest ones for every AL East team going into 2014?
After I note every team's strengths or weaknesses, I will say if they're contender (legit chance at winning division and possibly making a run in the playoffs), a pretender (seems poised for a season of dreams but underlying reasons will sneak up to ruin it), and watchers (teams we can already tell will be watching the playoffs come October).
Boston Red Sox:
Strength: Experience, not old and injury prone but this team knows it can win a World Series, the three players most responsible for the 2014 title are still on this team. Big Papi, Jon Lester, and Koji Uehara will be a rock I think for this team, they just have to hope Middlebrooks can carry on with his second half performance from last year and that Bogaerts turns into everything they've been dreaming of.
Weakness: Consistency, lots of players on this team seem to always be hot or cold, nothing in between. Pierzynski, Middlebrooks are the two streakiest though. At the start of last year Middlebrooks started off ice cold. He better hope he starts off hot this season to inspire some confidence, along with AJ who can seem to go on marathons of strikeouts at a time. The Red Sox will just have to hope their cold streaks just don't all hit at the same time.
I say they're a CONTENDER
New York Yankees:
Strength: Lineup, their lineup is just stacked, when the worst hitter in your lineup is still capable of either 30 bases or 15-20 HR's then you're set. The two I say are the worst are Gardner and Roberts, and even they like I said can steal 30 bases (Gardner) or hit 15-20 HR's (Roberts). Now Jeter may not seem better than them at this point of his career, but I know that nobody wants Jeter up in the clutch if they had a choice on the matter. This team just has to hope the individual parts can turn into a team effort considering that only half of this lineup played together last season, and even that was minimal with Soriano coming late, and Jeter and Teixeira always being hurt. Those three played a combined 90 games for the Yankees last season. The talent is here though. As long as chemistry doesn't get in the way this lineup will do lots of damage.
Weakness: Injury prone, like REALLY injury prone. Let's go position by position. Starting pitching is always a worry whether players have history or not. Now this isn't the most injury prone unit of the team but that could change. The Yankees will have to hope it doesn't. The bullpen itself could be considered a weakness even if they don't get injured. So they might be in a hole either way there. Now the lineup is where it gets sketchy. Their first baseman Mr. Teixeira has been very injury prone at this point in his career. If he goes down they have no good depth there. Second baseman Brian Roberts probably can't remember the last time he played over 100 games in a season. if he goes down, Kelly Johnson will likely slide from third to there and Eduardo Nunez will take over at third. Looking ugly already. It gets worse. Now at shortstop they have Derek Jeter who knows he's at the end of the road because he's already declared he's going to retire at the end of this season. So I'm sure the Yankees are hoping they can squeeze every bit of that 162 out of him. Low possibillity of that happening after his laundry list of injuries lately. In the outfield you have Jacoby Ellsbury, who can either go for the 30-30 mark or may not even play 100 games. He can really make or break a lineup if they end up depending on him too much after others go down. The Yankees are walking a path that could lead to a title if everything goes right or a sub.500 season if too many injuries pile up with little to no depth to support the healthy starters left.
I say they're a PRETENDER
Tampa Bay Rays:
Strength: Starting pitching will be the rock of this team. As long as this team is contending come trade deadline time, then the front office will hold on to David Price. Even if they traded him for prospects though, the rest of this rotation would still be solid. The king's ransom they would get for Price would most likely be worth it if even if they're in contention at that point in the season. Price, Cobb, Moore, and Archer are all great. If Jeremy Hellickson comes along they will most likely be solid at all 5 spots in the rotation barring a setback from one of the other 4.
Weakness: Catcher, shortstop, and left field. These three positions don't offer much and that is a whole third of the lineup. Jose Molina and Ryan Hanigan is the best option at catcher...not good. Yunel Escobar and Hak-Ju Lee are the best options at shortstop...not good. Considering that Wil Myers and Desmond Jennings are their only good outfielders and Matt Joyce is most likely going to DH, that leaves David DeJesus, Sean Rodriguez, or Brandon Guyer as the best options at LF. None of those three have a batting average over .251...not good. Somebody will have to step up as well as hope that James Loney doesn't revert to his late Dodger form again at first base.
I say they're a PRETENDER
Toronto Blue Jays:
Strength: Bullpen, their closer Casey Janssen remains one of the most underrated closers in baseball. They also have Sergio Santos, one of the most talented relievers in the game. Santos finished 2013 with a 1.75 ERA. Out of the 6 relievers projected on their current depth chart on ESPN, the highest ERA is 3.22. If that is the weakest link then holding on to a lead late in games should be a non-issue most of the time this year.
Weakness: Starting pitching is their glaring weakness outside of catcher and second base (Dioner Navarro and Maicer Izturis....not good). AS of right now their starting rotation is most likely this (parentheses will be their ERA in 2013); R.A. Dickey (4.21), Brandon Morrow (5.63), Mark Buehrle (4.15), Esmil Rogers (4.77), and J.A. Happ (4.56). When your best starter's ERA is 4.15 there is a huge issue. Their bullpen should be able to hold down leads, problem will be can the starters hold them through 5 or 6 innings, or will they ever give the lineup a chance to take a lead. Each and every starter will need to improve to give this club a fighting chance in the AL East with the quality of lineups in this division.
I say they're a WATCHER.
Strength: Their corner infielders are as good of a duo as you'll find in the game. Manny Machado is a doubles machine as well as a lock down defender at third base for the Orioles. At first base they have the 2013 home run king in Chris Davis. These two are the foundation and will have to stay healthy and consistent for this team to have a fighting chance.
Weakness: Starting pitching is definitely their main weakness as they currently only have 2 out 5 projected starters who had an ERA under 5 in 2013. Now maybe Kevin Gausman can improve as well as Chen, but I could also see Chris Tillman and Miguel Gonzalez taking a step back in performance enough to negate it. This just isn't an exciting group when you look at em on paper, and I don't see em being any better on the diamond.