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2009 MLB Preview

AL East:

#1. Boston Red Sox
Projected Record: 96-66
Pitching:  Josh Beckett comes back fully healthy for now. Jon Lester should be a dynamic #2 starter. Daisuke Matsuzaka will add his normal 200+ nail biting innings. With newly added Brad Penny, veteran Tim Wakefield, youngster Justin Masterson, and former ace John Smoltz rounding out the group likely to see action in the rotation at different times this year. The bullpen is anchored by the dominant closer Jonathan Papelbon. Boston management made a concerted effort to upgrade the bullpen depth and succeeded. Added to Pap is Hideki Okajima, former closer Takashi Saito, Justin Masterson, Ramon Ramirez, and Manny Delcarmen. AL EAST Rank: #1

Offense: The once vaunted Red Sox offense is still good, but with question marks. Proven run producers Kevin Youkilis, Jason Bay, JD Drew, Dustin Pedroia, and David Ortiz lead the Sox into 2009. If the Sox can stay healthy and players like Jed Lowrie and Jacoby Ellsbury progress the offense can become great again.
AL EAST Rank: #1

Key Acquisition: Brad Penny/SP
Key Loss: N/A
Breakout Player: Jacoby Ellsbury/OF
Farm System Rank: #4
Top Prospects: Lars Anderson(1B), Daniel Bard(RHP), Michael Bowden(RHP)

#2. New York Yankees
Projected Record: 92-70(Wildcard)
Pitching: The Yankees will either contend or fall on their face depending on how healthy the starting rotation can stay. On paper, it's a monster rotation. Newly acquired CC Sabathia and AJ Burnett join Chien-Ming Wang, Andy Pettite, and Joba Chamberlain in the NY rotation. Top prospect Phil Hughes will be waiting in the wings for insurance. The pen is once again led by Mariano Rivera. An aging Rivera can still get it done with the best, but after him the Yanks have some questions. The rest of the relievers consist of Damaso Marte, Edwar Ramirez, Brian Bruney, Jose Veras, and Jonathan Albaladejo. AL EAST Rank: #3

Offense:
The problems surrounding Alex Rodriguez could hinder the potential of the lineup. An aging group for the most part that will work the count again will be banking on the three run homer. First Baseman Mark Tiexiera is a major offensive and defensive upgrade and should help the cause. Robinson Cano can't start off slow again and Jorge Posada/Hideki Matsui need to stay healthy. AL EAST Rank: #2

Key Acquisition: CC Sabathia/SP
Key Loss: Bobby Abreu/OF
Breakout Player: Xavier Nady/OF
Farm System Rank: #19
Top Prospects: Austin Jackson(OF), Phil Coke(LHP), Jesus Montero(C)


#3. Tampa Bay Rays
Projected Record: 88-74
Pitching: This young rotation has scary potential. James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza are the "veterans" that will lead the Rays. Andy Sonnanstine is an inning eater. Phenoms David Price and Wade Davis will compete for the #5 spot. The success of the starters will be determined by health and maturation. The question mark with the Rays is the pen. Aging and out of shape Troy Percival isn't the answer at closer. Grant Balfour and Dan Wheeler will take their shots at it. The versatile JP Howell, former prospect Jeff Niemann, and newcomer Joe Nelson add to depth. AL EAST Rank: #2

Offense:
The versatile Rays can score runs in so many ways. Leading the offensive attack will be BJ Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, and new DH Pat Burrell. The key will be how the rest of the lineup performs with Akinori Iwamura, Jason Bartlett, new OF Matt Joyce, and improving catcher Dioner Navarro.AL EAST Rank:#3

Key Acquisition: Pat Burrell/DH
Key Loss: Cliff Floyd/DH
Breakout Player: BJ Upton/OF
Farm System Rank: #2
Top Prospects: Wade Davis(RHP), Jake Mcgee(LHP), Tim Beckham(SS)

#4. Toronto Blue Jays
Projected Record: 76-86
Pitching: Roy Halladay once again leads the Blue Jays starters. The Jays lost #2 starter Burnett in the offseason and will try to make up for it with youth. Shaun Marcum and Dustin McGowan have proven to be effective starters if healthy. David Purcey and Jesse Litsch round out the rotation. BJ Ryan leads a good collection of arms in the Jays pen. Fireballer Brandon League, and lefties Scott Downs/Jesse Carlson will be counted on to set up.  AL EAST Rank: #4

Offense:
The Jays have some potential to be very good with prospects Adam Lind and Travis Snider being the wildcards. Veterans Vernon Wells, a healthy Scott Rolen, Lyle Overbay, and Alex Rios will anchor the lineup. AL EAST Rank: #5

Key Acquisition: Jose Bautista/Util.
Key Loss: AJ Burnett/SP
Breakout Player: Adam Lind/OF
Farm System Rank: #22
Top Prospects: Brett Cecil(LHP), Justin Jackson(SS), JP Arencibia(C)

#5. Baltimore Orioles
Projected Record: 73-89
Pitching: How this rotation is going to survive in the AL East is the question with the O's. When Jeremy Guthrie is the ace; you have a problem. Journeyman Mark Hendrickson, Japanese import Koji Uehara, project Radhames Liz, and Cubs castoff Rich Hill round out this sub par collection of arms. The pen has just as many questions. Former closer Chris Ray hopes to come back from arm surgery to close again. Last years closer George Sherrill will compete w/ Ray for the job. The O's do have some good arms with Dennis Sarfate and Jim Johnson. AL EAST Rank: #5

Offense:
I'll be the first but won't be the last to say this; Nick Markakis will have a break out year
. Surprising Aubrey Huff should come somewhat back down to earth. Super prospect Matt Wieters should help quite a bit. Centerfielder Adam Jones will improve on his rookie season and Melvin Mora is a solid bat at third. Getting something from Felix Pie and Luke Scott will help ease the lack of quality pitching. AL EAST Rank: #4

Key Acquisition: Cesar Izturis/SS
Key Loss: Ramon Hernandez/C
Breakout Player: Jim Johnson/RP
Farm System Rank: #16
Top Prospects: Chris Tillman(RHP), Brian Matusz(LHP), Matt Wieters(C)

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