OriolesOf the seven Daily News writers, four pick the Orioles to win the East and three pick the Red Sox. (Another writer has the Red Sox and Yankees as the two wild card teams!)
RED SOX (83-79) [4 GB Baltimore]
BIG PICTURE: After going from world champions to last place last season, the Red Sox went out and spent a combined $183 million on Pablo Sandoval to play third base and Hanley Ramirez to play (gulp!) left field − this on top of the $72.5 million they spent at the end of August last year on Cuban export Rusney Castillo.
No doubt, their offense should be greatly improved, but it remains to be seen if the Red Sox can fill the void left by new Cub Jon Lester. The Red Sox filled their rotation holes by signing Justin Masterson and trading for lefty Wade Miley from Arizona and Rick Porcello from the Tigers. Both Miley (8-12, 4.24) and Masterson (7-9, 5.88) had very subpar seasons in 2014. ...
WHY THEY'LL FINISH SECOND: Even though their lineup — with Sandoval and Ramirez complementing David Ortiz and Mike Napoli in the middle and rookie Mookie Betts adding speed at the top ahead of Dustin Pedroia looms as the most formidable in the division, the Red Sox cannot expect to get to the postseason without a No. 1 starter and possibly even more rotation help. Their bullpen is also suspect, especially with closer Kohi [sic] Uehara starting on the DL (hamstring).
BIG PICTURE: No doubt, every time Masahiro Tanaka takes the mound this season the Yankees will be holding their breath that his torn elbow ligament doesn't completely blow out. For as long as Tanaka holds up, the Yankees have a chance to break their two-year no-postseason slump − especially if Michael Pineda pitches with equal dominance as he demonstrated all spring. Tanaka and Pineda form potentially the most lethal 1-2 starting rotation duo in the AL East, and it is hoped that Nathan Eovaldi, the righty with the equally big arm can slide behind (or ahead of?) CC Sabathia as a dependable No. 3 or 4. ...
WHY THEY'LL FINISH THIRD: As much as they've seemingly improved the bullpen and the defense, with Didi Gregorius replacing Derek Jeter at short, the Yankees need big comebacks and full seasons from Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran, as well as improvement from Brian McCann and a full productive year from Jacoby Ellsbury, if they are going to have any kind of offense this season. With neither Gregorius and (presumably) Stephen Drew at the bottom of the order likely to hit much better than .220, this could be one of the weakest Yankee lineups we've seen in years.
Three writers have Boston reaching the ALCS, losing to the Angels, White Sox, and Mariners.
Rusney Castillo gets two Rookie of the Year nods.
World Champs: Dodgers (3), Nationals (2), Marlins (1), Mariners (1).