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Pitchers and Catchers Report: AL East Rotations

The East Division has been a powerhouse in the American League for a majority of the 21st century. Whether it’s Boston and New York hoarding top free agents or Tampa Bay and Baltimore developing their extremely fruitful farm systems, the AL East has consistently produced one if not two of baseball’s top teams year-in and year-out. Last year the East saw their two workhorses in Boston and New York struggle along with the normally overachieving Rays who eventually traded their top pitcher and career Ray, David Price. With booming offseasons in Boston and Toronto and developing consistency in Baltimore, the AL East is expecting to return to a premier division in the AL in 2015.

 

Late February marks the start of Spring Training that begins with pitchers and catchers reporting down in Florida. If the AL East wants to get back to their dominating ways the 2015 rotations will have to consistently perform and provide enough quality starts to allow the loaded lineups to carry one of these teams to the World Series.

 

The AL East has plenty of star power walking up to the plate in 2015 but seems lackluster when it comes to those who will be hurling the rock at all the stars. With the loss of superstars like Jon Lester and David Price the division will look to developing stars, newly acquired free agents and bounce back performances from veterans if they hope to have any chance at competing outside of their division.

 

Each club has questions marks when it comes to their rotation heading into Spring Training. Here is what experts believe each AL East team’s rotation will solidify into coming out of camp.

 

Boston Red Sox

Boston’s turbulent 2014 season ended with the Red Sox cleaning house and trading away almost every option in the rotation including their long time ace Jon Lester who went to Oakland. Jon Lackey was shipped off to St. Louis. Felix Doubrant headed to Chicago, the eventual landing spot for Lester in free agency. Jake Peavy was sent west to San Francisco and Chris Capuano ended up in the Bronx. Boston spent the 2014 season allowing developing players the chance to gain valuable experience and showcase their talents for the future.

 

The 2015 offseason has been a major success in most experts’ eyes with the signing of the top two position player free agents in Sandoval and Ramirez. Boston was in major talks to sign or trade for an ace to replace Lester who was asking for more than Boston was willing to give but has yet to secure a true front end starter. The Red Sox were able to solidify the rest of their rotation with quality starters who could potentially combine to fill the void of an ace.

 

Boston traded for Joe Kelly last year in the Lackey deal. Kelly is projected to be a solid #5 starter for Boston. Clay Buchholz is the only Red Sox projected starter who began the 2014 season on the squad. He will be looking to bounce back to his dominating early 2013 performance as the #4 started in the rotation. Justin Masterson returns to Boston in free agency to revamp his career after a horrible 2014 campaign. The biggest additions to Boston’s rotation came in trades this offseason; Rick Porcello, the projected #1 heading into Spring Training was acquired from the Tigers and Wade Miley the projected #2 came over from Arizona.

 

The Red Sox are still looking to solidify their rotation with a true ace like Cole Hamels but aren’t worried if they don’t find one before the season begins. With the major offseason acquisitions, bookmakers have Boston heavily favored to win the division despite their lack of a true ace.

 

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Rick Porcello

2. Wade Miley

3. Justin Masterson

4. Clay Buchholz

5. Joe Kelly

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

Toronto’s 2014 rotation seemed to be polar opposite of Boston’s revolving door on the mound. The Blue Jays five-man rotation anchored by veteran’s Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey alongside side Drew Hutchinson, J.A. Happ and Marcus Stroman provided 89% of the team’s starts last season. Four of the five workhorses report to Florida for Spring Training in 2015 with only J.A. Happ departing in a trade to Seattle.

 

Toronto’s concerns aren’t with an ace but instead with who will fill the void now that Happ is gone. The fifth spot in the rotation is open competition heading into Spring Training. The expected competitors are Aaron Sanchez, Marco Estrada, and Daniel Norris.

 

Sanchez is a young stud who effectively came out of the bullpen last year but might make the transition back to starter. Unfortunately, Toronto’s bullpen is extremely thin and Sanchez might be forced into a reliever position due to team need. The 32-year-old Estrada is looking to prove he can still provide quality starts but will most likely find himself as an innings-eater coming out of the bullpen. The final option is the wild card in Toronto’s eccentric top prospect Daniel Norris. The 22-year-old hopes he can use this Spring Training as a platform to showcase his talents and earn a chance to join the starting rotation in 2015.

 

Like Boston, the Blue Jays will heavily rely on their loaded lineup to provide run support but are confident in their combination of veterans and young stars. Toronto is projected to finish right behind Boston in 2015 hopefully securing a wild-card spot.

 

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. R.A. Dickey

2. Mark Buehrle

3. Drew Hutchinson

4. Marcus Stroman

5. Daniel Norris

 

Baltimore Orioles

 

Baltimore is coming off a 2014 campaign that saw them win the AL East for the first time since 1997 and sweep the Detroit Tigers in the ALDS only to be swept by Kanas City in the ALCS. The Orioles made the playoffs for the second time in three seasons coming out of the AL East and hope to continue that success in the 2015 season. The offense is led by All-Star center-fielder Adam Jones and young superstar Manny Machado. The rotation is led by ace Chris Tillman.

 

Tillman is a surefire ace but finds himself atop the rotation with little support directly behind him. Former Nippon Professional Baseball player Wei-Yin Chen left China for Baltimore to start the 2012 season. His three years in Baltimore have been solid but would find himself lower than the #2 spot in most quality rotations. Bud Norris came over from Houston just before the 2013 trade deadline and continues to contribute quality starts but hopes to perform well this season before free agency this offseason. Miguel Gonzalez avoided arbitration with Baltimore this offseason signing a one-year deal and should fill-in at the #4 starter very well.

 

The final spot in the rotation is between former Rookies star Ubaldo Jimenez and the developing, 24-year-old Kevin Gausman. Baltimore would love for Jimenez to shine in Spring Training and regain value from his monstrous contract but that dream is far from fruition leaving Gausman as the favorite to earn the spot.

 

Baltimore will look for explosive offense and quality starts to lead them back to the top of the AL East come October.

 

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Chris Tillman

2. Wei-Yin Chen

3. Bud Norris

4. Miguel Gonzalez

5. Kevin Gausman

 

New York Yankees

 

The Yankees head into to Spring Training this week with an unfamiliar feeling; New York was unable to attract any major free agents this offseason and failed to really capitalize on any trades to address major concerns. The Yankees will rely on veterans like Mark Teixeira and the returning Alex Rodriguez to anchor their offense. Major concerns with the starting rotation’s talent and health will be evaluated this Spring Training.

 

The Yankees felt they brought on a potential ace with the major signing of Masahiro Tanaka last offseason but his health has been a concern since his quality start to the 2014 season. Michael Pineda will provide valuable starts in the #2 spot but seemed to find a lot of luck in 2014 and could see that luck change in 2015. Veteran and former Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia is hoping to halt his downward spiral over the last few seasons but his health and potential are a major concerns for the club. The only quality acquisition to the rotation this offseason was under-rated Nathan Eovaldi who came over in a trade with the Miami Marlins. The young stud is hoping to breakout in New York in 2015 out of the #4 spot in the rotation. The rotation should end with veteran Chris Capuano who came over last season from Boston.

 

The Yankees are approaching 2015 with little optimism as they try to ride out expiring contracts and lack of young talent coming up in the farm system. If some veterans can revitalize their careers in 2015 the Bronx Bombers might have a chance.

 

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Masahiro Tanaka

2. Micheal Pineda

3. C.C. Sabathia

4. Nathan Eovaldi

5. Chris Capuano

* Ivan Nova

 

Tampa Bay Rays

 

Tampa Bay fans spend a majority of each Spring Training learning their players’ names due to the small market club’s ability to fluidly transition from season to season with only a few core players ever returning. Outside of Evan Longoria and former Rays star David Price, it seemed each season brought new young faces to surprise the fan base with quality play and late season runs into the playoffs. The 2015 Spring Training might be used to get to know a few of the new position players but a majority of the rotation will be familiar faces from a quality rotation in 2014. The Rays possibly tout the fiercest rotation in the East heading into Spring Training.

 

Tampa Bay’s rotation is anchored by seemingly the best pitcher in the division, Alex Cobb. Behind Cobb sits Drew Smyly, a surprise from the Price trade, young flamethrower Chris Archer and another surprise success in Jake Odorizzi. The fifth spot is likely to be filled by Alex Colome who will face competition from former Washington prospect Nathan Karns who the Rays acquired in a trade and is showing promise in Tampa Bay’s farm system.

 

What has the Tampa Bay fan base drooling for in 2015 is not only that their rotation could turn out to be the best in the AL East but that their former ace Matt Moore will be returning from shoulder surgery in a few months and could turn their rotation into one of the best in all of baseball.

 

The major question mark for the Rays will be if their lineup can generate enough runs to support their loaded rotation. If the last decade has been any indication, the Rays offense will find nameless stars to produce valuable offensive production and help push them back to the surprise of the AL.

 

Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Alex Cobb

2. Drew Smyly

3. Chris Archer

4. Jake Odorizzi

5. Alex Colome

* Matt Moore

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