- Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox were quiet for most of the offseason until they finally jumped into free agency in a big way by signing power hitter J.D. Martinez. Boston already had a terrific pitching staff led by Chris Sale, David Price, Drew Pomeranz, and Rick Porcello. Also, they have a very good bullpen led by elite closer Craig Kimbrel. Boston also had a very talented lineup already with players like Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Hanley Ramirez, and Dustin Pedroia. Adding J.D. Martinez to the mix gives the team the power bat in the middle of their lineup that they desperately needed. Boston has won the AL East two years in a row and they are a stronger team than they were a year ago. The Yankees will certainly give the Red Sox some tough competition this season, but it is difficult to find a weakness on Boston’s team and they are still the team to beat in the AL East.
2. New York Yankees
The New York Yankees made it to the ALCS last season, but they actually appear to be a more dangerous team this season especially after the addition of 2017 NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. He hit 59 home runs for the Marlins last season and he will form a dynamic duo with Aaron Judge who hit 52 home runs for the Yankees in 2017. New York also has catcher Gary Sanchez who has proven that he can be an elite power hitter as well. The Yankees also appear to have a really good pitching staff heading into the 2018 season. They have a terrific bullpen with Aroldis Chapman as the closer and Dellin Betances and David Robertson as very reliable late-inning options as well. New York also has a good starting rotation with Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and CC Sabathia. The only real concern for the Yankees is at 2nd base and 1st base. Ronald Torreyes and Gleyber Torres will compete for the starting 2nd base job, but they are both inexperienced players and it is unknown what they can provide in 2018. 1st Base is clearly the biggest area of weakness for the Yankees as Greg Bird struggled last season. Bird is the clear starter at 1st base, but he needs to bounce back in 2018 in order to help the Yankees lineup reach its full potential. New York is definitely a playoff-caliber team and they will compete with the Red Sox for the division, but the Yankees still have a few weaknesses that hold them back a little bit.
3. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are a team that has playoff potential, but they also have the potential to be a completely bad team in 2018. Josh Donaldson will obviously carry the Blue Jays lineup this season assuming that he can stay healthy. Justin Smoak will also probably provide some solid power in the middle of the lineup for the Blue Jays. However, it is unknown what the rest of the lineup will provide. Troy Tulowitzki and Russell Martin are proven MLB players, but they have struggled with injuries and inconsistent play recently. Curtis Granderson and Randal Grichuk are the new starting outfielders for the Blue Jays after being acquired by Toronto this offseason. However, it is a mystery as to how much they will provide to the Blue Jays lineup. Toronto’s pitching staff appears to be the strength of their team as they have a good starting rotation led by Marcus Stroman and J.A. Happ. Also, Toronto’s 8th and 9th inning options in the bullpen appear to be very good with Roberto Osuna as the closer and Ryan Tepera as a quality setup man. However, the Blue Jays need better production from the rest of their bullpen and they need to find another good setup man. Toronto isn’t on the same level as the Yankees or the Red Sox, although if all goes right for Toronto then they still could compete for a wild card spot in 2018.
4. Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore is kind of on the same level as Toronto as they are a team that won’t challenge for the division title, but they could still be a playoff contender. We all know that the Orioles will probably score a ton of runs this offseason as they have many dangerous threats in their lineup. Manny Machado is their best hitter overall, but they still have Jonathan Schoop, Adam Jones, Trey Mancini, Chris Davis, and Mark Trumbo as other dangerous hitters in their lineup. Baltimore also has an extremely good bullpen, but they will have to be without star closer Zach Britton for awhile as he probably won’t be back until at least late May. Brad Brach should be just fine as the closer until Britton returns, but Britton’s injury will still hurt the Orioles a little bit. The good news is that Baltimore has a very deep bullpen with Darren O’Day and Mychal Givens as solid late-inning options as well. Baltimore’s main weakness is their starting pitching as they don’t really have a clear ace on their team and they don’t really have any good consistent starters. Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy, Chris Tillman, and Andrew Cashner are all decent pitchers. However, they are all very inconsistent and they aren’t enough to be a good starting rotation. Baltimore just needs their starting rotation to be decent and if that happens then the Orioles are good enough in other areas to possibly be a playoff team.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay is clearly hitting the rebuild button after getting rid of Corey Dickerson, Jake Odorizzi, Tommy Hunter, Evan Longoria, Alex Cobb, Steven Souza Jr., Steve Cishek, and Brad Boxberger. That is a long list of quality major league players that they let go of, but the issue is that they didn’t even come close to replacing those players. The only players that they added that are proven MLB players are Denard Span, Carlos Gomez, and C.J. Cron. Tampa now basically has inexperience at many positions on their roster with Matt Duffy, Daniel Robertson, Mallex Smith, Denard Span, and C.J. Cron as new starters in their lineup this season. Tampa is going to have a really difficult time scoring runs this season as their best hitter is probably Kevin Kiermaier and even he isn’t a great hitter. The Rays still have a good starting rotation led by Chris Archer. However, it is unknown what kind of production that they will receive from the rest of their young starting pitchers like Blake Snell, Jacob Faria, and Matt Andriese. Tampa’s bullpen is probably the strength of the team with elite closer Alex Colome and quality setup options Dan Jennings and Sergio Romo. Tampa is a very young team with many unproven players and it appears that it could be a very rough season for the Rays in 2018.