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AL East Preseason Preview
Nick Marro, FantasyJuice.com

We continue our fantasy coverage up to the start of Spring Training with a preview of the American League East division.

The New York Yankees managed to improve their roster with the additions of Curtis Granderson and Javier Vasquez as they look to go back-to-back in 2010.

The Boston Red Sox bolstered their rotation with the addition of John Lackey. They hope that the additions of Mike Cameron and Adrian Beltre can make up the production lost after Jason Bay’s departure.

The Tampa Bay Rays have one of the most underrated rotations in baseball with potential fantasy picks in slots one through five. Ben Zobrist will continue to impress with eligibility at both shortstop and second-base.

The Baltimore Orioles hope Matt Wieters continues to impress in 2010 and Kevin Millwood was the correct choice as a veteran ace in an otherwise young and shaky rotation.

The Toronto Blue Jays are preparing for life after Roy Halladay while Aaron Hill could have what it takes to be a Silver Slugger at second.

Below is our AL East Preseason Preview. Updates will be made as spring progresses.

 Baltimore Orioles
 Additions: Garrett Atkins (INF/DH), Mike Gonzalez (RP), Kevin Millwood (SP)
 Losses: Danys Baez (RP), Brian Bass (RP), Chris Ray (RP), Jamie Walker (RP)
 Free Agents: Mark Hendrickson (P), Melvin Mora (3B)
 Pitching
 Rotation: Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie, Brad Bergesen, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman or David Hernandez
 Closer: Mike Gonzalez
 Analysis:

Millwood is coming of a solid season, posting an impressive 3.67 ERA coming out of the Hitter’s Ballpark in Arlington. Don’t be surprised if Millwood manages 15-17 wins and keeps his ERA around 4.00. Outside of Millwood, it’s hard to recommend drafting anyone else in this rotation. Matusz and Tillman are highly regarded prospects but neither has proven they’re ready to post numbers worthy of even a late-round pick yet and should be considered “watch and see” pitchers in shallower mixed leagues. Guthrie has been extremely inconsistent while Bergesen has the talent to turn heads in 2010.

Mike Gonzalez will be interesting to watch in the closer role. The Orioles are saying the spot is still open but it’s obvious that Gonzalez is best fit for the job. If he can stay consistent 25-30 saves could be easily obtained.

 Hitting
 Lineup: 1. 2B Brian Roberts

2. CF Adam Jones

3. C Matt Wieters

4. RF Nick Markakis

5. DH Nolan Reimold

6. 1B Luke Scott

7. 3B Garrett Atkins

8. LF Felix Pie

9. SS Cesar Izturis

 Analysis:

A front four of Roberts, Jones, Wieters and Markakis will make this a pesky lineup for opposing pitchers in 2010. Jones broke-out in 2009 and will be taken in early rounds as a five-tool player.

It will be exciting to see what Wieters can do with a full season’s at bats. Expect around 20 HRs, just under 100 RBIs and a batting average close to .300.

Scott and Reimold should put up quality power numbers if they play every day and either could potentially eclipse 30 HRs.

 Boston Red Sox
 Additions: Adrian Beltre (3B), Boof Bonser (P), Mike Cameron (OF), Bill Hall (UTIL), Jeremy Hermida (OF), John Lackey (SP), Marco Scutaro (SS)
 Losses: Rocco Baldelli (OF), Jason Bay (OF), Alex Gonzalez (SS), Casey Kotchman (1B), George Kottaras (C), Javier Lopez (RP), Takashi Saito (RP), Billy Wagner (RP)
 Free Agents: Nick Green (UTIL)
 Pitching
 Rotation: Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Clay Buchholz or Tim Wakefield
 Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
 Analysis:

Beckett may be number one in the rotation but Lester is going to put up better numbers fantasy-wise. The addition of Lackey gives Boston an argument for best rotation in baseball but the four and five spots remain a question. Matsuzaka is coming off a disappointing 2009 and is a risky pick even in later rounds. Spring Training will likely determine whether it’s Buchholz or Wakefield that starts the season as the fifth starter.

Papelbon recently filed for arbitration and admitted in interviews he knew nothing of Boston’s acquisitions of Lackey or Cameron until well after they were members of the team. He’s starting to put off some Boston fans with his off-the-field antics but should remain a top-tier closer regardless.

 Hitting
 Lineup:1. LF Jacoby Ellsbury

2. 2B Dustin Pedroia

3. C Victor Martinez

4. 1B Kevin Youkilis

5. DH David Ortiz

6. RF JD Drew

7. CF Mike Cameron

8. 3B Adrian Beltre

9. SS Marco Scutaro

 Analysis:

Ellsbury and Pedroia have the potential to flirt with 200 hits. Ellsbury will look to further improve on his .355 OBP from last season. He led the majors with 70 stolen bases in 2009.

Youkilis will remain a top hitter but will put up much better numbers if Ortiz can find his swing much earlier than he did in 2009.

 New York Yankees
 Additions: Curtis Granderson (OF), Nick Johnson (1B/DH), Boone Logan (RP), Javier Vasquez (SP)
 Losses:Brian Bruney (RP), Melky Cabrera (CF), Phil Coke (RP), Eric Hinske (RP), Ian Kennedy (SP), Hideki Matsui (OF/DH)
 Free Agents:Johnny Damon (OF), Jerry Hariston (UTIL), Jose Molina (C), Xavier Nady (OF), Chien-Ming Wang (SP)
 Pitching
 Rotation:CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Andy Pettitte, Javier Vasquez, Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain
 Closer:Mariano Rivera
 Analysis:

With this lineup behind them, one through four should all put up great numbers this season. It’ll be interesting to see how Vasquez transitions back to the American League but one can still expect an ERA around 3.70 and over 200 strikeouts coming off one of the best seasons of his career in Atlanta and you should have him ranked higher than Burnett. Pettitte is seldom a fantasy stud, especially at this point in his career but he should remain consistent and could find himself with 12-15 wins and an ERA around 4.00 come October.

Hughes and Chamberlain should both be given their chances during the spring. Whoever pitches better will take the five spot with the other going to the bullpen to set-up Rivera.

 Hitting
 Lineup: 1. CF Curtis Granderson

2. SS Derek Jeter

3. 1B Mark Teixeira

4. 3B Alex Rodriguez

5. 2B Robinson Cano

6. C Jorge Posada

7. DH Nick Johnson

8. RF Nick Swisher

9. LF Brett Gardner

 Analysis:

Granderson’s power numbers should improve hitting in Yankee Stadium. He has 30/30 potential but a typically low BA hurts his draft stock.

Jeter and Cano should be top ten in the AL for batting average and are extremely valuable at the thin middle-infield positions. Cano’s RBI numbers should improve batting in the five hole.

Teixeira should get hot early with a healthy Rodriguez batting behind him. Both will flirt with forty HRs.

Posada is on the decline but still has value at a thin catcher position. Johnson and Swisher should be no more than late round bench players.

 Tampa Bay Rays
 Additions: Kelly Shoppach (C), Rafael Soriano (RP)
 Losses: Akinori Iwamura (INF), Gregg Zaun (C)
 Free Agents:Chad Bradford (RP), Gabe Gross (OF), Jason Isringhausen (RP), Troy Percival (RP), Russ Springer (RP)
 Pitching
 Rotation: James Shields, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann, David Price, Wade Davis
 Closer: Rafael Soriano
 Analysis:

The Rays have one of the most underrated rotations in baseball. Shields, Garza and Niemann have all already proven that they’re quality starters. Shields is the ace of the staff but Garza will likely post a better ERA with more strikeouts in 2010. Niemann is a great late round pick coming of an impressive 2009.

Price is an exciting option with a lot of upside but he still has a lot of maturing to do. He should go in the late rounds of most drafts. The fact that Davis only has six career starts will keep him undrafted in many leagues but his upside is tremendous.

Soriano will be given ample opportunity for 35 saves.

 Hitting
 Lineup: 1. SS Jason Bartlett

2. LF Carl Crawford

3. 3B Evan Longoria

4. 1B Carlos Peña

5. 2B Ben Zobrist

6. CF B.J. Upton

7. DH Pat Burrell

8. RF Matt Joyce

9. C Kelly Shoppach

 Analysis:

The Rays have one of the best infields in baseball. Bartlett and Zobrist can put up numbers comparable to Jeter and Cano but with more power and less hits.

Crawford, Upton and Bartlett are stolen base machines, combining for 132 in 2009.

The lineup is a bit of all or nothing; one through six is one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, while seven through nine is one of the worst.

 Toronto Blue Jays
 Additions: John Buck (C), Joey Gathright (OF), Alex Gonzalez (SS), John McDonald (INF), Brandon Morrow (P), Brett Wallace (3B)
 Losses: David Dellucci (OF), Roy Halladay (SP), Brandon League (RP), Marco Scutaro (SS)
 Free Agents: Rod Barajas (C), Kevin Millar (UTIL)
 Pitching
 Rotation: Ricky Romero, Shaun Marcum, Brandon Morrow, Marc Rzepczynski, Scott Richmond
 Closer: Jason Frasor
 Analysis:

The loss of Roy Halladay is undoubtedly devastating to this rotation but Romero and Marcum should find substantial success in 2010. If Morrow can remain a starter despite his struggles with Type-1 diabetes, he could be a great success story this coming season. The end of this rotation is full of question marks and likely won’t be determined until after Spring Training.

Barring a trade, Frasor should be the closer come Opening Day.

 Hitting
 Lineup: 1. 2B Aaron Hill

2. SS Alex Gonzalez

3. LF Adam Lind

4. CF Vernon Wells

5. 1B Lyle Overbay

6. DH Randy Ruiz

7. RF Travis Snider

8. 3B Edwin Encarnacion

9. C John Buck

 Analysis:

Adam Lind will put up stout power numbers. It’s safe to assume 30+ HRs and 100+ RBIs. If he hits nearly as well as he did last year he’s an excellent mid-round pick for your outfield

Aaron Hill has emerged as one of the best hitting second-basemen in baseball. If he stays healthy, 200 hits aren’t out of the question.

Randy Ruiz has 30 HR potential, based on his minor-league career, if he remains the everyday DH.


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