Texas Rangers

Toronto Blue Jays’ powerful lineup should keep them atop AL East

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista might have caused the Rangers and other teams to flip out last season after he smashed 40 home runs with 114 RBIs.
Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista might have caused the Rangers and other teams to flip out last season after he smashed 40 home runs with 114 RBIs. AP

Toronto Blue Jays

Last season: 93-69 (1st)

Last World Series: 1993 (Beat Phillies)

Postseason potential: Without David Price, the Blue Jays are left without an ace atop their rotation. Marcus Stroman is the heir apparent but is largely unproven after missing most of ’15 following a knee injury in spring training. When he returned in September he was outstanding, compiling a 4-0 record and 1.67 ERA. R.A. Dickey, Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ all had sub-4.00 ERAs, so all is not lost without Price. And even if the pitching is unreliable, the Blue Jays’ powerful lineup might just pack enough punch to outscore every team in the league. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion combined for 120 homers and 348 RBIs, which is more than half of the totals of 25 teams in the league. The Jays’ 852 RBIs and 891 runs scored led the majors, and there’s no reason to think they’ll be slowed this season.

New York Yankees

Last season: 87-75 (2nd)

Last World Series: 2009 (Beat Phillies)

Postseason potential: The arms, if they stay healthy, are there for the Yankees to remain in the postseason hunt. Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi, plus CC Sabathia all have the ability to shut down an offense. None of them, however, pitched more than 168 innings last year, putting extra pressure on the bullpen. With closer Aroldis Chapman (who is suspended the first 30 games for a domestic violence issue), along with Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances, the Yankees have one of the strongest bullpens in the league. An older lineup, which includes Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira, is still producing runs and provides a good mix with younger players such as shortstop Didi Gregorius and second baseman Starlin Castro. If healthy, the Yankees could give the Blue Jays a run.

Baltimore Orioles

Last season: 81-81 (3rd)

Last World Series: 1983 (Beat Phillies)

Postseason potential: Former Rangers pitcher and Fort Worth homeboy Yovani Gallardo is likely to be the Orioles’ No. 1 starter after signing as a free agent in the off-season. Gallardo’s 3.42 ERA in ’15 was a career-low and trumps the others in the rotation, including Chris Tillman (4.99), Ubaldo Jimenez (4.11) and Miguel Gonzalez (4.91). Weatherford ex Zach Britton is a strong closer and Kevin Gausman could vie for a rotation spot. First baseman Chris Davis and third baseman Manny Machado combined for 82 homers and 203 RBIs, but it remains to be seen if Hyun Soo Kim’s power translates to the majors from the Korean Baseball Organization, where he hit a career-high 28 homers last season.

Boston Red Sox

Last season: 78-84 (5th)

Last World Series: 2013 (Beat Cardinals)

Postseason potential: The addition of David Price gives the staff an ace, but Clay Buchholz, Eduardo Rodriguez and others must produce and carry some of the load. David Ortiz’s swan song (he says he’ll retire after the season) could help ignite a Red Sox resurgence, but to do that the young lineup needs to start maturing, including Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Rusney Castillo in left. They combined for just 15 homers and neither hit above .253 in ’15. Dustin Pedroia remains the rock of the infield, which includes emerging star Xander Bogaerts at shortstop.

Tampa Bay Rays

Last season: 80-82 (4th)

Last World Series: 2008 (Lost to Phillies)

Postseason potential: Left-hander Matt Moore is now two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery, which should help him return to form after a struggle in ’15. If so, the Rays could have a solid front end of the rotation with right-hander Chris Archer (3.23 ERA, 212 innings) coming off a star-making season. Closer Brad Boxberger will be out until at least May after undergoing core muscle surgery. He had a 3.71 ERA last year, although he still managed to save 41 games. Veteran third baseman Evan Longoria led the club with 21 homers, 73 RBIs and 74 runs scored but needs some help if the Rays hope to stay out of the East cellar.