Out of Left Field 2013 predictions — AL East
2. Rays — Evan Longoria is healthy, and locked up long-term, providing the anchor to what’s always an offensively-challenged lineup, but — as always — the key to the Rays is on the mound. Tampa Bay may have the best pitcher and best closer in the game — last year’s stats argue they do in David Price and Fernando Rodney — but they’ll need some of that vaunted young pitching to come through to replace the traded James Shields and Wade Davis.
3. Orioles — Yes, the Orioles are tired of hearing that they’ll regress after a season that depended so much on extra-inning and one-run wins, but you can’t stop people from exercising logic. Sure, an offense anchored by franchise cornerstones Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Manny Machado had a lot to do with it. So did a lights-out bullpen. But the starting pitching still leaves a lot to be desired, even if uber-prospect Dylan Bundy eventually joins the rotation.
4. Yankees — When the season opens, the Yankees could potentially have nearly $90 million worth of players on the disabled list. No one doubts the resumes of the players assembled by GM Brian Cashman — they merely doubt whether there’s enough duct tape and bungee cords in the world to keep the aging cast cobbled together. If healthy, of course NY can contend. But that’s a big, huge, giant ‘IF.’
5. Red Sox — They’re still cleaning house in Boston, two seasons after the September “beer-and-fried-chicken” collapse, adding as many good guys as they could. They traded for Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, and signed Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes. Good dudes, all. Will that put them in contention? Who knows. As has been written all offseason long, any AL East team could win it — or finish last.