Predicting Each AL East’s Team MVP
The American League East has long been a very formidable division with teams like the perennial power-house New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox usually fielding contending teams. However two out of the last three years the Baltimore Orioles prevailed in the division, the Tampa Bay Rays have been competitive every year and north of the border the Toronto Blue Jays always seem to have their hand in the division race. This division while not as strong as it once was still boasts tremendous talent through all five teams. Let’s take at look at the five guys who will make the single biggest difference to their team in 2015.
Adam Jones: The Orioles lost a lot of thump this offseason by failing to resign Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. Baltimore is relying heavily on the fact that they won the division last year while star infielder Manny Machado and catcher Matt Wieters were injured. 2013 All Star Chris Davis had a terrible year and was suspended for PED use. The O’s hope that full seasons of those three will offset the loss of Cruz and Markakis. However the real key to the Orioles success is going to be another great year from their superstar outfielder Adam Jones. Jones is someone who can beat you in multiple facets of the game, he can hit for power and average or make a game saving catch on defense. He is an immense talent that is a major threat for Baltimore.
Hanley Ramirez: The Red Sox drafted Ramirez as a 16 year old, he only had two professional at bats with the club before he was traded to the then Florida Marlins. Of course Hanley blossomed into a star over the next nine years becoming one of the elite offensive players in baseball. This offseason the Red Sox jumped at the chance to re-acquire their former top prospect and Ramirez wanted badly to play for the team that drafted him. Ramirez is slated to bat clean up in a potent Red Sox lineup. Many players on this team could play a huge part in their success but if Boston is to regain their place on top of the baseball world it will be due in large part to the man with #13 on his back. ( Yes, it’s a relief to me to it is no longer Carl Crawford)
Andrew Miller: Let me start this one out by saying I really considered Jacoby Ellsbury but in the end Miller has a slight edge. The New York Yankees wanted to make a upgrade to their bullpen this offseason and they did so in a major way by inking Andrew Miller to a four year deal. By doing this the Yankees got an elite weapon for late innings to pair up with hard throwing righty Dellin Betances. Maybe even sweeter for them was they kept Miller away from division rivals Boston and Baltimore. The Yankees have a lot of questions with their rotation but if the starters can give them six innings it is game over with Miller anchoring the pen.
Evan Longoria: This one doesn’t require much explanation. Since he burst onto the scene Longoria has been the Tampa Bay Rays MVP and face of the franchise. He is their main offensive producer in their order all while providing excellent defense at the hot corner. Tampa Bay has always been able to come up with spectacular pitching out of nowhere but their offense tends to struggle. For them to win ballgames they are going to have to put some runs on the board and Longoria gives them the best chance to do that.
Edwin Encarnacion: Had Marcus Stroman not gotten hurt he would have been my choice here. I firmly believe one day Stroman will be the ace of the Blue Jays staff and a All Star for years to come. That being said the Jays main strength is their deep lineup anchored by Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, Jose Reyes and my choice for team MVP Edwin Encarnacion. Encarnacion is probably the best pure power hitter in the division but he is also a tremendous contact hitter as well. When in need of a clutch hit Encarnacion always seems to come through. The Jays are going to need all the help pitching they can get but they will slug their way to more than a few wins thanks in large part to Encarnacion.
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Matt Cote is a MLB Writer for BaseballHotCorner.com