AL East power rankings
By JOSHUA BROWN
College Contributor Network
With snow on the ground and temperatures dipping into single digits in certain parts of the country, a sign of summer is near with pitchers and catchers reporting in one month to sunny destinations across the USA. Here's a look at how things are looking in one of the most rapidly changing divisions in baseball, the AL East.
1. Boston Red Sox
Worst to first to worst to first? That's certainly what it's looking like for the Sox, who come into the year with reloaded offensive talent via the acquisitions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez in the offseason, after going 71-91 in the 2014 season. If Mookie Betts and Rusney Castillo can develop into the talents they are hyped to be, the Sox are left without a hole in their lineup, and feature one of the scariest middles of the order in baseball with Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Sandoval, Ramirez and Mike Napoli.
Losing Lester will certainly hurt the Sox, who are left at this point without a true number one ace. With that being said, a rotation featuring Clay Buchholz, Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson and Joe Kelly is not too shabby, leaving the Sox in a position to make a deal for an ace if needed at the trade deadline.
2. Toronto Blue Jays
After another underachieving season ended in a third-placed finish for the Jays, they come into 2015 with two big additions in Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson. With the top-five spots in the lineup likely occupied by Jose Reyes, Martin, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Donaldson, the Blue Jays shouldn't have a problem getting runs across the plate in 2015.
Pitching could be the Achilles' heel for John Gibbons squad all year. An inconsistent R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle will need to step up big and have All-Star caliber years if Toronto wants to be considered a serious contender. The back end of the rotation featuring Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez has potential to be a solid three-five, but only time will tell.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Two big losses in Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis will set the Orioles back in 2015. Re-signing Delmon Young was a small win for Buck Showalter in what has been a relatively underwhelming offseason for the defending AL East Champions. With question marks surrounding Manny Machado and Chris Davis, offense may be hard to come by for the O's.
A mediocre pitching rotation featuring Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen won't do Baltimore any favors in terms of concealing the lackluster offense. While the O's won't be a complete disaster, with enough talent to keep them in the hunt for a while, they don't have the firepower to contend this season.
4. New York Yankees
It's still a mid-2000's All-Star lineup for the Yankees with Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira plugged in the middle of the order. Unfortunately for the Bronx Bombers, it's 2015 now and they just don't have the talent to cut it. Even if the top five of Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann and Teixeira play up to their potential (given their ages), the end of the lineup is a complete mess. When your replacement for Derek Jeter is a guy by the name of Didi Gregorious that equals trouble.
A lot of question marks in the rotation for the Yankees coming into 2015. C.C. Sabathia's inconsistency and Masahiro Tanaka's health are both points of contention going into the season in what will be the third consecutive year they miss the playoffs, the first time that has happened since the early '90's.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
After losing David Price to the Tigers at the trade deadline, and Joe Maddon to the Cubs in the offseason, the Rays are in full rebuilding mode. Evan Longoria sits as the only real threat in Tampa's lineup, which will look to build around the All-Star third baseman.
The Rays pitching has potential with Alex Cobb, Drew Smyly and Chris Archer leading the rotation. Despite this, Tampa simply won't score enough runs to pull itself out of the basement, in what seems like will be a lengthy rebuilding project for new manager Kevin Cash.
Joshua Brown is a Sports Correspondent for the Boston Globe. He is a color commentator for Northeastern University basketball and hockey and also writes for USCHO and College Hoops Daily. Follow him on twitter @josh_brown31