2013 MLB Preview: AL East – Big changes in Tampa

It’s been one of the most competitive divisions in Major League Baseball over the past decade – and this year, once again, it could be one of the hardest divisions to predict.

It’s the American League East.

But, despite how hard it may be to pull apart, here’s how this year’s AL East breaks down.

Tampa Bay Rays (2012: 90-72 // 3rd in the AL East)Tampa Bay Rays

In 2013, pitching could be the most important part of a Rays team that lost a lot of offense during the offseason.  While they did trade away James Shields, the Rays have a plethora of young arms that can still get it done on the mound.

David Price will enter the season as the reigning AL Cy Young winner.  Price finished 2012 with a 20-5 record and a 2.56 earned run average. But the 3-time all-star voiced his displeasure with the franchise – via Twitter – when his teammate of five years was moved.  Nonetheless, the 27-year-old Price will look to lead the rotation as the most experienced pitcher on the starting staff.

Evan Longoria

Evan Longoria in 2009 // Photographer Unknown

Joe Maddon and the Rays will look for bigger contributions from their other young hurlers including Matt Moore and Chris Archer.

While Archer will still have to prove himself, Moore made his presence felt last year in 31 games but did deal with some control issues – recording one walk for every two strikeouts.

The Rays will, however, have to find a way of creating offense.  The team lost third baseman Jeff Keppinger, outfielder Hideki Matsui, first baseman Carlos Pena, and outfielder B.J. Upton among others.

Upton and Pena could be their biggest losses. The two combined for 47 homeruns and 139 runs batted in last season – accounting for over a quarter of the team’s homeruns and batting in almost a fifth of the team’s runs.

So where’s the offense going to come from in 2013?

Well, Maddon and the Rays will lean in large part on new comers like James Loney and Yunel Escobar and hope that the injury bug doesn’t hit third baseman Evan Longoria as it has over the past couple of seasons.

Will the Rays be a playoff team in 2013? That much is yet to be seen, but they’re going to have to work hard against a division that has significantly improved overall.

Added: OF Jason Bourgeois, 1B Shelley Duncan, SS Yunel Escobar, RP Roberto Hernandez, 2B Kelly Johnson, 1B James Loney, RF Wil Myers, P Jake Odorizzi
Lost: OF B.J. Upton, SP James Shields, 2B Will Rhymes, 1B Carlos Pena, SS Reid Brignac, P Wade Davis, OF Ben Francisco, RP J.P. Howell, 3B Jeff Keppinger, OF Hideki Matsui

American League East Previews:
New York Yankees
Baltimore Orioles
Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox

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