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March 17, 1999

AL East Notebook

Divisional offensive outlook for 1999

by Joe Sheehan

BALTIMORE ORIOLES (1998: 817 runs, .276 Equivalent Average)

Starters (with projected Equivalent Average)
C Charles Johnson .256
1B Will Clark .281
2B Delino DeShields .266
3B Cal Ripken Jr. .234
SS Mike Bordick .226
LF B.J. Surhoff .265
CF Brady Anderson .276
RF Albert Belle .308
DH Harold Baines .267

Bench/Alternatives: DH Chris Hoiles .278, C Lenny Webster .239, 1B Calvin Pickering .306, INF Jeff Reboulet .216, UT Rich Amaral .233

Ick. Old, declining, and except for Belle, not a single good bet for anyone in this lineup to be above-average for their position. DeShields, Clark, Johnson, and Anderson could all end up looking OK, but that still leaves the decrepit left side of the infield and Surhoff. Baines/Hoiles is a pretty good DH platoon, but at ~$7 million, not exactly a bargain. Bordick in the #2 slot should horrify any baseball fan.

Player to watch: Johnson, who I expect to have his best season yet, potentially around .270/.350/.475 with 25 homers.

Projected offensive rank in AL East: fourth, saved only by the execrable Devil Ray "offense".

BOSTON RED SOX (1998: 876 runs, .274 EqA)

C Scott Hatteberg .270 / Jason Varitek .238
1B Mike Stanley .285 / Bob Hamelin .285
2B Jose Offerman .277
3B John Valentin .267
SS Nomar Garciaparra .307
LF Troy O'Leary .255
CF Darren Lewis .253
RF Trot Nixon .258
DH Reggie Jefferson .289

Bench: 2B Jeff Frye .254, 2B Donnie Sadler .229, CF Damon Buford .252, 1B Brian Daubach .283, LF Dernell Stenson .279

Normally, you'd never move a player like Offerman from second to first base to get Jeff Frye into the lineup. But given that it would improve the defense--notably at first, where Offerman was very good in 1996--and you'd only lose some combination of a hobbled Reggie Jefferson and his replacements, it actually may make sense. Even so, this is a weak offense. The gain the Sox get from their catching platoon, Garciaparra, and Offerman is given back by a terrible outfield. Lewis could particularly be a dead weight on the offense as he reverts to form.

Player to watch: Jose Offerman, whose hitting style should be treated very well by Fenway. A very high average--in the .340s--is a good possibility.

Projected offensive rank in AL East: third, thanks to the park and two teams lost at sea.

NEW YORK YANKEES (1998: 965 runs, .287 EqA)

C Jorge Posada .280
1B Tino Martinez .293
2B Chuck Knoblauch .280
3B Scott Brosius .258
SS Derek Jeter .297
LF Ricky Ledee .281 / Shane Spencer .281
CF Bernie Williams .324
RF Paul O'Neill .291
DH Chili Davis .281

Bench: DH Darryl Strawberry .272, OF Chad Curtis .255, C Joe Girardi .228

There are a lot of pretty good hitters here... and only a few are at an age where you don't expect some decline. The meat of the lineup--O'Neill/Williams/Davis/Martinez--is a sure bet to regress, which should cost the Yankees 75-100 runs. Gains by Jeter, Posada and the left field platoon, and a rebound by Chuck Knoblauch will offset some of that.

Player to watch: Derek Jeter, who should vault back into the "best SS" discussions that Nomar and A-rod have shut him out of. A big power bump is coming.

Projected offensive rank in AL East: second.

TAMPA BAY DEVIL RAYS (1998: 620 runs, .238 EqA)

C John Flaherty .217
1B Fred McGriff .266
2B Miguel Cairo .234
3B Wade Boggs .242 / Bobby Smith .250
SS Kevin Stocker .234
LF Bubba Trammell .284
CF Quinton McCracken .248 or Randy Winn .225
RF Dave Martinez .246
DH Jose Canseco .268

Bench: INF Aaron Ledesma .252, C Mike DiFelice .226, C Joe Oliver .233, OF Mike Kelly .250

Bad. Really, really bad. The best hitter on the team--Trammell--may be traded to Texas before the season starts, ending all hope. Bobby Smith and Aaron Ledesma would make a much more interesting middle infield, and really deserve the bulk of the playing time. They're not fantastic, but could post a cumulative .275 EqA, better than anyone playing ahead of them.

Player to watch: Bubba Trammell, wherever he ends up.

Projected offensive rank in AL East: fifth, and potentially last in the major leagues.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS (1998: 816 runs, .267 EqA)

C Darrin Fletcher .253
1B Carlos Delgado .302
2B Homer Bush .236
3B Tony Fernandez .259
SS Alex Gonzalez .228
LF Jose Cruz Jr. .270
CF Shannon Stewart .284
RF Shawn Green .276
DH Willie Greene .275

Bench/Alternatives: 3B Tom Evans .276, DH Geronimo Berroa .258, INF Craig Grebeck .221, C Kevin L. Brown .236 or Mike Matheny .205

Even with Homer Bush, this is the offense in the division with the highest potential upside, thanks to the young and talented outfield. Cruz and Stewart should take big steps forward this year, and even if Green slips back from last year, he'll be above-average in this division. Delgado is a beast, and even Bush is capable of .280/.330/.350 with 20 net steals if everything goes his way. Only Fletcher and Fernandez are over 30, and Tom Evans is available to step in if Fernandez falters.

Player to watch: Have an exacta: Jose Cruz and--wait for it--Alex Gonzalez, still just 26 this year.

Offensive Rank in AL East: first

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

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