Silverman: Red Sox can pull rank in many areas of baseball’s deepest division — the AL East

February 19, 2017 GMT

The American League East is where it’s at. It’s deeper in talent than any other division, and also the primary battleground for the Red Sox as they play their imbalanced schedule. Nearly half of their games are intra-divisional.

There are a lot of top players in the AL East. Here’s how the division’s talent stacks up in our preseason ratings:

First base

1.?O’s, Chris Davis

2.?SOX, Mitch Moreland

3.?Rays, Logan Morrison

4.?Blue Jays, Justin Smoak

5.?Yankees, Greg Bird

Not a standout position this year, is it? Not that Mark Teixeira was any great shakes the last couple of years but he at least added wattage. Now there’s just Davis, an old-school first baseman: all bat, little glove. Davis’ long ball powers are so good, however, his lackluster defense can be forgiven against the mediocre field. Not much separates Moreland, Morrison and Smoak except Moreland’s defense is better than theirs.

Second base

1.?SOX, Dustin Pedroia

2.?Yankees, Starlin Castro

3.?Blue Jays, Devon Travis

4.?Orioles, Jonathan Schoop

5.?Rays, Nick Franklin

It’s no contest placing Pedroia atop this heap. His defense is the best and so is his offense. Travis has missed large chunks of the last two seasons but he’s shined, both at the plate and in the plate when he’s played. Schoop (25 homers) and Castro (21) have some pop, but Castro’s OBP was .300 and Schoop’s was two points lower. If they brought above-average defense to the position, I’d be more bullish on their overall value.


1.?SOX, Xander Bogaerts

2.?Yankees, Didi Gregorius

3.?Blue Jays, Troy Tulowitzki

4.?Orioles, J.J. Hardy

5.?Rays, Matt Duffy

Bogaerts is the cream of the crop, thanks to his above-average defense and sterling offense, the latter of which is likely going to see an uptick this season. Gregorius took a small step forward offensively last season, and is just about as good defensively as Bogaerts. Tulowitzki and Hardy are the best defensive shortstops in the league, but outside of Tulowitzki’s ability to go deep, neither poses a serious threat at the plate. Duffy had a solid rookie year for the Giants in 2015 but he was a third baseman then.

Third base

1.?Blue Jays, Josh Donaldson

2.?Orioles, Manny Machado

3.?Rays, Evan Longoria

4.?Yankees, Chase Headley

5.?SOX, Pablo Sandoval

Ask me later and I might flip-flop Machado and Donaldson, that’s how close they are. Donaldson’s slightly more dangerous at the plate, while Machado holds the slim edge in the field, but flip a coin. Longoria continues to toil away in obscurity (at least 160 games per season since 2013) and lacks support in the lineup, but he still had a bounceback season at the plate last year. Headley can’t hit much, but is solid with the glove. Sandoval has a long way to go to catch any of these guys.


1.?Blue Jays, Russell Martin

2.?Yankees, Gary Sanchez

3.?SOX, Sandy Leon

4.?Orioles, Welington Castillo

5.?Rays, Luke Maile

Sanchez came out of almost nowhere last year to hit 20 home runs in 53 games. But, despite that exciting debut, there’s no track record with him. Martin is still solid, even if he’s in decline. Leon is fine defensively, but his second-half slump is a big concern. The Orioles won’t miss Matt Wieters with Castillo. The best could be someone not listed here, the Rays’ Wilson Ramos. But he’s out until at least May.

Left Field

1.?Yankees, Brett Gardner

2.?SOX, Andrew Benintendi

3.?Rays, Colby Rasmus

4.?Blue Jays, Ezequiel Carrera

5.?Orioles, Hyun Soo Kim

I won’t be shocked if Benintendi busts out with a Rookie of the Year caliber season, but there’s no reason to get overly excited quite yet. Despite enticing offensive and defensive displays last year he still has to prove he’s better than, say, Gardner, a 2.4 WAR contributor last year with the Yankees. Rasmus is a solid defender who picked a poor time to lose his bat — his free agent year last season in Houston. He’s a long ball threat who’s familiar with the division. Carrera’s not much better than average. Kim’s a liability with the glove.

Center Field

1.?Rays, Kevin Kiermaier

2.?SOX, Jackie Bradley Jr.?

3.?Orioles, Adam Jones

4.?Blue Jays, Kevin Pillar

5.?Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury

Ellsbury’s spot at the bottom is the easiest to peg out of this group, where defense is a virtue. Pillar’s at the top defensively by a whisker over Kiermaier and Bradley. Jones took a steep downturn offensively and defensively last year. It’s a bit concerning but he’s not the type to bet against. Last year was Bradley’s one overall good season, and he has shown more offense than Kiermaier, but Kiermaier has been better over the last two years.

Right Field

1.?SOX, Mookie Betts

2.?Blue Jays, Jose Bautista

3.?Rays, Steven Souza

4.?Orioles, Seth Smith

5.?Yankees, Aaron Judge

Betts is a MVP-in-waiting — there’s not much else to add. Bautista’s return to Toronto marked an anticlimactic conclusion to his free agency foray. He’s vital to the offense and still wields a dangerous bat. Souza should be better than he has been, so perhaps, in his age 28 season, he will take that next step. Smith has potential to be a game-changer. It’s too soon to, er, judge with the 6-foot-7 rookie, Judge. We will see many strikeouts and potentially many home runs.

Designated hitter

1.?Orioles, Mark Trumbo

2.?Blue Jays, Kendrys Morales

3.?SOX, Hanley Ramirez

4.?Yankees, Matt Holliday

5.?Rays, Corey Dickerson

Being the full-time DH is the perfect spot for last year’s home run leader. Trumbo’s a classic swing-from-the-heels type, which also makes him the perfect Orioles DH. Morales hit a quiet 30 homers last year with the Royals. Ramirez has never been a full-time DH. It might suit him perfectly. Too bad we are seeing Holliday at 37. He will launch a few over the Green Monster. Dickerson’s pretty good, but not as good as the others here.

Best No. 1 pitcher

1.?SOX, Chris Sale

2.?Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez

3.?Yankees, Masahiro Tanaka

4.?Rays, Chris Archer

5.?Orioles, Kevin Gausman

It’s almost impossible to pick between Sale, Rick Porcello and David Price, but Sale makes for a relatively easy pick over the division’s other aces. Sanchez gets the nod over Tanaka only because he’s 24 and looks to be less of an injury risk than the proven Tanaka. And he did lead the league in ERA last year. Archer had a tough first half, but he’s a strikeout artist and still due to break out. Gausman, 26, is the best ace you don’t know about.

Best closer

1.?Orioles, Zach Britton

2.?Yankees, Aroldis Chapman

3.?Blue Jays, Roberto Osuna

4.?Rays, Alex Colome

5.?SOX, Craig Kimbrel

If and when Chapman can get through an entire season without blowing a save — as Britton did last year, going 47-for-47 — he can claim top closer honors. But not before then. Osuna flies under the radar, but he is all you want in a closer: strikeouts, and hardly a walk allowed. Even fewer talked about Colome last year, but he was terrific: 37 saves, and he misses a lot of bats with few walks. Kimbrel has to stop walking batters before he can hold bragging rights among this field.