2014 AL East Preview And Predictions

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Oct 5, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher David Price (14) pitches during the first inning in game two of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

2) Tampa Bay Rays: 89-73 (Wild-Card)

1- Why will this team exceed expectations?

Drew Jenkins from Rays Colored Glasses: The Rays will exceed expectations because they have so many players that seem in line for a better season than they had last year. Ben Zobrist is likely to put up better power numbers than last year.

Evan Longoria‘s numbers will go up because he won’t have a huge slump like he did last year. Desmond Jennings will hit for more pop because of added strength. Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, and Chris Archer could get better with another year of big league experience under their belt. The list goes on and on.

2- Why will this team fall short of expectations?

The main reason this team will fall short of expectations the bullpen. Grant Balfour is a solid bet at the 9th inning and Joel Peralta is fairly reliable, but after that there are so many question marks. Heath Bell used to be great, but not so much the last couple seasons. Can he bounce back? Juan Carlos Oviedo was good, but hasn’t thrown a big league pitch in two years.

Jake McGee was disappointing last year, and is limited because he throws his fastball 95+% of the time. However, that fastball is very difficult to hit and if he can develop at least one passable secondary pitch, he could be a closer soon. It’s crazy because the Rays actually have 4 guys who, at their best, could be closers for most teams, but three of those have significant question marks.

3- Look for the team to make (this trade)

The Nick Franklin-Rays rumors have been swirling the last few days, and I think it could be a feasible option. He would be an immediate upgrade on the bench, with the upside of starting at second base in the future.

He might cost a young pitcher to acquire, but we all know the Rays have plenty of those. Supposedly a deal was close before Jeremy Hellickson went down to an elbow injury, but I think the Rays still have the depth to get a deal done if they want to.

4- Watch out for the emergence of (prospect)

Watch out for Kevin Kiermaier. He plays plus defense in center field, but his bat has always come into question. Last year the bat took off, and if he can prove that wasn’t a fluke in Triple-A, then Desmond Jennings could see himself moving over to left field before the season is over.