The Red Sox finished dead last in the division a year ago, barely cracking 70 wins, so that can only mean one thing for 2015:
Congratulations, Boston, on yet another world championship!
Seriously, though. The Red Sox seem to have this worst-to-first thing down pat after sandwiching the '13 title between two terrible seasons, and they went for the big reload during the offseason by signing Pablo Sandoval ($95 million) and Hanley Ramirez ($88 million) and making rotation-fortifying trades for Rick Porcello and Wade Miley.
That's going to be some Monster-mashing lineup now, harking back to the days of the five-hour Fenway showdowns with the Yankees. The Sox will regret the back end of those Panda-Hanley deals, but not this season. And with a deep farm system, they'll find a way to secure another front-line starter for a rotation of 2s and 3s.
Will that mean another trip to the World Series? Not necessarily. But with the Bronx superpower looking creaky and the rest of the AL East flawed, the new Evil Empire is going to show a division crown still can be bought.
2. BLUE JAYS
Losing Long Islander Marcus Stroman -- their potential No. 1 -- was a big blow to the Jays, who probably consider themselves lucky it was a knee injury and not Tommy John surgery. But scoring runs shouldn't be a problem if Jose Reyes remains healthy, especially after the acquisitions of Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin. Can they cobble together enough pitching to be a serious October threat?
The fragile state of the rotation could mean a 10-game swing either way. If CC Sabathia is effective despite an arthritic knee, Masahiro Tanaka avoids TJ surgery and Michael Pineda makes 30 starts, this is a playoff team. The odds of everything going right, however, seem long, and that includes the iffy status of A-Rod and Mark Teixeira, too.
Poor Buck Showalter. Not only do the Orioles get upset by the Royals last October, but Showalter could only watch as Nelson Cruz, Andrew Miller and Nick Markakis bolted Camden Yards for more cash. Manny Machado is back, but Matt Wieters still was having elbow issues in spring training, not a good sign.
So how many wins is a good manager worth? How about a crafty GM? Unfortunately for the Rays, they'll get the answers to both those questions after losing Joe Maddon and Andrew Friedman during the offseason.
Best of the AL East
EVERYDAY PLAYER: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
OVERALL HITTER: Jose Reyes, Blue Jays
POWER HITTER: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
IN THE CLUTCH: David Ortiz, Red Sox
INFIELD ARM: Didi Gregorius, Yankees
OUTFIELD ARM: Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox
CATCHER: Matt Wieters, Orioles
STARTER: Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
RELIEVER: Dellin Betances, Yankees
CLOSER: Koji Uehara, Red Sox
OFFENSE: Blue Jays
DEPTH: Red Sox
GM: Dan Duquette, Orioles
MANAGER: Buck Showalter, Orioles
STADIUM: Oriole Park at Camden Yards
UNIFORMS: Yankees (home)