We're looking at a very interchangeable top 4 and very competitive one in 2012. All top 4 will be above .500 while Baltimore will continue to stare 100 losses in the face. Here are my predictions for the AL East in 2012.
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Tampa Bay Rays
Boston Red Sox
I know what you're thinking. That's a homer projection coming from a Blue Jays fan. Let's start from the bottom up on my explanation as to why I placed them in that order.
Baltimore Orioles - No pitching, average offence, they don't stand a chance of even coming close to a .500 record against any of their AL East opponents. Considering they'll be playing 72 games vs the beasts of the East, they're pretty much screwed until they can pick up some kind of decent pitching.
Boston Red Sox - Big payroll, all stars, but no depth. One core player struggling, a few injuries, a losing streak, a Valentine blow up could send this team reeling into mediocrity. I'm guessing at least one of these happening this season.
Tampa Bay Rays - Good God, their pitching staff terrifies me considerably. But even with Joe Maddon's shrewdness, their offence just won't be enough to compete for a full 162 games this season. They weren't even in the race last year without a Red Sox collapse.
Toronto Blue Jays - Depth and young talent. That's what this team has that they've never had before. Their AAA team will be a team that can consistently beat teams like the Orioles, Astros, Mets, etc. They are currently a team that mimicks the New York Yankees, just a younger version. 1) Offence that will grind out at bats, show a lot of pop and better OBP this season 2) Bullpen will be one of the strongest in the MLB 3) A rotation with not much proven ability behind their ace. In the end, the Blue Jays rotation efficiency will determine how many wins they will get. I'm putting them in the 88-93 win range in 2012.
New York Yankees - See the Blue Jays. Just older, more established and with the intimidation factor of running onto the field wearing pin stripes.
You could get into the specifics of the individual players of each team, but that's for another blog. If I can ever get my lazy ass to write it.