Our 2012 MLB preview places the eyeball on the best players by position in each division. Find out how the AL East shakes out and don’t forget to check out our MLB Preview Center.
C – Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles – Wieters raised his play last year (22 home runs) making him the clear-cut best catcher in the division. The future is still bright for the 25-year old.
1B – Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox - To hear that Gonzalez tweaked his swing due to an injured shoulder that he’s been dealing with for the last 2 years is alarming considering the numbers he put up in ’10 and ‘11. Now fully healthy, could he go .340, 40, and 130?
2B – Robinson Cano, New York Yankees – Probably one of the toughest decisions was to put Cano ahead of Dustin Pedroia. Both players are superstars but Cano potentially batting cleanup is too tantalizing to pass up.
SS – JJ Hardy, Baltimore Orioles – Sorry Derek Jeter lovers, Hardy brings the most to the batter’s box (30 homers in 2011) and it’s not like Jeter is a defensive stud. Deal with it.
3B – Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays – With Alex Rodriguez proving unable to stay on the field over the past several years, Longoria is now the cream of the crop. Don’t be surprised if it all comes together in 2012 for the 26-year old.
Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox – From 2007-2010, Ellsbury hit 20 homers total and topped out at 60 RBI’s. In 2011, he smacked 32 to go along with 105 RBI’s, 39 steals, and a .321 batting average. Allllll righty then.
Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees – Grandy finally figured out how to hit lefties and maximized the ridiculous dimensions in Yankee Stadium by drilling 41 homers and knocking in 119. The trend will persist.
Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays – So, is the power legit? Well, is it? His 97 homers over the past 2 seasons leads the world. Apparently his swing changes and the Rogers Centre suit him just fine.
CC Sabathia, New York Yankees – He is the ace of the division until further notice. With CC, you’re going to get 230+ innings, 200 K’s, and about 20 wins. Enough said.
David Price, Tampa Bay Rays – Some bad luck kept his 2011 numbers from being completely absurd. The bottom might fall out on his ERA and WHIP in 2012 while his win total climbs back into the high teens.
James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays – Armed with his now lethal changeup, Shields put up a career season in 2011 (16 wins, 2.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 225 K’s). At age 30, there’s no reason to think he won’t do it again.
Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox – At 31 years old, the up and down Beckett turned his best season yet in 2011 (2.89 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 175 K’s). He will be counted on again to be a stabilizing force in Boston’s uncertain rotation.
Ricky Romero, Toronto Blue Jays – Romero edges out Jon Lester for the 5th man in our AL East rotation as his numbers keep getting better with each passing year. He will be expected to hold the line and lead a young rotation in Toronto toward respectability.
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees – Is it his last year? Will he go one more? Who cares? With the game on the line, there’s no one else you’d rather have closing it out than #42.
Follow me on Twitter @isportsJoe