Ranking the AL East position players

Today, I'm taking my shot at ranking the position players in the American League East, ranking players from first to last in the division at each position, including designated hitter.

This is very subjective and your rankings could be quite different. Mostly, I ranked on past performance with not a lot of projecting and that hurts younger players with potential but not a major league track record.

I am ranking one player per position per team and, as we know, there is a chance some of these players may not even start this year. But we have to plug someone in for this exercise.

Feel free to agree or disagree with some or all of it. Without further ado, here we go with the best player at each position listed first.

First base:

Chris Davis, Orioles
Mike Napoli, Boston
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto
James Loney, Tampa Bay
Mark Teixeira, New York

After his monster 2013 season and with his 86 combined homers over the last two years, Davis gets the nod for No. 1 here over Napoli. Encarnacion outslugged Loney by 100 points last year to get third. Teixeira's name looks strange at the bottom of this list and, coming off an injury and four-year OPS decline, it is hard to put him anywhere else right now.

Second base:

Dustin Pedroia, Boston
Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay
Ryan Flaherty, Orioles
Brian Roberts, New York
Ryan Goins, Toronto

Pedroia is an easy choice here and Zobrist is the easy second choice. After that, who is third? Based on a little extra pop and, at this point, a little better glove, I gave Flaherty the slight nod over Roberts for third. But it's possible that Flaherty and Roberts could get beaten out to even get the starts at these spots.

Shortstop:

J.J. Hardy, Orioles
Jose Reyes, Toronto
Derek Jeter, New York
Yunel Escobar, Tampa Bay
Xander Bogaerts, Boston

Hard to not put Hardy at the top of a decent list of shortstops after he won both a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. You may pick this list very differently. Some could be very high on Bogaerts, who is the No. 2 prospect on Baseball America's top 100 list. If he lives up to the hype, he could easily pass a few players on this list later this year. Until I actually see Jeter's performance fall off when he's healthy, I've got him third. He hit .316 in 2012 remember.

Third base:

Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay
Manny Machado, Orioles
Brett Lawrie, Toronto
Will Middlebrooks, Boston
Kelly Johnson, New York

Yep, went with Longoria No. 1 here and will get a beef, I'm sure, from some Orioles fans. But Manny has to prove he is healthy and won't be subject to a sophomore jinx. I expect he will be fine on both fronts but the power and strong defense combo give Longo the slight edge.

Catcher:

Brian McCann, New York
Matt Wieters, Orioles
A.J. Pierzynski, Boston
Ryan Hanigan, Tampa Bay
Dioner Navarro, Toronto

McCann's career numbers give him the edge for the top spot and I'll give Wieters a slight lean for second, although I could see others place Wieters third here. It's a big year for the O's backstop to show his low average and on-base numbers last season were a one-year falloff.

Left field:

Brett Gardner, New York
Daniel Nava, Boston
David DeJesus, Tampa Bay
Melky Cabrera, Toronto
David Lough, Orioles

Whichever player winds up with the bulk of time in left field for the Orioles will have to prove they deserve a higher ranking. For now, I'll go with Gardner No. 1. The Yankees think he's pretty good, recently signing him to a $52 million extension.

Center field:

Jacoby Ellsbury, New York
Adam Jones, Orioles
Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay
Colby Rasmus, Toronto
Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston

With all that money, all those steals and that defense, I'll go with Ellsbury, but I think you could make a case for Jones here at No. 1. Like Hardy, he is also a current holder of both a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger. If he's second, it's not by much. Again, the Red Sox have a prospect that could live up to his billing and be much higher on this list at this time next year, but for now, he has to prove it.

Right field:

Carlos Beltran, New York
Jose Bautista, Toronto
Shane Victorino, Boston
Wil Myers, Tampa Bay
Nick Markakis, Orioles

Yep, this is a hard group to rank. While Markakis' career numbers stack up here, he is coming off a poor year and has to prove he belongs higher on this list - and he may well do that. I wanted to rank Myers higher, but in the end did not. Beltran has the solid career numbers and produced numbers similar to those last season and he gets the nod for No. 1 here.

Designated hitter:

David Ortiz, Boston
Nelson Cruz, Orioles
Alfonso Soriano, New York
Adam Lind, Toronto
Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay

Ortiz wins this category rather easily and Cruz gets a slight lean for second over Soriano.

If you give each players five points for a first-place vote and four for second and so on, here are the final point tallies: Orioles 31, New York 30, Boston 28, Tampa Bay 24 and Toronto 22.

New York had the most players finish first, with four, including all three outfielders. The Orioles and Boston had two finish first, and Tampa Bay had one with Toronto getting none.

This is fun to do and debate, and we knew that the O's had a strong core of position players. When it comes to how these clubs will actually stack up in the standings, I'm pretty sure pitching will have a lot to say about it.

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