AL East turned upside down in this prediction

Maybe you thought you’d never see the day when a prominent national baseball writer would not only pick the Orioles to win the American League East, but at the same time would pick New York to finish last.

Well, it happened this week and almost happened twice.

ESPN’s Buster Olney picks the Orioles first and the Yankees last in the AL East. His ESPN colleague, Jayson Stark, picked the Yankees last, as well, but has the Orioles finishing in second place.

Olney ranks them in order as Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Boston, Toronto and New York. Stark ranks them as Toronto, Baltimore, Tampa Bay, Boston and New York.

Maybe you also wondered if you’d ever hear a national writer say the Yankees didn’t spend enough? Stark said they didn’t this winter.

“You know the Yankees act at times like they were under a mandate to get under that luxury tax threshold. What other teams keep reminding me is, this is a choice, a choice they made. It’s a choice that is coming back to haunt them. For all the money they spent and will spend, this is still the thinnest that a Yankees team has been in like 20 years. You just wonder in retrospect about how they spent their cash,” he said.

“At this point, their first baseman, third baseman and shortstop will all be on the DL to start the season. That is $67.5 million, meaning they are going to have more money tied up in infielders on the disabled list than the Rays are going to spend on their entire team.”

But it had to be strange to pick a team that won 95 games in 2012 and has made the playoffs 17 times in the last 18 seasons to finish last in 2013.

“It’s bizarre to utter those words, but if you just look at the talent on the field, there is just a gap in the Yankees’ talent level vs. those other teams. It’s inescapable, at least it is for me,” Stark said.

Here is what Olney said about the Orioles:

“On Sunday night, I was talking to a GM of another team and he asked me who I was picking in the East and I said the Orioles. He asked me why and I said their pitching depth. They have so many more options than I think people realize and I started listing the names.

“Beyond some of their starters, guys like Jason Hammel and Miguel Gonzalez, they have Zach Britton and Brian Matusz and Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy. The general manager said, ‘You know what, you are right when you think about it. They have a lot of options.’

“Plus I talked about that great culture that the Orioles have developed where the players understand they are going to get opportunities. But if they don’t perform well, someone else will get that opportunity. They’ve bought into it and it’s extremely rare, but they’ve got it.”

Here are Olney’s quick takes on the rest of the division:

Tampa Bay: “I have concerns about their starting pitching after David Price.”

Boston: “They have had a great spring. I think Jackie Bradley Jr. is going to be a terrific player right away because of his command in the strikezone.”

Toronto: “I have concern about their bullpen. When you compare their ‘pen to the other four teams in the division, they are not even close.”

New York: “I’ve been down in Tampa and seen them a half dozen times. You see Derek Jeter hobbling around, you know that Mark Teixeira could suffer a reoccurrence leading to a season-ending injury. I just don’t think they have much depth and it will be a really tough year for a team that won 95 games last year.”

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