The AL East doesn't have quite the array of star power on the offensive end that it does when it comes to pitching, but there is no shortage of impact hitters among the top three teams.
Boston kept its lineup intact this offseason, and the Red Sox will once again be expected to pace the division when it comes to putting runs on the board. Two big bats joined the fray over the winter, though, in the Yankees' Mark Teixeira and the Rays' Pat Burrell, and it will be interesting to see how big a difference they make for their respective teams.
Which lineup would you prefer to pencil in if you were filling out a lineup card?
Lineup: B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, Carlos Pena, Pat Burrell, Dioner Navarro, Gabe Kapler/Gabe Gross, Jason Bartlett, Akinori Iwamura
Bench: Gabe Kapler/Gabe Gross, Ben Zobrist, Willy Aybar, Shawn Riggans
Outlook: Among the most impressive aspects of the Rays' 97-win season a year ago was that they did it with an offense that probably underachieved. The Rays ranked ninth in the AL in runs scored and only Oakland turned in a worse showing than the Rays in team batting average, hits and strikeouts. Once Upton joins the lineup, likely a week into the season, the Rays should have a more productive group top-to-bottom in 2009, with Burrell the key addition. The bench should provide a boost, as well, with Zobrist and Aybar demonstrating their ability to fill in ably on the offensive end last season.
Lineup: Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, J.D. Drew, Jason Bay, Mike Lowell, Jason Varitek, Jed Lowrie
Bench: Rocco Baldelli, George Kottaras, Nick Green, Jeff Bailey/Chris Carter
Outlook: Boston won't get the benefit of a half-season of Manny Ramirez as it did last year, but its lineup remains the standard-bearer in the AL East. Assuming Lowell is healthy and back to his old self, the middle of the Sox' lineup should be as productive as any group in the majors, with Ellsbury and Pedroia providing plenty of potential runs to bring home. The starting nine should be fairly constant, with Baldelli mixed in as needed at all three outfield spots and DH, so the bench probably won't come into play as it might on other teams.
Lineup: Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Xavier Nady, Cody Ransom, Brett Gardner
Bench: Nick Swisher, Melky Cabrera, Angel Berroa/Ramiro Pena, Jose Molina
Outlook: The absence of Alex Rodriguez for at least the first month will undoubtedly be detrimental to the Bombers, who spent heavily to acquire Teixeira but don't have much punch around him in the lineup. Matsui and Posada are health risks, and Gardner is an unproven commodity. Cano's effectiveness at the plate waned last season, but the Yankees should benefit from having Nady around the entire campaign. Swisher, who was signed as a starter before the Teixeira deal went down, figures to see plenty of action, and the Yankees will have to find something to do with the disappointing Cabrera.