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New faces, places

The Yankees signed five free agents expected to be in their starting nine, most notably outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran and catcher Brian McCann. The Orioles added outfielder Nelson Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez. With Fernando Rodney signing with the Mariners, the Rays added Grant Balfour as their closer.

Moving up

The Yankees didn’t sign all those guys to finish in a third-place tie again. It’s a tough division so they might not win it, but they should be better than last year’s record of 85-77.

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Moving down

The Red Sox will be good again but probably not World Series champion good.

Fantasy sleeper

When he stole bases — and before he was 38 years old, as he is this season — Alfonso Soriano would have cost you a high pick. You can get him a lot later in the draft now and the production is still there, if you can live with the lack of steals. Soriano, the Yankees’ DH, had at least 32 home runs, 101 RBI and 151 games played each of the past two seasons. One of these years,he’ll show his age, but you might be able to get one more good season out of him at a reasonable price.

Fantasy bust

Looking for an outfielder with no power or speed? Nick Markakis is your guy. Last season he hit 10 home runs and stole one base, in 700 plate appearances. The numbers have been puny in recent years, other than a decent batting average. Not a terrible player, just overrated.

Best player

It’s a division loaded with sluggers, including Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who hit 53 home runs last season. But, sorry about this Mariners fans, the best all-around player might be Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones. You know, if you like a guy who hits 30 homers, steals bases, plays Gold Glove defense and is just 28 years old. Hey, where is Erik Bedard these days?

Best pitcher

David Price. The Rays’ 28-year-old ace is healthy and seems ready to return to his 2012 Cy Young form.

Comeback candidate

Grady Sizemore of Everett was considered one of the best players in the game not long ago, an All-Star with the Indians from 2006 through 2008. But injuries hit hard, and he hasn’t played a full season since. In fact, he hasn’t played in the majors at all since 2011. Now he’s close to winning the Red Sox job as center fielder and leadoff hitter.

Manager on the hot seat

The Yankees expect to win now and, well, they’re the Yankees, so Joe Girardi’s always on the hot seat, isn’t he?

Injury issues

Former Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan starts the season on the disabled list with the Yankees. Former Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez starts (and will finish) the season on the Yankees’ We Wish You Would Just Go Away list.

Rookies to watch

Xander Bogaerts is just 21 years old but has won the Red Sox shortstop job. He could hit 20 homers as a rookie. The Yankees signed Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka to a seven-year, $155 million deal, so if he’s not a contender for rookie of the year, something’s wrong.

By the numbers

0  Number of players in Yankees’ projected lineup younger than 30.

3  World Series titles for the Red Sox in the past 10 years.

How they’ll finish

Pos. Team
1. Tampa Bay
2. Yankees
3. Boston
4. Baltimore
5. Toronto

Bill Reader

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