The AL East is supposed to be a three headed monster this year, even though the three teams expected to win the division are in 3rd, 4th, and 5th place. Here's my run down position for position of the Rays, Sox, and Yanks.
Catcher: Jason Varitek/Dioner Navarro/ Jorge Posada
Navarro hits for average, but no power and Varitek can't hit for either, despite his fine leadership and defensive skills. Jorge has the best bat and is still around league average behind the plate.
First Base: Kevin Youkilis/Carlos Pena/Mark Teixeira
Tough call here. All three are fine hitters, but Teixeira's defense puts him ahead of Youk and Pena.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia/ Akinori Iwamura/ Robinson Cano
I still say Cano will win MVP this year, but Pedroia won it last year, and unless Iwamura or Cano can outplay him for an extended period of time he'll still be considered the best of the crop. He's someone who, as much as I hate to say it. play quality baseball. He gives his all, gets dirty, and plays well both offensively and defensively. Cano can dethrone him, but it will take a big year on his part to steal the spotlight from Pedroia.
Third Base: Mike Lowell/Evan Longoria/ Alex Rodriguez
Lowell is always an injury risk, and he's getting old. A-Rod is obviously a fine ballplayer, but his hip injury shows he isn't superhuman, and the nuisance he is with all his side stories (from Madonna to Steroids) demonstrate that he isn't the best around. That award goes to Longoria who plays gold glove caliber defense, and will hit above .300 with 40-HR potential. The fact that he is the youngest of the three helps him immensely, as he can only improve.
Shortstop: Jed Lowrie/Jason Bartlett/ Derek Jeter
4 World Series rings, team captain, fan favorite, postseason star, career .316 hitter. Is there anything more to say? Jeter has proven himself time and time again to be an all-star player, while Lowrie and Bartlett both haven't proven themselves to be perennial all-stars or anything like that.
Left Field: Jason Bay/Carl Crawford/Johnny Damon
Crawford's speed and defense set him apart from Damon and Bay. Damon is getting older, but maintains some speed and power. Bay mainly offers skills with the bat. Crawford can make many more plays in the field than Damon or Bay could, and he moves around the bases much quicker than the other two.
Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury/BJ Upton/ Brett Gardner
Upton has the potential to be a 20+ home run hitter. He can also steal 35+ bases. Add in a high OBP and there isn't much more you can ask for. Gardner and Ellsbury's main draw is that they are fast, but Upton is just as fast and brings a powerful stick to the plate as well.
Right Field: JD Drew/Gabe Gross/Nick Swisher
Drew gets injured about as often as Carl Pavano, Gross is really only suited to be a bench player, offering no extreme tools. Swisher is an on-base machine, brings power to the plate, and is a great clubhouse presence. SuperSwish is clearly the better of the three.
Designated Hitter: David Ortiz/Pat Burrell/Hideki Matsui
Burrell has hit at least 29 home runs each year since 05. His lowest OBP in that timespan was .367, and he's slugged over .500 every year since 05. Burrell is the most reliable bat out of the three. He's only played in less than 144 games once since 2001. While we know Ortiz has power, his wrist was a big problem last year, and that may be a recurring problem. Hideki has so many issues with his knees he isn't even in consideration here.
Shields/Kazmir/Garza/Sonnanstine/Niemann (Coming Soon: David Price)
Last time we looked at rotations, we said the Rays' was the best in baseball. However, without Price I wouldn't call them the best around. Niemann and Sonnanstine may prove me wrong, but we have to wait to see that. Our Yankee rotation is ridiculously talented, though very injury prone. We have Phil Hughes in the wings if someone is hurt, and he's a pretty talented 6th starter. If Wang keeps pitching like he has, then the rankings might change, but for now I'd say we've got the best staff of the three. CC, AJ, Wang, and Joba are all ace-caliber, and Pettitte is a very dependable veteran. Until they prove me wrong, I'm saying we have the best rotation around.
Mariano doesn't dance on the mound, has 4 World Series rings, and is the most successful post-season closer of all time. There is no question he wins here. Mariano's ERA has only risen above 2 once since 2003. Mariano's Groundball/Flyball ratio is much better than Papelbon's, and he composes himself well on the mound, while Papelbon overcelebrates like a 2 year old.
I hate to say it, but Francona is a class act. He keeps all his players happy, he's respectful, and he can manage a ballgame well. He has 2 World Series rings, while Girardi and Francona haven't won any while managing.
That's a brief breakdown, we'll go deeper as the season progresses and stats, injuries, and reputations change.