AL East Preview and Prediction

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees found themselves back on top in 2019.  Holding off the Tampa Bay Rays and winning the American League East for the first time since 2012.  I was shocked when I saw that up until last season the Yankees had gone six seasons without taking the division crown. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays had won the division more recently than New York.  

The Yankees have a great lineup.  The potential injuries of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are not going to be a problem with the delayed start to the season.  Resigning Brett Gardner will cover the injury of Aaron Hicks. New York has a loaded lineup. The move of Gleyber Torres should hurt defensively but the power that Torres brings should overshadow most defensive liabilities.  The Yankees will get the return of Miguel Andujar provides a problem that most teams would love to have. Last year’s emergence of Gio Urshela gives the Yankees two serious offensive threats at one position. Andujar has been working to potentially play multiple positions to allow another big bat into the lineup.  The Yankees have tons of talent in the lineup and should be ready to jump out as an offensive force.

The Yankees rotation took a big blow before the season started.  Injuries to James Paxton, Luis Severino and Domingo German have left the Yankees in a tough position.  Behind ace Gerrit Cole is Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ Jordan Montgomery and….. New York’s pickup of Cole will hide some of the injuries for a small time.  If Paxton is not able to recover New York will have to find some proven rotation arms to back up their freshly signed stud.  

The Yankees bullpen is loaded.  Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, Green and Kahnle are just some of the names that make up this ridiculous;y talented pen.  They have it all.

Verdict:

This is the Yankees division to win.  Their rotation scares me enough to see the possibility of Tampa making a run but the Yankees were able to figure things out last season when they didn’t have Gerrit Cole.  It will be tough to bet against them.

Boston Red Sox

Mookie Betts- traded.  Chris Sale- Tommy John Surgery.  This has not been a great start to the 2020 season for the Boston Red Sox. 

The offense is still very solid even without Betts. Boston was able to add Alex Verdugo, a long time prospect that will be given the chance to show whether or not he can live up to the hype.  Verdugo is going to join an offense that still has some serious talent. JD Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi will make up the core of the lineup that still make them a serious threat to the division.  The addition of Kevin Pillar will add a little more pop to the lineup coming off of a 21 homer season. Boston will need a repeat in production from infielder Michael Chavis who will get opportunities at both second base and first base.  The depth of the lineup continues with the addition of veteran Johnathon Lucroy to go along with Christian Vazquez who had a terrific 2019 season. The Red Sox may have lost their best player but this is still a lineup that has serious talent.  Martinez, Bogaerts and Devers are still All-Star level talent that can lead this team. 

The biggest issue for Boston will be the starting staff.  With Chris Sale missing the entire 2020 season an already weak rotation will have to hope veterans Martin Perez and Colin McHugh can step up and show the potential they both had many years ago.  Eduardo Rodriguez will have to step into the role of #1 starter coming off of a career season. Rodriguez’s 19 wins and 3.7 WAR headlined a huge 2019 season for the 27 year old. The Red Sox will have to value their veterans as there is no clear relief coming from the minor league system. The Red Sox top rated prospects are mainly positional players.  The highest rated pitcher in the system is Bryan Mata who had pitched in the future’s game in 2018. Mata is still just in Double-A and will not likely make the strides to get to the majors in 2020.  

The bullpen dug themselves out of a hole in the second half of 2019.  Brandon Workman worked his way into the closer role and will enter the season in that role.  Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have all progressed into a strong set up man crew but they will need more arms to step up to make it through the whole season.  

Verdict:

Boston’s pitching is going to be a problem.  Losing Chris Sale and trading away David Price has put them in a tough situation.  They are in the process of rebuilding what was once a vaunted farm system. They have a strong lineup that doesn’t have a lot of depth but the starters are as good as any in the division. If Boston can get any sort of support from the rotation they have enough offense to be a threat in the division.  This is going to be a rebuild but the talent is still very young and should be competitive.  

Tampa Bay Rays

It is impossible to question the moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays. They have proven that they are ahead of the curve analytically.  The Rays were active in the offseason adding Jose Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to an already deep roster.  To try and have an idea of what the lineup is going to be is a waste of time. The Rays are built better than ever to utilize the platoon lineups.  Their mix of power, speed and on-base ability throughout the roster makes them unique and adaptable to any game. The Rays have the advantage of not leaning on a core of players so no injury should really determine the season.  If Austin Meadows, Joey Wendle, Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz can take the next step in their development this team is going to be tough to handle. The eventual call up of Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan will make another impact in the lineup if they need a jolt at any point.

The Rays rotation is highlighted by the top three.  Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow can match up with any team’s top three. If Snell and Glasnow can stay healthy in 2020 a team that is so well known for utilizing their bullpen may have one of the strongest rotations in all of baseball. Yonny Chirinos took steps in the right direction last season finding mixed success in the bullpen and the rotation. Tampa Bay has a few interesting prospects that could find their way into the rotation.  Two-way player Brendan McKay and prospect Brent Honeywell could both find themselves in the majors this season.  

The bullpen is similar to the rotation.  Nick Anderson stands out is the potential closer but there are multiple arms that are ready in any situation.  Jose Alavardo, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche and Chaz Roe all have nasty stuff. This team is unpredictable and that makes them tough to handle.

Verdict:

My head says this is the Yankees division.  New York is more fragile than Tampa Bay. The Rays could easily win this division if the starting pitching stays healthy.

Baltimore Orioles

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s just a really long tunnel. The Orioles were able to rebuild what was a horrific farm system. They are currently ranked 13th overall by MLB.com heading into the season.  This ranking includes four players in the top 100 overall, headlined by the #4 overall prospect Adley Rutschmann. The future looks bright for the Orioles but the 2020 season will not be the first year of the turnaround.

Baltimore’s offense doesn’t have a particular player to build their lineup around. Veteran Trey Mancini is the closest thing to a star player with a 135 OPS+, but he may be trade bait for a contender as the year goes on. Anthony Santander was a nice surprise in 2019 blasting 20 homers in limited at bats.  He will be looked upon to garner more playing time in 2020. Another surprise was the play of Hanser Alberto. Alberto led the Orioles in BA (.305), adding some pop with 13 home runs. OF Austin Hays found his way to the majors last season and will be looked upon as the first hope of what’s to come. 

John Means came out of nowhere in 2020 making it to the All-Star game. Means will be looked upon to carry the load for a rotation full of journeyman veterans.  Tommy Milone, Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc are going to be holdovers as the organization waits for their young starters to take the next step. Grayson Rodriguez and DJ Hall headline the upcoming starters that will soon be mainstays in the rotation.  Both starters are still considered at least one year away from being ready for the majors.

The Orioles bullpen has rising star Hunter Harvey to go along with Mychal Givens, their most proven arm in the back end.  The pen will feature a litany of other young arms trying to establish themselves in the majors. 

Verdict:

The Baltimore Orioles are at least a few years away from any sort of contention but the work they have done on their farm system has been impressive.  Moving on from Trey Mancini and Mychal Givens in order to continue to bolster their farm system is the best choice for the organization. The problem Baltimore has is they are going to be very low balled by any team interested in Givens and Mancini. Another tough year is ahead for the Orioles and their fans. 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays believe in their young talent.  The second generation stars Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vlad Guerrero Jr make up a young core that will be the backbone of the organization.  These young stars are flanked by the power of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Rowdy Tellez and Teoscar Hernandez. The Blue Jays have built a lineup that will be nightmares for opposing pitchers for years to come. 

The Blue Jays needed the arms to compete with the elite in the American League and they worked hard to find those arms in the offseason adding Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark, Shun Yamaguchi and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Toronto added some veteran arms to give them stability as they await the incoming talent Nate Pearson and Anthony Kay.  Pearson ranks 7th overall prospect in all of baseball while Kay is 67th. They will soon be joined in the top 100 by another drafted arm Alek Monoah the former #11 overall pick is an imposing 6’6” 260lbs and he brings serious strikeout stuff. In his first 17 innings in low-A he Monoah struck out 27 hitters and dominated. He is still far from MLB ready but when he is it will be impactful. 

The Blue Jays have a very formidable closer in Ken Giles.  He propelled them to a mid-level ranked bullpen. He will be backed up in 2020 by AJ Cole, WIlmer Font and potentially Shun Yamaguchi if he doesn’t end up in the rotation.  If Toronto is able to get the innings they expect from their new veteran rotation the back end of the pen should be able to solidify victories.  

Verdict:

Toronto is still a few years away from being serious competitors but they have a lineup with very real potential for explosion.  If the rotation is able to provide them with any sort of support this team has the real ability to compete for third place in the division.  The playoffs are unlikely but watch out for Toronto they are making waves. 

     2020 Season Standings 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

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