AL East Division Preview

First, I’d like to apologize. My personal and work life has been a bit of a crisis lately, and that’s no excuse. I will have the AL Central and AL West up on time (guaranteed or Marcus knows where to send the hitmen).

Before I get into predicting the future, let’s take one moment to revisit the standings from last year. This division was truly remarkable as it produced the World Series champion and had two teams finish with 100 or more wins while also having a team lose more than 100 games; something I’m near certain has never happened before.

  1. Boston Red Sox 108-54
  2. New York Yankees 100-62 (8.0 GB)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 90-72 (18.0 GB)
  4. Toronto Blue Jays 73-89 (35.0 GB)
  5. Baltimore Orioles 47-115 (61.0 GB)

This division produced a few surprises. The first is the effectiveness that the Tampa Bay Rays had with what eventually became a three-man rotation due to trades and injuries. They were expected to employ the opener for the entire season, but the idea was every fourth or fifth day which means a four-man rotation for those paying attention. I would have called you a liar if you told me that Sergio Romo would be an effective pitcher not only at the back end of games, but opening them as well. The fact that they came close to the second Wild Card spot is enough of a reason to award Kevin Cash the American League Manager of the Year Award. The next surprise was the emergence of the Yankees and Red Sox as dominating forces in the league. I think Nathan and I could come to a consensus that both managers should have been fired for missing the postseason, so long as injuries didn’t destroy the roster. The fact that J.D. Martinez catapulted them in the way that he did speaks more to his evolution as a player than it does that one move making the team win 108 games. To be clear, he was a monster, but that entire team has an incredible roster from top to bottom, and 108 wins is a very difficult benchmark to hit. For all the hype surrounding an outfield with Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, rookie manager Aaron Boone did a great job managing the roster and battling the various crises that arose over the course of the past year. Perhaps the final surprise is just how bad the Baltimore Orioles were. Chris Davis was one of the worst hitters in the entire history of baseball (including the “Dead Ball Era” where walks counted like hits today for batting average) and the starting rotation wasn’t any better. Sorry Orioles fans, but it’s not looking much better this year either. Still, many things went wrong for a club I would have predicted to finish in last, but not struggle to win 50 games.

Enough of the dreary (unless you happen to root for the Orioles, then dismal is the new excellent), let’s break down the offseason moves. Before I look at key additions and subtractions, the offseason winner of the division has to be the New York Yankees. Boston was far too stagnant, and is even behind Tampa Bay in my book. Toronto made some solid moves, but nothing incredible as they look to the future, and Baltimore is hoping to lose as much as possible in order to secure a top 5 draft pick.

Offseason Recap

Boston Red Sox

Key Additions: 1B Steve Pearce, SP Nathan Eovaldi
Key Subtractions: CL Craig Kimbrel, 2B Ian Kinsler, RP Joe Kelly

New York Yankees

Key Additions: SP James Paxton, RP Zack Britton (even got a name change with their contract), RP Adam Ottavino, 2B DJ LeMahieu
Key Subtractions: INF Ronald Torreyes, SP Justus Sheffield (top prospect traded to Mariners for James Paxton), SP Sonny Gray

Tampa Bay Rays

Key Additions: C Mike Zunino, 3B/DH Yandy Díaz (trade with Indians), SP Charlie Morton, RF Avisail García
Key Subtractions: 1B Jake Bauers (trade with Indians), 1B C.J. Cron, CF Mallex Smith

Toronto Blue Jays

Key Additions: SS Freddy Galvis, RP Bud Norris, SP Clayton Richard
Key Subtractions: SS Aledmys Díaz

Baltimore Orioles

Key Additions: SP/RP Nate Karns, SS Drew Jackson (Rule 5 Draft)
Key Subtractions: CF Adam Jones

2019 Season Outlook

Outside of the New York Yankees, none of the teams really made a strong push to get better. Even in the case of the Yankees, they strengthened the bullpen, already the calling card of their team. They did a good job getting Paxton as another ace for the staff, but with Luis Severino set to miss a month or two following rehab, they could become reliant on a bullpen that threw a significant amount of innings. Compared to their direct rivals, the Boston Red Sox, I’d take the bullpen of the Yankees every day of the week. I’m not really sure how the Red Sox plan to close out games considering Kimbrel was second in the American league with 42 saves. That’s a massive hole for any pitcher to feel, but when you lose your setup man to a World Series rival, the Los Angeles Dodgers, it looks bad that your former closer is still on the open market. I think the Tampa Bay Rays will hope that a young core highlighted by Willy Adames and Brett Honeycutt can propel them forward, but they have a team that has proven it can win at the highest level, and any further progression is bonus as far as the Rays should be concerned. If Kevin Cash manages to have similar success with the opener in year 2, he better win the American League Manager of the Year Award. Toronto will be average like they were last season as they haven’t really gotten significantly better, but they haven’t regressed either. They will give guys like Lourdes Gurriel, Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. opportunities, when the latter returns from injury. Paired with a farm system that still has Bo Bichette and a few other pitchers, namely Sean Reid-Foley, they could sit pat and let their young guys grow. Baltimore is likely to be a dumpster fire, sorry, but they have made clear strides by hiring Brendan Hyde as their manager and Mike Elias as the general manager, a clear step towards better scouting and player development.

Predicted 2019 Standings

  1. New York Yankees 105-57
  2. Boston Red Sox 99-63
  3. Tampa Bay Rays 94-68
  4. Toronto Blue Jays 79-83
  5. Baltimore Orioles 45-117

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