I start this year’s previews with what I think is the hardest division to predict. All 5 teams could finish .500 (they won’t). I think all the top 3 could win the division and all 3 will make the playoffs. I address each team in the order I am predicting they will finish.
Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays made the playoffs last year despite leading the majors in use of the IL, especially to their pitching staff although the most painful loss was Wander Franco being out the second half. If they can avoid having to strain their depth charts this season, they should be formidable. Tyler Glasnow is out the first month with an oblique strain, however. Pete Fairbanks signed a deal that buys out his arbitration years…watch him now become the full time closer and rack up a lot of saves.
New York Yankees. On paper, I think they actually have the strongest lineup. The key to their offseason of course was resigning Aaron Judge. They have an excellent top of the rotation (especially Cole of course) and bullpen depth. However, the season has yet to begin, and their pitching depth is being tested. Frankie Montas has had shoulder surgery and is out until (at least) the second half. Both Carlos Rodon and Harrison Bader will be out the first month on the IL. Can Severino stay healthy? Giancarlo Stanton?
Toronto Blue Jays. They added Chris Bassitt in the offseason and still have the third best pitching rotation in the AL East. They added X-Ray Kevin Kiermeier, who will certainly upgrade the outfield defense if he can stay healthy (hip injury history), but is not a great hitter. They lost Lourdes Gurriel and Teoscar Hernandez…it’s still an intimidating batting order, but I’ve a sneaking suspicion the team will miss those two guys. Again, I see this as a playoff team and one that could win the division, but right now my call is third in the division.
Baltimore Orioles. They surprised last year at 83-79. Adley Rutschman was a revelation. Watch Gunnar Henderson contend for RoY honors at SS. They were not very active in free agency but have built one of the best farm systems in recent years. I’m going to peg them at 81-81.
Boston Red Sox. They resigned Devers. They failed to resign Bogaerts. Trevor Story is hurt, so expect to see Enrique Hernandez at SS. Their big free agent signing was bringing Masataka Yoshida over from Japan to play LF. He’d best be lights out if the Red Sox are to be surprise contenders…that and the pitching staff has to be better than I expect them to be.