MLB Preview: American League East

The New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox will re-new their rivalry as they battle it out for the division crown. Toronto looks to make strides while Tampa Bay and Baltimore will fight to stay relevant.

2017 was a weird year for the American League East.

The Boston Red Sox won the division just two games, the New York Yankees were a Wild Card team, the Tampa Bay Rays took third place and the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles fell off in the division.

In the offseason both the Yankees and the Red Sox added pieces to get better while the other three teams subtracted pieces to make way for the future.

Here is a look as to how the AL East could play out.

New York Yankees (98-64)

Going into the 2017 season, the New York Yankees were not expected to be competitive. They went on to win 91 games and played their way to the American League Championship Series, losing to the Houston Astros.

At first, the Yankees seemed to be sellers, watching Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, Michael Pineda and Starling Castro exit in free agency. Everything changed with the additions of Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins and Brandon Drury from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Yankees already had a potent lineup before the offseason. Combining Stanton with Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird, the ball will be jumping all over Yankee Stadium.

Didi Gregorius #18 of the New York Yankees celebrates with Aaron Judge #99. |Photo by Elsa/Getty Images|
Didi Gregorius #18 of the New York Yankees celebrates with Aaron Judge #99. |Photo by Elsa/Getty Images|

Didi Gregorius followed his breakout performance in 2016 with a follow up in 2017. 2018 could solidify Gregorius as one of the best hitting short stops in the game. If middle infielder Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar join the fray, this lineup might be hard to deal with.

Luis Severino had a break out year in 2017, going 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA for 230 strike outs and allowed just 21 home runs all season. Sonny Gray was a pleasant surprise coming from Oakland along with rookie Jordan Montgomery add to a formidable middle of the rotation tandem.

The health of CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka will determine the success of the rotation. If they can avoid the DL, along with a solid bullpen, the Yankees will be one of the most complete teams in all of baseball.

Boston Red Sox (91-71)

The Red Sox took an early exit from the playoffs in 2017, losing to the eventually World Series champion Houston Astros.

Their biggest need in the offseason was finding a power bat to go in the middle of their lineup. They added one when they traded for J.D. Martinez. Martinez batted .303 last season, setting a career high in home runs (45) with 104 runs batted in.

Before Martinez, Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi hit more than 20 home runs while three other Red Sox batters hit more than 10. Rafael Devers should increase his numbers as he only played 58 games last season while Xander Bogaerts looks to have a better season in general.

Once again, the Red Sox pitching rotation looks fearsome. Chris Sale had another solid year, while Drew Pomeranz was a pleasant surprise for the Red Sox. David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez and Rick Porcello will have to find their forms in 2018 if they want to keep up with the Yankees.

With the bullpen being strong, the Red Sox will definitely play a role in the division or fight for a Wild Card spot.

Toronto Blue Jays (79-83)

The Blue Jays will attempt to make a run with the team they currently have.

Jose Bautista, Brett Anderson and Michael Saunders are gone. For now, they still have Josh Donaldson, but that can change. Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Smoak and Kevin Pillar will do they best they can to keep the Blue Jays competitive.

Adding Randal Grichuk, Yangervis Solarte, Aledmys Diaz and Curtis Granderson gives the Blue Jays much needed depth.

Marcus Stroman will take the lead as the ace of the Blue Jays this season. If healthy, J.A. Happ, Aaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada will bring the will make the pitching a strength.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays. |Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America|
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. #27 of the Toronto Blue Jays. |Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images North America|

Looking at Toronto’s future, the organization might need to start making room for players in the pipeline. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Lourdes Gurriel, Anthony Alford, Nate Pearson, Ryan Borucki and more are on the way. The next group could possibly take the organization to another level.

Baltimore Orioles (73-89)

Andrew Jones #10 and Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles |Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports|
Andrew Jones #10 and Manny Machado #13 of the Baltimore Orioles |Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports|

It has become evident that Baltimore are headed towards a rebuild in 2018. Last season, the Orioles finished last in AL East with a 75-87 record and they aren’t expected to surpass that this year and beyond.

Both Manny Machado and Zack Britton will be free agents at seasons end. After 2019, Andrew Jones, Mark Trumbo and Jonathan Schoop will be free agents.

Machado, Jones, Trumbo and  Chris Davis will score some runs. Schoop and Tim Beckham will get one base. The thing that is going to factor the O’s the most is their pitching.

The O’s finished the season with the worst pitching rotation in all of baseball. They brought in Andrew Cashner to try and make things better. Chris Tillman took a big step back last season and Kevin Gausman remains inconsistent. They still do not know what they have in Dylan Bundy.

Gabriel Ynoa, Mike Wright and Miguel Castro are fighting for the final spot in the rotation, but neither of them contributed much in 2017.

It’s hard not visioning Baltimore not finishing better than either fourth or fifth place. 

Tampa Bay Rays (71-91)

Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays. |Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America|
Chris Archer #22 of the Tampa Bay Rays. |Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America|

On paper, the Tampa Bay Rays look like a pretty decent team. C.J. Cron brings the power at first base, Kevin Kiermaier and Carlos Gomez are patrolling the outfield and Chris Archer is one of the best pitchers in baseball.

So, what is the problems with Tampa Bay? Lack of depth.

It is so bad that Denard Span is listed as their starting DH. Matt Duffy and Christian Arroyo will split time at third base. There is no depth at second or short, the roster is very thin.

The losses of Evan Longoria and Logan Morrison is definitely going to hurt the Rays. They did further damage by trading Jake Odorizzi, Steven Souza Jr. and Ryan Schimpf.

Looking at the pipeline, Tampa Bay has some talent on the way up. Brent Honeywell, Austin Franklin and Anthony Bonda are the future of the Rays’ rotation. Brendan McKay, Willy Adames, Jesus Sanchez and Justin Williams are on their way up to give the Rays lineup a boost.

The Rays hope to exit the season without any injuries to key players.