The American League East will inevitably come down to two teams in 2019, the New York Yankees and the reigning World Series champion Boston Red Sox. The Rays were quietly good in 2018 while the Orioles and Blue Jays were downright awful. Will the Red Sox continue to dominate the division or will the Yankees reign once again? Can the Rays surprise in 2019? Find out in Doubleday Double Talk’s American League East Preview.
1. New York Yankees: The Yankees struck early on James Paxton, and this just might be the difference. While the Red Sox, by all means, will not be resting on their laurels, I believe the Yankees will be able to find a way to win the AL East for the first time since 2012. That drought surprises me every year. The infield depth on this team is astounding, as they brought in DJ LeMehieu and hoping to get production out of Troy Tulowitzki. Really though they know at some point Didi Gregorius will be back anyway to go along with Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres. Luke Voit was also silently very impressive at first base, and looks to start the year in a platoon with Greg Byrd but could easily be full time sooner than later.
2. Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox dominated the baseball world last season, winning 108 games and pretty much cruising through the playoffs en route to a World Series victory over the Dodgers. They pretty much sat pat in the off-season after re-signing World Series hero Nathan Eovaldi (who would’ve thunk after being released by the Yankees late 2016!). They are banking on more of Chris Sale and that his late-season health issues right themselves this year. Other question marks surround their other high priced free agent prize a couple of years ago David Price. He was relegated to the bullpen in 2017 but had a great bounce-back season in 2018. The offense is incredible. Possibly baseball’s best pure hitter JD Martinez along with arguably baseball’s second-best overall player Mookie Betts to go along with defensively great and offensively improving Jackie Bradley Jr. Yes – this will be a great race once again that should go down to the end.
3. Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays led the charge with the opener movement last season, and paired with Cy Young winner Blake Snell won 90 games. They were active in the off-season as they continue to do new things in organizing their baseball team. They signed Charlie Morton but as of right now at least only list three starting pitchers. Will it work again? Time will tell. The biggest question for the Rays is if they can crowd into the second wild-card spot which eluded them last season.
4. Toronto Blue Jays: This team will be all about Vladimir Guerrero Jr despite some other solid major league talent. By contrast, at the moment their MLB depth chart shows EIGHT starting pitchers, though of course nearly half of those will be relegated to the bullpen or the minor leagues. Aaron Sanchez is an interesting piece on this team, still just 26 but he has faced injuries the last several years, managing only 100 innings last year and 35 the season before. Vlad Jr time will come, and that alone should make this team worth watching. When they are competitive again remains to be seen.
5. Baltimore Orioles: It can’t get worse than last year, can it? The Orioles lost 115 games last year in the same division the Red Sox won 108. Part of the season even included playing with Kevin Gausman, Jonathan Schoop, and Manny Machado. Now they, along with franchise stalwart Adam Jones are gone. The luckiest player on the team might be Chris Davis, who was so bad last year that surely any team in contention at all would’ve just eaten their bad decision and released him. Instead, he’ll get another chance to hit above .200.
1. New York Yankees
The New York Yankees won 100 games in 2018 and ran away with the second Wild Card spot before falling to the Red Sox in the division series and yet their season still felt like a disappointment. In 2019, the Yankees will be back with an even better team than before and while the Red Sox are the favorites, I have the Bronx Bombers finishing first.
The Yankees have easily one of the best offenses in baseball with breakout player Aaron Hicks, superstar sluggers Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton (who managed to have a “down year” while leading the Yankees in home runs and runs batted in), along with young studs Miguel Andujar, Gleyber Torres, Luke Voit, Greg Bird, and veterans Brett Gardner, DJ Lemehiu, and Troy Tulowitzki. In the bullpen, the Yankees added All-Star Adam Ottavino to cement the Bombers and the best bullpen in baseball. Ottavino will join the likes of Zach Britton, Delin Betances, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green, and Aroldis Chapman. The starting rotation is solid from top to bottom with Luis Severino, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ, and CC Sabathia.
The Red Sox are the reigning World Series champions, but New York, not Boston will reign supreme in the American League East this season.
2. Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox neglected to make any major moves this offseason, meaning that the front office is confident that the team that won it all last year is going to do it again with minimal outside help. While this is logical in theory, and the Red Sox have an incredible core led by JD Martinez, Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Mitch Moreland, as well as the starstudded pitching rotation of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, and Nathan Eovaldi, the Red Sox bullpen took a big hit this offseason with the loss of Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly to free agency and Steven Wright to a PED suspension. While the Red Sox bullpen has gotten worse, the Yankees have made drastic improvements and that is what I think gives the Yankees the edge in the division race.
3. Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays were simply a victim of the biggest rivalry in sports in 2019 when they quietly won 90 games, but failed to make the playoffs thanks to the Red Sox, Yankees, and Oakland A’s. In 2019, expect similar results from this low budget team. Tampa Bay is led by the likes of young stud Joey Wendle and Tommy Pham while 2018 American League Cy Young Award Winner Blake Snell hopes to repeat the success of this past year in 2019. Using innovative and unorthodox strategies, the Rays will once again be quietly good, but not good enough.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
The only reason the Blue Jays are not my pick for last is simply that there is no team in baseball worse than the Orioles. With that, comes the anticipation of seeing future superstar Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in a Major League uniform. This club has few standouts besides Marcus Stroman, Justin Smoak, and Kevin Pillar, the baseball world can’t wait to see Vlad finally face Major League pitching. Just don’t expect anything good from Toronto record-wise.
5. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles won just 47 games while losing 115 in 2018. The future is especially dim with the loss of Machado and Adam Jones. The most notable player on the team is Chris Davis who is setting records for ineptitude. Trey Mancini has promise but this is just the second year of what looks to be a very long rebuild.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow for Doubleday Double Talk’s American League Central Preview.