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Who will be this year’s Beast of the East? Previewing the ALE

New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this one: The American League East looks to be the most competitive division in baseball. Again.

It honestly wouldn’t shock me if the Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, or Tampa Bay Rays win the division. Sorry Baltimore Oriole fans, but there isn’t any realistic scenario I can see they end up winning the division, or maybe even finishing higher than fifth. Thank goodness for the Orioles.

Toronto Blue Jays

2021 Record: 91-71
Major Additions: 3B Matt Chapman, SP Kevin Gausman, SP Yusei Kikuchi
Major Subtractions: 2B Marcus Semien, SP Robbie Ray, SP Steven Matz

The Toronto Blue Jays ended up a game short and were on the outside looking in when time ran out on the 2021 season. The record undersells how good the Blue Jays were in 2021. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien finished second and third in the American League MVP voting. Robbie Ray won the American League Cy Young Award.

The Blue Jays +183 run differential was third best in the American League trailing the Tampa Bay Rays (+206) and Houston Astros (+205). This led to them underperforming their 99-win Pythagorean win percentage.

The Blue Jays made the biggest offseason splash. They also had the biggest losses to overcome. They did a reasonable job to try to make the team better in 2022. They depend on their young core to continue their strong performance.

New York Yankees

2021 Record: 92-70
Major Additions: 3B Josh Donaldson, SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa
Major Subtractions: C Gary Sanchez, 3B Gio Urshela, SP Corey Kluber

The 2021 New York Yankees were an enigma. The Yankees pitched well (4.13 runs per game allowed - 5th in AL) but had trouble scoring runs (4.39 runs scored per game - 9th in AL). The offense mostly stays the same. They brought in Josh Donaldson and Isiah Kiner-Falefa. They re-signed trade deadline acquisition Anthony Rizzo. Their infield defense should be better. Offensively they should see some bounce back internally from players who struggled last year. In the end it’s mostly the same team.

They can pitch. They should be able to hit. The team is good, but I think they are a step behind the Rays and Blue Jays in the division. They have plenty of talent to win the division if things go well.

Boston Red Sox

2021 Record: 92-70
Major Additions: 2B Trevor Story, OF Jackie Bradley Jr., SP Michael Wacha, SP RIch Hill, SP James Paxton, RP Jake Diekman, RP Matt Strahm
Major Subtractions: SP Eduardo Rodriguez, OF Hunter Renfroe, RP Adam Ottavino

After a disappointing 2020 season the Red Sox bounced back. They snuck into the playoffs and beat the Rays in the American League Division Series. The Red Sox were pretty busy this winter, seemingly recreating the 2020-2021 Rays winter off-season. Michael Wacha! Rich Hill! They’ve also added James Paxton to the rotation. They made a bet on Trevor Story rebounding after a bad 2020 season.

The Red Sox have the talent if they can stay healthy like they did in 2018. Things got off to a tough start when Chris Sale reported to camp with a broken rib. Sale was placed on the 60-day Injured List, so he’ll miss the first two months of the season. That’s not a great start for a team that needed to stay healthy. They still have plenty of major league talent, so they shouldn’t be overlooked even if they likely will end up fourth in the division. I think they would have reasonable chances to win three divisions, but this has more to do with the talent in this division.

Baltimore Orioles

2021 Record: 52-110
Major Additions: C Robinson Chirinos, SP Jordan Lyles
Major Subtractions: SP Matt Harvey, RP Cole Sulser,

The Baltimore Orioles lost the least of any team in the division! The problem is it’s because they had the least amount of talent on their roster. Fortunately they haven’t taken a step back and traded the players they did have like Cedric Mullin, Trey Mancini, and John Means. Help is coming from the farm. They have arguably the best position and pitching player combination in C Adley Rutschman and SP Grayson Rodriguez that should arrive sometime this summer. There is a lot of work to go, but maybe this is the year they set the foundation to make a meaningful step forward in 2023. They aren’t a good major league team, but they will be the punching bag in the toughest division. This will likely lead to them having the most losses in baseball.

Tampa Bay Rays

2021 Record: 100-62
Major Additions: SP Corey Kluber, RP Brooks Raley,
Major Subtractions: OF Austin Meadows, DH Nelson Cruz, IF Joey Wendle, RP Colin McHugh

The Tampa Bay Rays are back-to-back American League East Champions. The Rays lose some talent and made some under the radar additions as they look to give chances for young players like Harold Ramirez, Taylor Walls, and Josh Lowe opportunities to establish themselves as major leaguers.

The most exciting thing for Rays fans will be a full season of Wander Franco. The Rays locked him up for 12 years this winter, so this should be the first of many years they get to appreciate a generational talent playing for their team.

On the pitching side the Rays have a lot of arm talent. Shane McClanahan, Shane Baz, Luis Patino, and Drew Rasmussen will light up the radar gun. Corey Kluber and Ryan Yarbrough will provide a veteran presence, but the Rays will have to worry about the amount of innings that their young arms can handle. I trust the Rays and Kyle Snyder to keep things on track.

The Rays have as much talent as any team in baseball outside of maybe the Los Angeles Dodgers; they will use every roster spot and even more. Living in the ALE means there is no margin for error, which makes it hard to make predictions. But 2022 is as good a year as any to say: Boat parade or bust!