2021 A.L. East Preview

 

A week closer to the start of the MLB season we will now cover the American League East to cover the Blue Jays, Orioles, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees. These articles will coincide with the division that we preview on the podcast that week. We will be starting in the west then and working our way east across the divisions. In this article I will highlight the team’s offseason losses and additions, some prospects that may make an impact this season, my player to watch, my projected team record, and finally my projected division standings.

 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays finished last season 32-28 getting a wild card spot in last year’s postseason. This offseason the Blue Jays have lost Hector Perez, Sean Reid-Foley, Josh Winckowski, Yennsy Diaz, Derek Fisher and Ryan Noda via trade, declined the option of Chase Anderson, and lost Taijuan Walker, Matt Shoemaker, Ken Giles, Anthony Bass, Jonathan VIllar, Travis Shaw, and Shun Yamaguchi. They added Steven Matz and Travis Bergen via trade and Richard Urena, Tyler White, Tyler Chatwood, Kirby Yates, George Springer, Marcus Semien, Francisco Liriano, David Phelps and Tommy Milone via free agency.

The Blue Jays have 4 top 100 prospects including RHP Nate Person(10), SS/OF Austin Martin(22), SS Jordan Groshans(46) and RHP Simeon Woods-Richardson(87). Pearson is slotted as a starter in the opening day rotation for the Jays and with his electric stuff looks to make a better impression in this full season and be more consistent.  The rest are a year or two away but will add great depth down the line to bolster this young and scary roster.

My player to watch for the Blue Jays this season is Lourdes Gurriel Jr., entering his fourth season in the MLB and looking to add onto a solid start in limited playing time in the past three years. In his first three seasons over 10 HR in less than 300 at-bats on average and over 35 rbi’s in limited time. He puts up good numbers and how there is even protection in that lineup with the addition of Springer and Semien.  He was slashing .287/.327/.508 for his career and I think he will continue this trend.

I think the Blue Jays are poised to break out and compete for a playoff spot and make waves. The additions of Springer and Semien will make a huge difference with their young core of Bichette, Biggio and Vladdy Jr.  Their pitching is a bit suspect but I think they can be Minnesota Twins light where they will be able to score runs at will but with less power and the pitching will not matter as much.  I think they will finish 87-75.

 

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles finished 25-35 finishing fourth in the division last season. This offseason they have lost Jose Iglesias and Alex Cobb via trade and Dwight Smith, Bryan Holiday, Kohl Stewart, David Hess, Branden Klin, Renato Nunez and Hanser Alberto to free agency. They added Jahmai Jones via trade and Freddy Galvis, Felix Hernandez and Matt Harvey via free agency.

The Orioles have 5 top 100 prospects including C Adley Rutschman(2), RHP Grayson Rodriguez(27), OF Heston Kjerstad(69), LHP DL Hall(70) and OF/1B Ryan Mountcastle(77). Ryan Mountcastle is the only player that is likely to start the year on the MLB roster and could be a boost to a lack-luster team offensively while the rest are a year or more away but will help to be foundational pieces of the future.

The obvious player to watch would be Trey Mancini but Max will most likely choose him so I’ll choose Austin Hays. He can be a solid player on a rebuilding team, hitting for a good average and trying to produce when possible.  He is a solid defender and will look to be a key contributor for this team.

The Orioles are rebuilding and will struggle due to lack of starts and lack of true starting pitching. They will look to develop their young players that are in the MLB with the help of veterans like Felix Hernandez, Matt Harvey and Freddy Galvis. The Orioles will finish 63-99.

 

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays finished 40-20 winning the division and losing in the World Series to the Dodgers. The Rays lost Nate Lowe, Blake Snell, Jose Alvarado, Aaron Slegers, John Curtiss, Nick Sogard and Ronald Hernandez via trade, declined Charlie Morton’s option and Aaron Loup, Brain O’Grady, Hunter Renfroe and Edgar Garcia via free agency. They added Luis Patino, Francisco Mejia, Chris Mazza, Jeffrey Springs and Evan Edwards via trade and David Hess, Chris Ellis, Joseph Odom, Michael Wacha, Yacksel Rios, Adrian De Horta, Chris Archer, Hunter Strickland, Joey Krehbiel, Stetson Allie, Brain Moran, Louis Head, Rich Hill and Collin McHugh via free agency.

The Rays have 8 top 100 prospects including SS Wander Franco(1), RHP Luis Patino(19), OF Randy Arozarena(34), 2B/SS Vidal Brujan(50), LHP Brendan McKay(72), LHP Shane McClanahan(84), 2B/SS Xavier Edwards(85) and RHP Shane Baz(90). Only Randy Arozarena is projected to start the season on the Rays roster after his phenomenal postseason run and Brandon McKay will start the season on the injured list but return to the roster when healthy. Franco being the best prospect in baseball may be up at some point this season and am looking forward to seeing him and the rest of these prospects make their way up the pipeline.

My player to watch for the Rays this season is Chris Archer. Like Jake Arrieta, Archer is returning to where he had his best MLB production and I think this return will help him regain his form and get closer to what he used to be. He was stuck in Pittsburg and struggled, he's going to a team that works well with pitchers and helps them a lot so we will see.

The Rays lost some key pieces from their AL Championship run including Snell, Morton, Renfroe and Loup and didn’t really replace them to the level that they were. I think Hill will be serviceable and their lineup is pretty similar but losing some of their bullpen pieces will hurt them in the end. I think they will finish 81-81.

 

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox finished 24-36, last in the AL East and are poised for a rebuild. This offseason they lost Yoan Aybar, CJ Chatham, Andrew Benintendi, Chris Mazza and Jeffrey Springs via trade as well as Collin McHugh, Rusney Castillo, Jackie Bradley Jr., Zack Godley, Andrew Triggs, Tzu-Wei Lin, Dylan Covey, and Jose Peraza via free agency. They added Adam Ottavino and Frenchy Cordero via trade and Kevin McCarthy, Hunter Renfroe, Matt Andriese, Daniel Gossett, Garrett Richards, Matt Carasiti, Marwin Gonzalez, Chris Herrmann and Danny Santana via free agency.

The Red Sox have 3 top 100 prospects including 1B Triston Casas(44), SS/2B Jeter Downs(49), and 3B/1B Bobby Dalbec(93). Dalbec is the only one projected to start with the club on open day listed as their opening day first baseman. He is known for his power bat as well as his phenomenal arm strength.  I will look to produce runs for this Sox team and make a name for himself.

My player to watch for the Red Sox this season is Bobby Dalbec.  He looks to be the next in the line of first basemen in Boston and I want to see if he can take the steps to become a big name. He is replacing Chavis and Morland before him. He can be a big power bat and if he gets the opportunity to drive in runs he can be very effective.  

The Red Sox offense is great but their pitching staff leaves much to be desired. With Bogarts, Devers, Verdugo, Martinez and Vasquez they should be able to score runs but defensively they will not be phenomenal and they really don’t have any pitching depth along with Chris Sale coming off of an injury which is an unknown. I think they will finish 78-84.

 

New York Yankees

The Yankees finished 33-27, second in the division and claimed a wild card spot in the postseason.  This offseason they lost Miguel Yajure and Adam Ottavino via trade, declined the option of J.A. Happ, and lost James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Tommy Kahnle, Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller via free agency. They added Greg Allen and Jameson Tallion via trade and Lucas Luetge, Luis Garcia, Ryan LaMarre, Socrates Brito, Nestor Cortes, Andrew Velazquez, Jhoulys Chacin, Corey Kluber, Asher Wojciechowski, Darren O’Day, Kyle Barraclough, Jay Bruce, Robinson Chirinos, Nick Goody, and Derek Dietrich via free agency.

The Yankees have 2 top 100 prospects including OF Jasson Dominguez(32) and RHP Clarke Schmidt(88). The Yankees have a lot of starting pitching depth so it is truly unknown if Schmidt will be seen this season and Dominguez has yet to play a minor league game so we will get to see him this year and learn more about him.

The Yankees have two pitchers who haven’t truly pitched since 2018, Jameson Tallion and Corey Kluber. I am choosing Kluber because he is older and we don’t know what we might get out of an older pitcher after missing two seasons. If he can regain his form the Yankees will have a Cy Young caliber pitcher on a deal that is a steal. Tallion missed the previous two seasons battling cancer and winning and he will look to regain form with a team that has more firepower than he has ever had in his MLB career. He will be a solid piece in this rotation if he can return to what he was prior to his cancer fight.

I think this is the Yankees division to lose, and I think they will win it. If healthy they have one of the most fearsome lineups in baseball and they have some strong pitching to compliment it if all goes well with the players returning from injury last year. They are poised for a big run in the AL and it will start by winning the division at 98-64.

 

Division Standings/Round-Up

New York Yankees – 98-64

Toronto Blue Jays - 87-75

Tampa Bay Rays – 81-81

Boston Red Sox – 78-84

Baltimore Orioles– 63-99

 

Final Note: This is the Yankees division to lose and I think they will win it comfortably. It will be interesting to watch the Blue Jays and the Rays fight it out for second in the division but I think that the Jays have a better lineup and more pitching depth which will propel them into the second spot in the division.