Can you smell that? The freshly cut grasses of Arizona and Florida can only mean one thing. Baseball is back. Pitchers and catchers have reported and got their first workouts in which means its time to try to predict the AL East based off of last season and this off season. No easy feat, but let’s give it a shot.
2018 Final AL East Standings
Red Sox 108-54 —
Yankees 100-62 8 GB
Rays 90-72 18 GB
Blue Jays 73-89 35 GB
Orioles 47-115 61 GB
The Boston Red Sox achieved the most wins in its franchise history with 108 regular season wins and 119 overall. Most notably, the Red Sox also won their ninth World Series after beating the Dodgers four games to one. Furthermore, with the somewhat surprising heroics of Jackie Bradley Jr in the ALCS (which he took home the ALCS MVP honors). And the lovable Steve Pearce taking home World Series MVP honors (and a contract extension), can this team do it again?
The Way Too Early 2019 AL East Predictions
1. Boston Red Sox 105-57
Back to back 100+ win seasons!? You betcha! After seeing this team do what it did a year ago, how can you not expect the same? The Red Sox return all of it’s core players including AL MVP Mookie Betts. Although he’ll be batting second instead of leadoff, Mookie Betts looks to pickup where he left off last postseason. Now the Sox do have a little drama coming into this spring training though. Closer Craig Kimbrel has yet to sign with a team. And with the Yankees signing Ottavino and the Phillies signing Robertson, where does Kimbrel go? Don’t be surprised if “Dirty Craig” ends up back in Boston.
The other player to watch is former rookie of the year and most valuable player Dustin Pedroia. As you may remember, Pedroia had reconstructive knee surgery and came back a little too soon last year playing in just three games. Though Pedroia is looking to return for opening day, only time will tell how his knee will hold up. Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowksi said the plan was to limit Pedroia to roughly 120 games.
If Pedroia can come back and be anything like the player he was before, this team will only get better and better. The only reason why I have them losing three more games, is the question mark in the bullpen. Without a ‘written in stone’ closer, the Red Sox will have to find their way a little bit. But with the lineup they have, they won’t have to rely too heavily on the bullpen. If the Red Sox were to win the division again, it’ll be the fourth consecutive year that the Red Sox will take the AL East.
As far as another World Series title, that’ll be tough. There is a reason why the Yankees were the last team to repeat (which was in the 90’s). It’s tough to repeat in any sport, but if you have hungry guys like this team does they could pull it off.
2. New York Yankees 95-67 10 GB
It’s crazy to think that a team with 95 wins could finish a whopping 10 games back. But the Yankees had 100 wins last year and finished eight behind the World Champs a season ago. So why will the Yankees slip? Simple. Aaron Boone. The Yankees are so loaded with talent but they aren’t loaded with the manager. It’s probably safe to say that the Yankees got to 100 wins thanks to their roster, more than their manager.
There is no doubt that this team will win and win a lot. With that lineup and that stadium, they’ll surely lead the league in home runs yet again. With the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Miguel Andujar (who should’ve won rookie of the year), this lineup is the thing of nightmares. They’re starting rotation is solid but it features a 38-year-old CC Sabathia. And a James Paxton that hasn’t pitched regularly in the AL East. And if you thought the Red Sox bullpen is up in the air, this Yankees bullpen at the back end is too. Aroldis Chapman as we all know is a flamethrower. He regularly tops 100 mph on his pitches, he just can’t locate them all the time. And if that’s not bad enough, the guy they went out to get at last year’s trade deadline can’t either in Zack Britton.
This Yankees team will still be in the postseason though as the top wild card team and will host the wild card playoff game.
3. Tampa Bay Rays 93-70 12 GB
Watch out for this Tampa Bay Rays baseball club. Kevin Cash (who should’ve won manager of the year) lead a group of rather unknown young guys to a 90 win season last year. No one expected anything from this club last year after trading Evan Longoria to the Giants. But with Blake Snell blasting on to the scene with the Cy Young award last year, this team will raise even more eyebrows.
Yes, they started 3-12 last year but they may have brought something new to baseball. The “opener”. Taking a reliever and having him pitch one to two innings and then bringing in the scheduled starter. And it worked. Reliever Sergio Romo thrived in this role for the Rays last season. But can a system like this work long term? Because if your opener isn’t effective or your starter isn’t effective, you’re wasting a bullpen arm. The Rays will have to strategically use “the opener” role in 2019.
The Rays also added veteran Charlie Morton to this years squad. Morton had 29 wins in two seasons with the Astros and a World Series championship. Other additions include Avisail Garcia and Yandy Diaz. Both of which could add a little bit of pop to this Rays lineup. This isn’t the old time Rays that you can take the day off and still beat them. This team will be around for a while and they’ll be fun to watch.
And yes, this will be yet another year where three AL East teams will have 90+ wins. And yes, this Rays team will give the Yankees a a scare and may even end up playing them in the Bronx come October for a one game playoff to play the Red Sox in the ALDS. This will surely be a fun team to watch.
4. Toronto Blue Jays 78-84 27 GB
Toronto has been a team that showed promise but fell in the end. With no JA Happ anymore and no Jose Bautista, this team has to rely on a rookie. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Vlad Jr is going to be the only thing that the Blue Jays will have this season. And boy has he shown promise. A high contact, low strikeout hitter, Vlad Jr is just like his dad. Don’t expect too much as he is just a rookie with the weight of a franchise on his shoulders but he’ll still be a fun player to watch.
As for pitching, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez are mere shells of their former selves. Stroman went 4-9 last year with a +5 ERA and Sanchez was 4-6 with a +4 ERA. Even though they finished 16 games below .500 last year, I think that Vlad Jr could help the Blue Jays get to near .500 this year.
5. Baltimore Orioles 40-122
New GM, new manager, and virtually no veterans. How could you be optimistic about this team? Chris Davis seems to be a one hit wonder and now the Orioles are rebuilding. No Adam Jones, no Manny Machado, no Jonathan Schoop, no Zack Britton. They have essentially a bunch of no names and Chris Davis. And if they could only muster up 47 wins last year with those names, how can you expect anything better without them? Yes, many of those names weren’t there for the entire season but there really isn’t much optimism around this team. Yet
Goodbye Dan Duquette, hello Mike Elias. Goodbye Buck Showalter, hello Brandon Hyde. The man at the top and the man in the dugout are different with new faces. Safe to say that this year’s Orioles will go through a lot of growing pains. But in the future, this might be a sneaky good team. Elias was able to turn around the Astros with a solid minor league system and he plans to do the same with Baltimore.
– Brian Berard (@RockyBerard)