Division Outlook: AL (B)East
The AL (B)East could very easily end up being the most competitive division in all of baseball. With the new playoff format entering it's second season of use, it isn't far fetched to say this division will be repped by at least three teams in the postseason. It'll be a fun season along the East Coast in both leagues, so let's get right into and look at each AL East squad coming into the 2023 season.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are honestly a pretty weird team. You can never count them out, but you can also never count on them to be too competitive. Each time they are supposed to be playoff bound, they end up scuffling and missing the postseason. And then when they are projected to have a rough season, they end up making the playoffs. It's pretty odd.
The Red Sox lost some notable players this offseason, with the main one being Xander Bogaerts signing with the San Diego Padres. They also lost consistent contributors in Nathan Eovaldi and JD Martinez, both to free agency. What they did do however, was bring in veterans Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen in addition to signing Masataka Yoshida out of Japan. This team can easily end up making a surprise run and contend for the playoffs, but could also easily fall out very quickly and stumble to a bottom of the division finish. A big key to maintaining the former of those two would be a healthy Chris Sale, their ace who has only thrown 48.1 innings in the last two seasons. Having him healthy and contributing could be the difference for the Sox. Rookie Triston Casas is also a big key for them this year. His power potential is off the charts, and if he's able to consistently add that to their offensive, the lineup can be a lot deeper than people realize. Expect this team to be one of those teams that can be either good or bad, and there's no determining which one until the season actually comes.
Team MVP: Rafael Devers
Team Cy Young: Chris Sale (If healthy, if not I'll give it to Garret Whitlock)
Team X-Factor: Chris Sale
The Nationals will play host to the Boston Red Sox for three games from August 15-17.
Tampa Bay Rays
The good old Tampa Bay Rays, baseball's most advanced and analytically driven team. They don't have a ton of superstar names on this team, but they always make it work by getting the most out of all of their players. When healthy, this offense is better than many people realize. Led by young phenom Wander Franco, the Rays also have an underrated power hitter in Brandon Lowe and a do-it-all player in Randy Arozarena. That's without including Manuel Margot and Yandy Diaz, two of the most underrated offensive contributors in the game. This team won't blow you away with home run power, but they'll figure out ways to beat any team with a sound offense and an absurd pitching staff.
The Rays dished out their largest free agent deal in franchise history this offseason, giving Zach Eflin a 3 year, $40 million contract. It is pretty crazy to think Eflin is the kind of guy that gets the Rays to give out their biggest free agent contract, and that isn't anything against Eflin as he's a good pitcher, but it goes to show how the Rays run their franchise. With that being said, the Rays might just turn Zach Eflin into a dark house Cy Young candidate. They've already lost Shane Baz for the 2023 season due to Tommy John surgery, and Tyler Glasnow's rough injury history is flaring up again already. They still have other elite arms like Shane McClanahan, so expect them to be fine and somehow make it into the postseason, just like they seem to always do.
Team MVP: Randy Arozarena
Team Cy Young: Shane McClanahan
Team X-Factor: Wander Franco (health reasons)
The Nationals host Tampa Bay for the second series of the season for three games from April 3-5.
I'm sad to say I'm a little disappointed in the Orioles from this off-season. I feel like they could've taken the next big step forward with the addition of a Carlos Correa or Carlos Rodon. However, they took it slow and just added a couple veteran guys for now, like Kyle Gibson, Adam Frazier, and James McCann. Baltimore stunned the baseball world last year when they finished with 83 wins, and while I'd love to say they can do it again, this team is due for some regression.
Regardless of how they finish the year, the young combo of Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson will be a blast to watch for years to come, and they still have other young key pieces that look to be part of the future. Ryan Mountcastle, Cedric Mullins, and others create a relatively competitive lineup overall. Their rotation is very average though, but they have two top pitching prospects in Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall that they are looking to continue to develop this year. They added Cole Irvin in a deal with the A's, a very underrated deal that could help Irvin ascend his gameplay in the new Camden Yards. The Orioles were so fun to watch compete last year, and I'd love to say they'll do it again, but it seems they'll regress backwards. They play in a brutal AL East Division, so while they might not return to the playoffs quite yet, they won't be the pushover weak team they used to be for a number of years.
Team MVP: Adley Rutschman
Team Cy Young: Felix Bautista
Team X-Factor: Grayson Rodriguez
The Beltway Series will be played in D.C. for two games from April 18-19 and in Baltimore for two games from September 26-27.
New York Yankees
It wouldn't come as much of a surprise if the Yankees finished this year with the best record in baseball. When you think of the Yankees, you think of star power, especially on the offensive side with the Bronx Bombers. However, for the Yankees this year, it might be the pitching that helps them get them to where they want to be. They obviously retained Aaron Judge over the offseason, which was a must, but then they went out and added Carlos Rodon. That makes a rotation of Gerrit Cole, Rodon, Nestor Cortes Jr., Luis Severino, and Domingo German. They did add Frankie Montas at the deadline last season, but he's expected to miss at least the first half to the year due to injury. Even with that loss, that's easily an elite rotation with an insane Cole and Rodon 1-2 combo.
On the other side of the ball, their offense is still going to be strong. As said earlier, they retained AL MVP Aaron Judge with a massive extension and brought back Anthony Rizzo. The Yankees will be looking at Josh Donaldson for a bounce back season and Giancarlo Stanton for a healthy one. The deadline addition of Harrison Bader from the Cardinals last year looks like it could be a huge win-win kind of deal for both teams. The interesting aspect of the Yankees offense this year will be how the young guys make an impact. Oswald Peraza will be fighting off Isiah Kiner-Falefa for the starting shortshop gig, and top prospects Anthony Volpe and Jasson Dominguez have had strong springs as of now. How they continue to play and what impact they may have in the major leagues this year will be a development to watch. Regardless, this team is stacked and will be competing for the AL Crown once again.
Team MVP: Aaron Judge
Team Cy Young: Gerrit Cole
Team X-Factor: Oswald Peraza
The Nationals will visit the Bronx for three games from August 22-24.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays had one of the best offseasons in my opinion, addressing holes in their roster and making their squad much more complete as a whole. They signed Chris Bassitt to add to a rotation of Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah, Jose Berrios, and Hyun Jin Ryu. They added Brandon Belt, Daulton Varsho, and Kevin Kiermaier to create a more balanced lineup with both righties and lefties. They also added Erik Swanson, a reliever who had 1.68 ERA last season, from the Mariners. Combine all these moves with that elite core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, George Springer, and Alejandro Kirk, the team north of the border will be legit this year.
A big key for the Jays will be can Jose Berrios bounce back, a guy who was Patrick Corbin level bad last season. He finished with a 5.23 ERA and 1.419 WHIP, which are abysmal numbers for a guy Toronto traded valuable players for and then proceeded to sign to a big extension. After last year, Berrios slots into the number four place in their rotation. If he is able to return to even part of his former self, this Blue Jays rotation will end up being very deep. The key however, is if Berrios can return to that kind of pitcher. Regardless, the Blue Jays are a legit squad this season, and could find themselves competing with the Yankees for the AL East crown.
Team MVP: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Team Cy Young: Kevin Gausman
Team X-Factor: Jose Berrios
The Nationals will cross the border to play Toronto for a three game set from August 28-30.
The AL East looks like it is gonna be legit, full of potential contenders. The question throughout the year will end up being who is a contender and who is a pretender. To wrap it up, here are my predicted AL East standings.
1. New York Yankees (99-63)
2. Toronto Blue Jays (95-67)
3. Tampa Bay Rays (87-75)
4. Boston Red Sox (80-82)
5. Baltimore Orioles (75-87)