The New York Yankees will be the heavy favorites in the AL East after signing Gerrit Cole to a nine-year, $324 million deal in the winter. On the other end of the spectrum, the Red Sox lost their top four starters from last season. Ace Chris Sale is out for the year recovering from Tommy John surgery, their #2 starter David Price was traded to the Dodgers, Rick Porcello walked in free agency and Eduardo Rodriguez is now on the Injured List with COVID-19.
My point is the Red Sox are going to struggle with their weak rotation, and I haven’t even mentioned that Mookie Betts is in Hollywood now.
So with that said, let’s project how the Red Sox will finish in the AL East along with where the Blue Jays, Rays, Orioles, and Yankees place in the division.
1. New York Yankees (41-19)
Not a surprise here. The Yankees are by far the best team in the American League especially when you realize that they took Cole away from the Astros (the 2nd best AL team).
Manager Aaron Boone has so much depth both in the pitching staff and on offense, so they are the best team set up to deal with any COVID-19 related issues. Aroldis Chapman, their closer, tested positive for the virus and it wasn’t a big deal because Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino are the next options.
I think they should get first place partly because of their easy schedule to end the season (not to mention they get to play the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium 7 out of 10 times). Their final 23 games in September are against teams that failed to reach the postseason last season (Orioles, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Marlins).
2. Tampa Bay Rays (37-23)
The Tampa Bay Rays are always that team that doesn’t have many huge names and if you ask a casual fan they probably won’t be able to name five players on their team. But this club is going to be a playoff team yet again.
Their bullpen is made up of a bunch of no-names but they just show up and get meaningful outs whenever manager Kevin Cash needs them to.
Their strong suit is their rotation. It is one of the best best in the game–especially their top three–as Blake Snell will likely take the ball Opening Day with Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow right behind him.
The Rays are a complete team and they will have no problem getting to the postseason again in 2020.
3. Boston Red Sox (28-32)
I was struggling on whether to put the Red Sox in third or fourth place in the division because of the uncertainty in the starting rotation. That uncertainty was only increased when Eduardo Rodriguez, who was supposed to be their Opening Day starter, came down with the coronavirus. There is no timetable for his return. He still has not been able to report to Fenway Park but once he tests negative twice then he’ll rejoin his teammates for the first time since Spring Training 1.0. Still
It isn’t just the uncertainty of Rodriguez, though. As I mentioned at the top, their ace Chris Sale is out for the year with Tommy John and their #2 starter last year, David Price, was traded so those two holes in the rotation are being filled by Ryan Weber and Brian Johnson in the 3 and 4 spots until Rodriguez returns.
After Nathan Eovaldi, there are not many guarantees in terms of starters keeping the lineup in games. Martin Perez did great in the first half of last season but then struggled mightily in the second half. Weber and Johnson don’t have a lot of experience, and then the fifth spot is an opener so you will just take what you can get from that spot.
The lineup will still score runs without Betts so I’m not worried about them, but the rotation is what will decide whether Boston finishes in third or in fourth place.
4. Toronto Blue Jays (26-34)
The Blue Jays have a whole lot of young talent in their lineup. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is moving to first base but he’ll be in the middle of their lineup along with shortstop Bo Bichette, second baseman Cavan Biggio, and veteran outfielder Randal Grichuk.
The Blue Jays pitching staff is their weakness but I think it is in better shape than the Red Sox right now. They signed Hyun-Jin Ryu to a big free agent contract to be their ace, and then they have Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark, and Matt Shoemaker behind him.
Unlike Boston, at least Toronto has some experienced starters in their rotation that should at least give the team some quality innings.
This year is going to be a great developmental year for the Jays to see if Vlad Jr. and Bichette can continue to progress and if Ryu can continue his dominance away from the Dodgers.
5. Baltimore Orioles (20-40)
The Orioles are going to stink. Their best player, Trey Mancini, is not going to be in their lineup as he is recovering from cancer so that leaves Chris Davis, Hanser Alberto, and Anthony Santander as their biggest bats in the lineup.
This young club is obviously rebuilding and it seems like the city is just waiting for their star prospect, Adley Rutschmann to be brought up from the minor leagues (he is in Summer Camp).
You can follow Ben for more Red Sox and MLB news/analysis @benfaddenmlb
(Photo: Winslow Townson/USA Today)