Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Blue Jays News

Want intrigue? The AL East is oozing with it

@RichardJustice
June 29, 2020

The American League East has two of the best five or six teams in Major League Baseball this season. But you probably already knew how good the Yankees and Rays are. It’s the other three teams -- Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles -- that could make the AL East

The American League East has two of the best five or six teams in Major League Baseball this season. But you probably already knew how good the Yankees and Rays are.

It’s the other three teams -- Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles -- that could make the AL East MLB’s most interesting division.

That’s a tough call in a shortened season, especially with the possibility that the National League Central could finish in a four-team tie and no clear favorite exists in either the NL East or AL Central.

That said, the AL East has a fascinating dynamic going. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Playoffs?
The AL East has sent at least two teams to the postseason for five straight seasons. No other division has that distinction, and in that time, the Yankees, Red Sox and Blue Jays have each been to the postseason at least twice. That may not change in 2020 with the Yankees and Rays among MLB’s elite, and the Red Sox and Blue Jays both likely to be in the postseason mix.

2. The Red Sox are better than you think.
Obviously, the margin for error is smaller without Mookie Betts, Chris Sale and David Price. That’s especially true for a rotation that must have a healthy Nathan Eovaldi and productive seasons from Ryan Weber and Martín Pérez. However, reliever Darwinzon Hernandez offers an intriguing opener option, and even with Betts playing for the Dodgers, the Red Sox should score enough runs and be able to hold late leads.

3. Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton finally have their moment.
It seemed appropriate when the Yankees paired these two larger-than-life sluggers in the same lineup two seasons ago. Just seeing them on the field together added to the club’s mystique. So far, though, injuries have prevented them from playing a full season together. Both could be ready for Opening Day, and if they’re both healthy for the postseason, the Yankees will be as entertaining as they are good.

4. Young talent? Here you go.
Between Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andújar (Yankees), Rafael Devers, Alex Verdugo and Andrew Benintendi (Red Sox), Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette (Blue Jays) and Austin Meadows and Willy Adames (Rays), the AL East has some of MLB’s best young talent. As for the Orioles, all they’ve done is add a pair of cornerstone players -- Adley Rutschman and Heston Kjerstad -- in the past two Drafts.

5. No team will outpitch the Rays.
Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow and Charlie Morton at the beginning of games. Nick Anderson, Colin Poche and Diego Castillo at the end of them. Any other questions? OK, so the Rays can pitch. Can they score enough runs? Actually, yes. Even after trading left fielder Tommy Pham to the Padres, this might be the best lineup the franchise has had in a while, especially if All-Star second baseman Brandon Lowe and third baseman Yandy Díaz are healthy.

6. In Toronto, it’s no longer just about the kids.
The Blue Jays have parallel storylines in 2020. One is about the continued development of the kids, particularly 21-year-old Guerrero, who struggled at times in his rookie season. But the other storyline is how Toronto general manager Ross Atkins completely rebuilt his rotation by acquiring four starting pitchers, including his new No. 1, Hyun-Jin Ryu, as well as Tanner Roark, Chase Anderson and Shun Yamaguchi. Regardless, this is a team with a chance to take a huge step forward from last season’s 67-95.

7. Beware the Orioles.
Their new baseball operations staff probably is about at the midway point of their reconstruction of the franchise’s roster. That said, this is close to the time that the Orioles become, at times, a dangerous opponent and an interesting club to watch. As general manager Mike Elias begins to give his best prospects -- first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, outfielder Austin Hays, etc. -- playing time, the Orioles will become a tougher and tougher opponent. Things are changing rapidly at Camden Yards.

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.