5 AL East predictions going into September

August 28th, 2019

It’s hard to believe that Major League Baseball is entering the final month of the regular season. It promises to be a fantastic finish, especially in the AL East, where the Yankees are fighting for home-field advantage, the Rays and Red Sox are in the hunt for a Wild Card berth and the Orioles and Blue Jays are getting early glimpses at their futures.

Here are predictions for every team in the AL East before the rest of the regular season.

Blue Jays: Look for Justin Smoak to have a strong September -- he needs it before hitting the free-agent market this winter. Although he has the power numbers, it would be nice to get the average up. Entering Thursday’s action, his batting average was .214. The Blue Jays love his character and leadership and he has defensive value, so perhaps he stays put this winter.

Orioles: The Orioles are rebuilding and will look to move veterans this offseason for more young talent, so they need those guys to play well. Look for second baseman Jonathan Villar and reliever Mychal Givens to have great Septembers and improve their trade stock. Villar has been hitting with consistency, has a career high 20 home runs and leads the team with a 3.4 WAR. Givens is currently the closer, but may be best suited as a setup man for a contending team.

Rays: Entering Wednesday’s action, the Rays are a game behind the Athletics for the second American League Wild Card spot. But look for Rays to stay in the race until the end. They play the Indians on Sept. 1, but the next seven games are against two of the worst teams -- Orioles and Blue Jays -- in the American League. Then the Rays go on an eight-game West Coast trip. Two of the teams -- Rangers and Angels -- are out of contention. Without a doubt, it will be a tough two-game series against the Dodgers, but manager Kevin Cash will find a way to make them competitive. Then the Rays will face their AL East foes -- Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays -- the rest of the way. The Rays are a combined 22-22 against the three teams.

Red Sox: According to MLB.com reporter Ian Browne, the team could call up Bobby Dalbec, its No. 2 prospect, on Sunday. Dalbec can play both third and first base, but most of his playing time will be at first base as he helps the Red Sox try to capture a Wild Card berth. Look for Dalbec to provide the pop that the team has been lacking for most of the year at first base. While with Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland, Dalbec hit a combined 26 home runs and drove in 70 runs.

Yankees: J.A. Happ pitched like an ace after he was traded to the Yankees in July 2018. The team expected similar results this year, but he is having one of the worst seasons of his career. And now, one wonders if he will be in the rotation when their postseason starts in October. If the postseason started today, Happ would likely be in the bullpen, while the Yankees go with a three-man rotation, which would include James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and Domingo German. But look for Happ to fight for his spot in the rotation and have a good month of September. If his start against the Mariners was any indication -- look for his fastball to be a lot crisper.