Six weeks full weeks into the 2019 season, surprises abound in the American League East.
Who had the Rays sprinting to the top of the division behind a bunch of breakout stars? Who had the Yankees weathering injuries to so many of their top players? Who had the defending champs fighting a World Series hangover? The Blue Jays and Orioles have even held their own, flirting with .500 records within the division.
Always competitive, the East doesn’t figure to get any easier this summer. To get a better grasp on all that’s transpired, we sought reaction from players, executives and key figures in the circuit for insight into what it takes to win in what is routinely one of baseball’s most hotly contested divisions. Their scouting reports follow below.
What they like: "I try to think of [Vladimir] Guerrero Jr. as just another guy, but you think about him because he adds another element to what is a good lineup. You have to bring your 'A' game against them. It's a nice mix of talented younger players and established veteran guys." -- AL East pitcher
What they don't: "Their biggest soft spot is probably their middle relief, before they get the ball into Ken Giles' hands. I think Giles is almost elite, I think he's proven that. But besides him, they don't really have another lockdown guy." -- AL East pitcher
What they like: "Their right fielder is probably an All-Star. [Trey] Mancini is an All-Star for any team. He hits in the middle of the lineup for most anybody in baseball. He can hit second, third, sixth, anywhere you want to hit him. He's going to hit 25 or 30 [homers] and he can play the outfield. He's a good athlete." -- AL scout
What they like: "Tampa Bay is bothersome. Their hitters don't chase out of the zone, and when you come into the zone, they swing and they swing hard and they make contact. Their pitchers are the opposite. They don't walk you, yet their stuff is such that you chase out of the zone. It is really hard to beat a team like this." -- AL East executive
What they don't: "I don't think they have a weakness. They're the best team in the division right now, and the record shows that. They're really tough. They can be overly aggressive on the bases, and some of their hitters are unproven. But their pitching is so good. [Tyler] Glasnow is really, really good. He is legit. All their relievers seem to throw 100 [mph] with crazy movement. Good luck." -- AL East infielder
What they like: "Their lineup is stacked. I know they're not off to the best start as a team, but they'll be fine as long as the lineup stays healthy throughout the season." -- AL East infielder
What they don't: "I'm still surprised they didn’t re-sign Craig Kimbrel, because their bullpen just doesn't have that [somebody] that makes you feel uncomfortable in the eighth or ninth inning. [Matt] Barnes is good, but in the past, you knew that you were in trouble if you were behind in the late innings." -- AL East infielder
What they like: "They hit a lot of home runs. If they have all their guys in their lineup, one through nine, they can take you deep. You have to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate, you have to bear down and eliminate bad pitches or they'll yank them right out of the ballpark." -- AL East pitcher
What they don't: "Health has to be the main thing, right? The only thing? But that's big." -- AL East pitcher