Heading into the 2019 season, who and what do the Yankees have to be worried about when scouting their American League East rivals?
The American League East is known for being one of baseballs best divisions year in and year out. Heading into 2019 this should be the case yet again.
Even with the Orioles in a total rebuild and Blue Jays not quite ready to make a playoff run the AL East looks to be among the toughest divisions in baseball with the defending world champion Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays coming off a 90 win season and of course the New York Yankees who again have championship aspirations.
Looking to win their first division title since 2012 the Yankees will need to beat their division rivals at a higher rate than past years. Here’s a look at each of the Yankees AL East rivals biggest strength weakness and player to watch heading into 2019.
Boston Red Sox:
No one scored more runs than the Boston Red Sox in 2018. Boston’s dynamic offense led by MVP Mookie Bets returns everyone that helped them claim a world series title a year ago. Thus, there’s no reason why Boston’s offense won’t be among baseballs best again in 2019.
With Joe Kelly now a Dodger and Craig Kimbrel, still a free agent the Red Sox lost two of their three top relievers from 2018. Unless the Sox add more depth their bullpen may struggle to get outs.
Player to watch: RP Ryan Brasier
A big reason why the Sox have yet to bring in a reliever this off-season is because of their faith in Ryan Braiser. In 2018 Braiser emerged out of nowhere to become one of Boston’s top relievers pitching to a 1.60 ERA in 34 regular season appearances and 1.04 ERA in nine postseason appearances. If the small sample size from Braizer turns into a large one, the Red Sox bullpen will be in better shape than many believe.
Tampa Bay Rays:
The Rays “bullpening” experiment was a massive success in 2018. This coming season it may be taken to the next level. Between a starting pitching staff anchored by Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell and Yankee killer, Charlie Morton and a bullpen loaded with hard-throwing arms the Rays pitching depth is as good as anyone in the majors.
Weakness: Designated Hitter
Tampa chose not to invest in a designated hitter such as Nelson Cruz or Edwin Encarnacion. With the MLB’s top teams being power heavy the Rays are missing a power bat in the position dedicated to being just that.
Player to watch: 3B Yandy Diaz
The Rays took a big gamble by trading 2018 first basemen and former top prospect Jake Bauers in a three-team deal to acquire Yandy Diaz. Diaz has played in only 88 carer big league games over the course of two seasons. Thus, it will be interesting to see how he performs in what will likely be his first full big league season.
Toronto Blue Jays:
Despite being in a reboot mode the Blue Jays have plenty of power in their lineup with big bats as Justin Smoak, Randal Grichuk and Kendrys Morales slugging in the middle of the order.
Toronto’s bullpen has hardly anyone recognizable. Ken Giles was once among the games elite closers, so perhaps he will be able to pick up the slack in what will likely be a poor Blue Jays bullpen.
Player to watch: SP Marcus Stroman
Marcus Stroman was once thought to be among the top pitchers in baseball. The past two seasons injuries have nagged the Toronto ace as he’s struggled mightily. Will this be the year he returns to his once dominant self? Time will tell.
Strength: Young Outfielders
The Orioles have a solid group of outfielders. Joey Rickard, Cedric Mullins, Austin Hayes and Trey Manchini all have a lot of potential.
Weakness: 2019 Roster
It’s going to be a long season in Baltimore. It’s hard to find much to like on this roster.
Player to watch: 1B Chris Davis
Will we see the once MLB home run leading Chris Davis make a comeback in 2019? Or will he be the worst player in baseball for a second straight season?