AL East Division Preview

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David Carey – March 18, 2021

Welcome to the AL East Division preview brought to you by Fantasy Marksmen. We’re aiming to condense a summary of the shortened 2020 season, a brief recap of the team transactions, lineup previews and team analysis into a neatly packed article for your consumption.

2020 Standings

Standings courtesy of MLB.com

In my eyes, knowing where we are coming from is an important part of knowing where we are going. In 2020 Tampa Bay established themselves as the top team in the AL East, largely due to their ability to reduce runs against (RA). Interestingly, they ranked only 4th in the division in runs scored but that was good enough to be best in the division with a +60 run differential. New York slugged their way into the playoffs scoring 315 runs for (RF). This was 4th best in the MLB behind only the Dodgers, Braves and Padres. The Blue Jays captured a wildcard spot only to lose to Tampa Bay in the Wild Card round. Baltimore was 4th in the division, and fell near or below the league average in most statistical categories. Boston finished last in the division mainly due to the struggles that they endured from their pitching staff.

Lets kick things off alphabetically with a team I believe has one of the most classic logo’s in all of pro sports.

Baltimore Orioles

2021 Win Total Projection: 63.5

The Orioles aren’t likely to be much better in 2021 than they were in 2020. The O’s still have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball amidst a division that has 3 teams going ALL-IN to win now. For Orioles fans the biggest source of excitement for 2021 is going to be the young corps of players who will hopefully take a step forward in their development. Anthony Santander (RF) and Ryan Mountcastle (LF) give the Orioles the most hope for success at the plate this season and are draft relevant plays for Fantasy Managers looking to scout some options from an otherwise bleak team. While some hope exists in the Baltimore rotation, we aren’t recommending any pitchers for your upcoming drafts.

Team Transactions

  • Dec 1, 2020 – Pedro Severino – C – Signed (2021 – avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 26, 2020 – Freddy Galvis – SS – Signed as a Free Agent
  • Feb 2, 2021 – Jahmai Jones – 2B – Traded from Los Angeles (for RHP Alex Cobb)
  • Feb 5, 2021 – Anthony Santander – RF – Signed (Loses arbitration)
  • Mar 16, 2021 – Hunter Harvey – RP – 60 Day IL (Strained Left oblique)
  • Mar 16, 2021 – Maikel Franco – 3B – Signed as a Free Agent

Projected Lineup

  1. Cedric Mullins, CF
  2. Ryan Mountcastle, LF
  3. Anthony Santander, RF
  4. Trey Mancini, 1B
  5. Rio Ruiz, 3B
  6. Pedro Severino, C
  7. DJ Stewart, DH
  8. Freddy Galvis, SS
  9. Yolmer Sánchez, 2B

Projected Rotation

  1. John Means, LHP
  2. Dean Kremer, RHP
  3. Keegan Akin, LHP
  4. Félix Hernández, RHP
  5. Matt Harvey, RHP

Closer: Tanner Scott, LHP

Boston Red Sox

2021 Win Total Projection: 79.5

Thinking through the Red Sox 2020 season the main thought that comes to mind is the struggles that their pitching staff had. Boston led the majors in HR allowed with 98, BB with 252 and finished 2nd worst in runs allowed (RA) only behind a team who calls Coors Field home. After starting the season 6-18 a lot of hope was lost for Red Sox fans, and rightfully so. The outlook was bleak and the loss of Mookie Betts to the Dodgers was still fresh in their minds. Quitely, a bright spot did emerge for the Red Sox was that they led the AL in batting average at 265. Boston will be hard pressed to compete in a tough AL East knowing that Tampa Bay, New York and Toronto will likely finish ahead of them. Factoring that Chris Sale had Tommy John surgery in March 2020 we can’t expect him back until late in the 2021 regular season. This key piece of the Boston rotation being gone for more than half the 2021 season means they are unlikely to be competitive beyond a potential late season push for a Wild Card spot.

Team Transactions

  • Oct 28, 2020 – Collin McHugh – SP – Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 – Jackie Bradley Jr. – CF – Declared Free Agency
  • Nov 25, 2020 Joel Payamps SP Acquired Off Waivers From Arizona
  • Nov 30, 2020 Eduardo Rodriguez SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Ryan Brasier RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Kevin Plawecki C Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Matt Barnes RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Chris Mazza SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Yairo Munoz LF Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Dec 23, 2020 Matt Andriese RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)
  • Dec 14, 2020 Hunter Renfroe RF Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Rafael Devers 3B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Feb 2, 2021 Enrique Hernandez 2B Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022)(two-year contract)
  • Feb 10, 2021 Franchy Cordero RF Traded From Kansas City (for OF Andrew Benintendi, 3-team deal)
  • Feb 3, 2021 Garrett Richards SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 12, 2021 Martin Perez SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract
  • Feb 16, 2021 Hirokazu Sawamura RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2022; Opt 2023)(two-year contract)
  • Feb 17, 2021 Ronaldo Hernandez C Traded From Tampa Bay (for RHP Chris Mazza, four-player deal)
  • Feb 24, 2021 Marwin Gonzalez 3B Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Enrique Hernández, 2B
  2. Alex Verdugo, CF
  3. J.D. Martinez, DH
  4. Xander Bogaerts, SS
  5. Rafael Devers, 3B
  6. Christian Vázquez, C
  7. Franchy Cordero, LF
  8. Bobby Dalbec, 1B
  9. Hunter Renfroe, RF

Projected Rotation

  1. Eduardo Rodriguez , LHP
  2. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
  3. Garrett Richards, RHP
  4. Martín Pérez, LHP
  5. Nick Pivetta, RHP

Closer: Matt Barnes, RHP

New York Yankees

2021 Win Total Projection: 97

The Yankees are my choice to win the AL East division this year. I love the consistent output that their lineup had in 2020 ranking 1st in the MLB at 5.25 runs per game. Inking DJ Lemahieu for 6 years, Corey Kluber for 1yr and trading for Jameson Taillon gives me even more confidence that this team can be a powerhouse in AL this year. In addition to the strong lineup which we know will produce plenty of run support the part about the Yankees which stands out to me is their starting rotation. Kluber and Taillon both come with plenty of risk after neither touched many baseballs in 2020 but these are both high ceiling players which can add a pseudo-ace behind Gerrit Cole. A sneaky late comer to the rotation could be Luis Severino who is on track to return mid-late season after Tommy John surgery in February 2020. The combination of power pitching and productive hitting have the Yankees not only my AL East favorite but my top team in the American League as well.

Team Transactions

  • Oct 28, 2020 Masahiro Tanaka SP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 28, 2020 James Paxton SP Declared Free Agency
  • Oct 29, 2020 Zack Britton RP Signed ( 2022)(team option exercised)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Ben Heller RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Luis Cessa RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 6, 2021 Greg Allen LF Traded From San Diego (for LHP James Reeves)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Aaron Judge RF Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Gio Urshela 3B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Chad Green RP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Gary Sanchez C Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Gleyber Torres SS Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Jordan Montgomery SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Clint Frazier RF Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Luke Voit 1B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 24, 2021 Jameson Taillon SP Traded From Pittsburgh (for RHP Miguel Yajure, five-player deal)
  • Jan 27, 2021 Corey Kluber SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Jan 27, 2021 DJ LeMahieu 2B Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2026)(six-year contract)
  • Feb 10, 2021 Darren O’Day RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 22, 2021 Brett Gardner LF Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 23, 2021 Justin Wilson RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. DJ LeMahieu, 2B
  2. Aaron Judge, RF
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  5. Luke Voit, 1B
  6. Gleyber Torres, SS
  7. Gary Sánchez, C
  8. Clint Frazier, LF
  9. Gio Urshela, 3B

Projected Rotation

  1. Gerrit Cole, RHP
  2. Corey Kluber, RHP
  3. Jameson Taillon, RHP
  4. Jordan Montgomery, LHP
  5. Deivi García, RHP

Closer: Aroldis Chapman, LHP

Tampa Bay Rays

2021 Win Total Projection: 86

Tampa Bay shed two big contracts amidst financial impact from COVID-19: Charlie Morton and Blake Snell. The loss of these two franchise-level SP isn’t easily overlooked. In doing so, the franchise is banking on their amazing farm team/system to replenish them with more talent such as LF Randy Arozarena, who became a superstar overnight in the 2020 MLB playoffs. The rotation for Tampa Bay doesn’t seem to pose any concern with the departure of Morton and Snell, the Rays still have a combination of young talent in Glasnow/Yarbough mixed in with some veterans like Archer, Hill and Wacha. In 2020 pitching was the forte of the Rays and they made the most of the runs they supported their pitchers with posting a division best +60 run differential. In 2021 the story will likely be different, as the AL East features two of the American League’s best lineups in the Yankees and Blue Jays. Tampa will likely play neck and neck with Toronto for much of the season, and potentially be separated by only a few games come Playoffs.

Team Transactions

  • Oct 30, 2020 Charlie Morton SP Declared Free Agency (team option declined)
  • Dec 16, 2020 Mike Zunino C Signed as Free Agent ( 2021; Opt 2022)(one-year contract)
  • Dec 29, 2020 Francisco Mejia C Traded From San Diego (for LHP Blake Snell, five-player deal)
  • Dec 29, 2020 Luis Patino RP Traded From San Diego (for LHP Blake Snell, five-player deal)
  • Dec 29, 2020 Garrett Cleavinger RP Traded From Philadelphia
  • Jan 15, 2021 Manuel Margot CF Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Tyler Glasnow SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Yonny Chirinos SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Joey Wendle 3B Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Feb 5, 2021 Ji-Man Choi 1B Signed ( 2021)(wins arbitration)
  • Feb 13, 2021 Ryan Yarbrough SP Signed ( 2021)(loses arbitration)
  • Feb 17, 2021 Rich Hill SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 17, 2021 Oliver Drake RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 17, 2021 Jeffrey Springs RP Traded From Boston (for C Ronaldo Hernandez, 4-player deal)
  • Feb 17, 2021 Chris Mazza SP Traded From Boston (for C Ronaldo Hernandez, 4-player deal)
  • Feb 22, 2021 Chaz Roe RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 22, 2021 Collin McHugh SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Austin Meadows, DH
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B
  3. Randy Arozarena, LF
  4. Ji-Man Choi, 1B
  5. Joey Wendle, 3B
  6. Willy Adames, SS
  7. Kevin Kiermaier, CF
  8. Mike Zunino, C
  9. Manuel Margot, RF

Projected Rotation

  1. Tyler Glasnow, RHP
  2. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
  3. Michael Wacha, RHP
  4. Rich Hill, LHP
  5. Chris Archer, RHP

Closer: Nick Anderson, RHP

Toronto Blue Jays

2021 Win Total Projections: 86

I really liked what 2020 brought to the Toronto Blue Jays as they returned to the post season, but not as much as what I see coming in 2021. Toronto is poised to take a step forward this year with one of the most difficult lineups in baseball to pitch around. George Springer makes an immediate impact in the OF and can bat in a multitude of spots at the top of the order. Much like Springer, Marcus Semien joins a crowded defensive position at 2B as well as place(s) in the batting order. Semien is a rare talent that can fit 1-9 in most lineups and produce well in BA/OBP/SLG and even steal a few bases. With the injection of these two high-caliber hitters and fielders it will be interesting to see how the Blue Jays construct their lineups day in day out against opposing pitching. Speaking of pitching, the Blue Jays don’t stack up with the elite teams around the league very well. They are currently expected to feature 3 LHP in their roster as well as power pitcher Nate Pearson and 33 y/o Tanner Roark throwing from the right side. Pearson who is currently expected to open the season on the IL with a groin injury has the highest ceiling of all the Jays pitchers at this point. Once he does return, fans will be in for a treat with is 100 MPH stuff.

Team Transactions

  • Oct 30, 2020 Rafael Dolis RP Signed ( 2021)(team option exercised)
  • Nov 7, 2020 Robbie Ray SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Dec 2, 2020 Travis Shaw 3B Not Offered Contract and Became Free Agent (non-tendered)
  • Dec 2, 2020 A.J. Cole RP Not Offered Contract and Became Free Agent (non-tendered)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Ross Stripling SP Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 15, 2021 Teoscar Hernandez RF Signed ( 2021)(avoids arbitration)
  • Jan 21, 2021 Tyler Chatwood SP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Jan 21, 2021 Kirby Yates RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Jan 23, 2021 George Springer CF Signed as Free Agent ( 2021-2026)(six-year contract)
  • Jan 27, 2021 Steven Matz SP Traded From NY Mets (for RHP Yennsy Diaz, four-player deal)
  • Jan 30, 2021 Marcus Semien SS Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)
  • Feb 11, 2021 David Phelps RP Signed as Free Agent ( 2021)(one-year contract)

Projected Lineup

  1. Cavan Biggio, 3B
  2. George Springer, CF
  3. Bo Bichette, SS
  4. Teoscar Hernández, RF
  5. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 1B
  6. Marcus Semien, 2B
  7. Lourdes Gurriel Jr., LF
  8. Rowdy Tellez, DH
  9. Danny Jansen, C

Projected Rotation

  1. Hyun Jin Ryu, LHP
  2. Nate Pearson, RHP
  3. Robbie Ray, LHP
  4. Steven Matz, LHP
  5. Tanner Roark, RHP

Closer: Kirby Yates, RHP

In closing, I see the Yankees winning the AL East this season in convincing fashion by scoring the most runs in the division and also boasting the best pitching staff. From there Toronto and Tampa Bay should be very close down the stretch for 2nd in the division and be each earmarked for a Wild Card position. Boston should finish short of both Tampa Bay and Toronto by a margin that I expect to amount of the expected wins which they will miss from Chris Sale through most of the 2021 year. Rounding out the division in, almost certainly, last place should be the Baltimore Orioles who appear to be years away from contending in the AL, yet alone the difficult division that they play.

Thanks for checking in with us for this divisional breakdown. I hope you’ve enjoyed our content and will check back with us later this week as we take a look at the AL Central Divison where we will take a look at why the Twins, Indians and White Sox are all in the mix for a division title!

David Carey – March 18, 2021

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