American League East Preview Capsules

·13 min read

Capsules of American League East teams, listed in order of finish last year:

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Tampa Bay Rays

2020: 40-20, first place, AL champions, lost to Dodgers in World Series.

Manager: Kevin Cash (seventh season).

He’s Here: RHP Michael Wacha, RHP Chris Archer, LHP Rich Hill, RHP Collin McHugh, C Francisco Mejia.

He’s Outta Here: LHP Blake Snell, RHP Charlie Morton, OF Hunter Renfroe, RHP Aaron Slegers, 1B Nate Lowe, LHP Aaron Loup, LHP Jose Alvarado, 1B Brian O’Grady, LHP Sean Gilmartin.

Projected Lineup: RF Austin Meadows (.205, 4 HRs, 13 RBIs), 2B Brandon Lowe (.269, 14, 37), LF Randy Arozarena (.281, 7, 11 in 42 regular-season games; .377, 10, 14 in 20 post-season games), 1B Ji-Man Choi (.230, 3, 16), 3B Yandy Diaz (.307, 2, 11), DH Manuel Margot (.269, 1, 11) or Yoshi Tsutsugo (.197, 8, 24), CF Kevin Kiermaier (.217, 3, 22), SS Willy Adames (.259, 8, 23), C Mike Zunino (.147, 4, 10).

Rotation: RH Tyler Glasnow (5-1, 4.08 ERA), LH Ryan Yarbrough (1-4, 3.56), RH Chris Archer (3-9, 5.19 for Pirates in 2019), RH Michael Wacha (1-4, 6.62 for Mets), LH Rich Hill (2-2, 3.03 for Twins).

Key Relievers: RH Nick Anderson (2-1, 0.55, 6/6 saves), RH Diego Castillo (3-0, 1.66, 4 saves), RH Pete Fairbanks (6-3, 2.70), RH Collin McHugh (4-5, 4.70 for Astros in 2019), LH Cody Reed (0-1, 4.50 with Reds and Rays), RH Ryan Thompson (1-2, 4.44), RH Chaz Roe (2-0, 2.89), LH Josh Fleming (5-0, 2.78 in 7 appearances, 5 starts).

Outlook: The defending AL champions hope to build on last year’s run to the World Series, where the Rays lost to the Dodgers in six games. Expectations remain high for 2021 despite having to replace their top two starting pitchers after declining a $15 million option on Morton and trading Snell, a former AL Cy Young Award winner, to San Diego. The team is counting on Glasnow to step into a leading role, with off-season acquisitions Wacha, Archer and Hill filling openings in a revamped rotation. A versatile lineup will be largely the same, with rookie Arozarena getting more playing time after a breakout post-season and Cash continuing to make liberal use of a deep bench. The offence averaged 4.82 runs per game during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, its best showing in 10 years, and could be even better if Meadows, Choi and Diaz rebound from injuries that hampered their production last year. Nevertheless, the Rays thrive on pitching and defence . A major league-high 12 pitchers earned saves last season, tying a big league record, and the bullpen — fortified by the addition of McHugh — figures to be a difference-maker again.

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New York Yankees

2020: 33-27, second place, lost to Rays in Division Series.

Manager: Aaron Boone (fourth season).

He’s Here: RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Jameson Taillon, RHP Domingo Germán (returning from domestic violence suspension), RHP Darren O’Day, LHP Justin Wilson, RHP Adam Warren, RHP Jhoulys Chacín, RHP Asher Wojciechowski, LHP Lucas Luetge, C Robinson Chirinos (broken right wrist), OF-1B Jay Bruce, INF Derek Dietrich.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Masahiro Tanaka, LHP James Paxton, LHP J.A. Happ, RHP Tommy Kahnle, RHP Jonathan Holder, C Erik Kratz.

Projected Lineup: 2B DJ LeMahieu (major league-leading .364, 10 HRs, 27 RBIs, 41 runs, 1.011 OPS), RF Aaron Judge (.257, 9, 22 in 28 games), CF Aaron Hicks (.225, 6, 21), DH Giancarlo Stanton (.250, 4, 11 in 23 games), 1B Luke Voit (.277, major league-leading 22, 52), SS Gleyber Torres (.243, 3, 16), C Gary Sánchez (.147, 10, 24), LF Clint Frazier (.267, 8, 26), 3B Gio Urshela (.298, 6, 30).

Rotation: RH Gerrit Cole (7-3, 2.84 ERA, 94 Ks), RH Corey Kluber (0-0, 0.00 in 1 inning for Rangers before tearing muscle in right shoulder), RH Jameson Taillon (has not pitched since May 2019 while recovering from second Tommy John surgery), LH Jordan Montgomery (2-3, 5.11), RH Domingo Germán (has not pitched since September 2019), RH Deivi García (3-2, 4.98, 33 Ks in 34 1/3 IP as rookie), RH Luis Severino (out until June or July following Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27, 2020).

Key Relievers: LH Aroldis Chapman (1-1, 3.09, 3/5 saves), LH Zack Britton (1-2, 1.89, 8 saves; out until at least May and possibly July following elbow surgery), RH Chad Green (3-3, 3.51, 1 save, 32 Ks in 25 2/3 IP), RH Darren O’Day (4-0, 1.10, 22 Ks in 16 1/3 IP for Braves), LH Justin Wilson (2-1, 3.66, 23 Ks in 19 2/3 IP for Mets).

Outlook: A new-look rotation could include Kluber and Taillon, high-risk additions who due to injuries have combined for one inning since May 1, 2019, and Germán, who hasn't pitched since September 2019 while serving a domestic violence suspension. They join ace Cole, García and Montgomery, with Boone saying he is likely to push people back and skip turns early in the season. New York allowed Tanaka to return to Japan after seven seasons in pinstripes and also did not re-sign Paxton or Happ. Urshela is recovering from surgery Dec. 4 to remove a bone chip from his right elbow, a procedure with an anticipated recovery time of three months. Voit had a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat plantar fasciitis in his left foot after leading the majors in home runs. LeMahieu re-signed for $90 million over six years after becoming the first player to win undisputed batting titles in both leagues. Judge and Stanton are trying yoga after both missed a majority of their second straight season due to injuries. Focus will be on Sánchez, who struggled at the plate for the third straight year, hit a career-worst .147 and was benched in favour of Kyle Higashioka for four of five Division Series games. New York is seeking to be more consistent: The pandemic-shortened season included a 16-6 start followed by a 5-15 slide, a 10-game winning streak and six losses in the last eight games. The Yankees were 22-9 at home and 11-18 on the road. A long-ball dependent offence scored 156 of 315 runs on homers. Yankee Stadium will host fans at 20% capacity (up to 10,850 for the April 1 opener against Toronto) to begin the season.

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Toronto Blue Jays

2020: 32-28, third place, wild card, lost to Rays in first round of playoffs.

Manager: Charlie Montoyo (third season).

He’s Here: OF George Springer, INF Marcus Semien, RHP Kirby Yates, LHP Steven Matz, RHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP David Phelps, LHP Francisco Liriano, LHP Tommy Milone, RHP Joel Payamps, LHP Travis Bergen.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Ken Giles, RHP Taijuan Walker, RHP Anthony Bass, RHP Matt Shoemaker, INF Travis Shaw, INF Jonathan Villar, RHP Chase Anderson, RHP Sean Reid-Foley, RHP Shun Yamaguchi, OF Billy McKinney, OF Derek Fisher, RHP Yennsy Diaz, RHP Wilmer Font.

Projected Lineup: CF George Springer (.265, 14 HRs, 32 RBIs with Houston), 2B Marcus Semien (.223, 7, 23 with Oakland), SS Bo Bichette (.301, 5, 23), RF Teoscar Hernandez (.289, 16, 34), 1B Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.262, 9, 33), LF Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (.308, 11, 33), 3B Cavan Biggio (.250, 8, 28, 41 BB), DH Rowdy Tellez (.283, 8, 23), C Danny Jansen (.183, 6, 20).

Rotation: LH Hyun Jin Ryu (5-2, 2.69 ERA), LH Robbie Ray (2-6, 6.62 with Arizona and Toronto), RH Nate Pearson (1-0, 6.00), RH Tanner Roark (2-3, 6.80), LH Steven Matz (0-5, 9.68 with Mets).

Key Relievers: RH Kirby Yates (0-1, 12.46, 2/2 saves with Padres), RH Jordan Romano (2-1, 1.23, 2 saves), RHP Rafael Dolis (2-2, 1.50, 5 saves), RH Tyler Chatwood (2-2, 5.30 with Cubs), RH David Phelps (2-4, 6.53 with Milwaukee and Philadelphia), LH Ryan Borucki (1-1, 2.70), LH Francisco Liriano (did not pitch in 2020).

Outlook: The Blue Jays beefed up a young, talented team by adding several playoff-tested veterans in a busy, productive off-season . Springer signed a team-record $150 million, six-year deal, and Semien joined on an $18 million, one-year deal. Toronto also acquired starting rotation depth by getting Matz in a trade with the Mets and bolstered its bullpen by signing a trio of right-handed relievers, including closer Yates. By adding Springer and Semien to a promising group of youngsters including Bichette, Guerrero and Biggio, the Blue Jays have built one of the AL’s most fearsome lineups. However, beyond staff ace Ryu, the rotation is full of question marks. If hard-throwing Pearson doesn’t develop quickly, Toronto might need to make an in-season pitching addition to boost its post-season hopes. With home games in Canada still ruled out by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Jays will begin the regular season at their spring training home in Dunedin, Florida. If playing in Toronto still isn’t an option by mid-season, the Jays may move to another minor league park once searing summer heat and thunderstorms become an issue in Florida.

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Baltimore Orioles

2020: 25-35, fourth place.

Manager: Brandon Hyde (third season).

He’s Here: RHP Felix Hernandez, RHP Matt Harvey, SS Freddy Galvis, 3B Maikel Franco, OF Chris Shaw, 2B Yolmer Sanchez, RHP Mac Sceroler, RHP Tyler Wells.

He’s Outta Here: RHP Alex Cobb, 2B Hanser Alberto, SS Jose Iglesias, OF Dwight Smith, 1B Renato Nunez, RHP David Hess, INF Andrew Velazquez, C Bryan Holaday, RHP Kohl Stewart.

Projected Lineup: CF Cedric Mullins (.271, 3 HRs, 12 RBIs, 7 SBs), LF Austin Hays (.279, 4, 9), 1B Trey Mancini (missed 2020 following colon cancer surgery), RF Anthony Santander (.261, 11, 32), 3B Maikel Franco (.278, 8, 38 for Royals), DH Ryan Mountcastle (.333, 5, 23), C Pedro Severino (.250, 5, 21), SS Freddy Galvis (.220, 7, 16 for Reds), 2B Yolmer Sanchez (.313, 1, 1 in 11 games for White Sox).

Rotation: LH John Means (2-4, 4.53 ERA), RH Dean Kremer (1-1, 4.82 in 4 games), RH Felix Hernandez (opted out of 2020), LH Keegan Akin (1-2, 4.56), RH Matt Harvey (0-3, 11.57 with Royals) or LH Bruce Zimmermann (0-0, 7.71 in 2 games) or LH Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 8.06).

Key Relievers: RHP Shawn Armstrong (2-0, 1.80), LHP Paul Fry (1-0, 2.45), LHP Tanner Scott (0-0, 1.31, 1 save), RHP Cole Sulser (1-5, 5.56, 5 saves), RHP Dillon Tate (1-1, 3.24), RHP Cesar Valdez (1-1, 1.26, 3 saves).

Outlook: Although the Orioles appeared to make some progress last year following two straight 100-loss seasons, general manager Mike Elias remains focused on long-term stability in his effort to slash the payroll and rebuild the franchise with draft picks and prospects obtained via trades for veteran talent. The restive fan base will welcome Mancini back, but he and Santander could be July trade chips. Chris Davis, entering the sixth season of a $161 million, seven-year contract, is likely to begin on the injured list after playing just 16 games and hitting only .115 last season. Aside from Means, a 2019 All-Star, the rotation is full of pitchers who have yet to establish themselves and veterans like Harvey and Hernandez, whose success came years ago. Hernandez was pulled from a spring start with elbow discomfort March 16. The bullpen, vastly improved in 2020, must provide stability for such a questionable rotation. The Orioles will allow about 11,000 fans — 25% capacity — at Camden Yards to begin the season.

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Boston Red Sox

2020: 24-36, fifth place.

Manager: Alex Cora (third season, first of second stint with team).

He’s Here: Manager Alex Cora, 2B Enrique Hernández, RHP Garrett Richards, LF Hunter Renfroe, RHP Adam Ottavino, OF Franchy Cordero, RHP Matt Andriese, RHP Garrett Whitlock, RHP Josh Winckowski, 3B Marwin González, RHP Hirokazo Sawamura.

He’s Outta Here: Manager Ron Roenicke, 2B Dustin Pedroia, OF Andrew Benintendi, CF Jackie Bradley Jr., SS C.J. Chatham, C Devy Grullon, LHP Yoan Aybar, RHP Robert Stock, LHP Matt Hall, RHP Ryan Weber, RHP Collin McHugh, RHP Domingo Tapia.

Projected Lineup: 2B Enrique Hernández (.230, 5 HRs, 20 RBIs), CF Alex Verdugo (.308, 6, 15), DH J.D. Martinez (.213, 7, 27), SS Xander Bogaerts (.300, 11, 28), 3B Rafael Devers (.263, 11, 43), RF Hunter Renfroe (.156, 8, 22), LF Marwin González (.211, 5, 37), C Christian Vázquez (.283, 7, 23), 1B Bobby Dalbec (.263, 8, 16).

Rotation: LH Eduardo Rodríguez (19-6, 3.81 ERA in 2019; did not pitch in 2020 due to COVID-19), RH Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 3.72), LH Martín Pérez (3-5, 4.50), RH Garrett Richards (2-2, 4.03), RH Nick Pivetta (2-0, 6.89), LH Chris Sale (6-11, 4.40 in 2019; expected back from Tommy John surgery midseason).

Key Relievers: RH Matt Barnes (1-3, 4.30, 5 saves), RH Hirokazu Sawamura (1-4, 3.05 for Chiba Lotte and Yomiuri in Japan), RH Adam Ottavino (2-3, 5.89), RH Matt Andriese (2-4, 4.50), RH Ryan Brasier (1-0, 3.96), LH Darwinzon Hernández (1-0, 2.16).

Outlook: After winning the 2018 World Series, the team's fourth championship in 15 seasons, the Red Sox fired Cora in the wake of the Houston sign-stealing scandal last off-season and traded 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts and 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner David Price to the Dodgers in a salary dump. The Red Sox were also without Sale, who missed the entire 2020 season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and Rodríguez, who was out with heart inflammation caused by COVID-19. Roenicke, promoted from bench coach after players started reporting to spring training, didn’t have much of a chance. So the Red Sox moved on and brought back Cora, who served his one-year suspension for his role in the Astros scandal. The team’s best hope of getting out of the cellar of the stacked AL East in 2021 is that he relights a spark in Martinez and Devers, who both struggled during the pandemic-shortened season; Rodriguez returns strong and Sale is able to recover by midseason. The retirement of Dustin Pedroia, who played only nine games in the past three years, provides clarity at second base and opened a spot that Hernández should fill. Bogaerts is signed to a long-term deal and could become the star future teams are built around. Or, he could become the next Betts. Verdugo, the biggest acquisition in the Dodgers deal, is also a piece for the future. Fenway Park will be open to fans, beginning at 12% capacity, or around 4,500 people.

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