2022 Preview: AL East
Arguably the toughest division in baseball got even tougher this offseason. Toronto took a massive step forward, and Boston strengthened their already tough offense significantly. The Rays and Yankees had rather lax free agency periods, but are still playoff teams. Here’s our full preview for each team.
2022 Preview: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays have quickly become the most efficient team in baseball. Tampa has made the playoffs for three straight years now, while constantly operating on a minuscule payroll. While their roster only has a few standouts, it would be dumb to brush off the Rays this season. Coming off a year where they won 100 games for the first time in franchise history, Tampa is poised to yet again have a good team. Wander Franco recently signed a long-term extension with Tampa, and it should be exciting (terrifying if you’re a fan of the other team) to see how the #1 prospect in baseball for years will develop with a full season.
Before the lockout, the Rays signed free-agent Corey Kluber and reliever Brooks Raley, and later traded All-Star infielder Joey Wendle, which came as a surprise to many. Nevertheless, we know how Tampa operates. Last year they shipped off Blake Snell and we all were calling them insane, only for Snell to have a really down year in 2021. The UCL injury to ace Tyler Glasnow really hurts, and it’s believed he won’t return until at the earliest August. However, they still have talent in their rotation. Shane McClanahan established himself last year as a quality starter, and guys like Shane Baz should round up a rotation filled with veteran and young talent. It’s no suprise many websites have the Rays winning around 86 games, but would we be suprised at all if they won 91+? I don’t think so.
Fangraphs Projections: 85.8-76.2
My Prediction: 91-71
Key Addition: Corey Kluber
2022 Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
After just missing the playoffs last year, The Toronto Blue Jays are one of if not the scariest team on paper heading into 2022 in my opinion. They let Robbie Ray walk, and ended up signing Kevin Gausman. Their rotation is okay. There’s a lot of hype surrounding it but I’m not convinced on Kevin Gausman yet, who was getting terrorized by the American League East during the beginning of his career. It’s their lineup, however, that makes them so frightening. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has lived exactly up to his name, Bo Bichette keeps getting better, and George Springer should be in centerfield a lot more after falling to injuries last year. Along with these three, they have Teoscar Hernández, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Cavan Biggio, and Toronto recently traded for Athletics 3B Matt Chapman, who can contribute greatly to this lineup if he finds his bat again (the defense of Chapman is still incredible nonetheless).
Bottom line, I think Toronto is the team to beat. They have a core of young, hungry baseball players and after just missing the playoffs last year, I assure you they’ll have a chip on their shoulder all year long. What will hold them back will be their staff. Berrios has his days, but he’s certainly hittable. Nate Pearson has still not shown a great control of his fastball, and Hyun-Jin Ryu is getting hit around more and more each year. I think the rotation can win them the division. I also think there are a lot of question marks surrounding it also. They lost Marcus Semien who was great for them also, but I think they’ll replicate his numbers and then some. The addition of Chapman improves their infield defense significantly as well.
Fangraphs Projection: 92.6-69.4
My Prediciton: 98-64
Key Addition: Matt Chapman
2022 Preview: New York Yankees
For the Yankees last year, everything that could have gone wrong went wrong. Their offense dipped drastically, which I can’t help but think it was due to the juiced ball being removed. Guys who had huge seasons in 2019 suddenly looked like complete different hitters in 2021. There was virtually no offensive contribution outside of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge. The Yankees have had a weird, underwhelming free agency too. New York made a big trade with Minnesota just weeks ago, in which they saw the departure of two players: Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez. The Yankees traded these two for 3B Josh Donaldson, Catcher Ben Rortvedt, and SS Isiah Kiner-Falefa, a guy the Yankees were big on all offseason. I think this trade made the Yankees better, but barely. Gary Sanchez was awful, and became impossible to defend after his numerous blunders in 2021.
The Yankees roster will certainly look different in 2022. I believe Joey Gallo is a huge bounceback candidate for the team, and there’s still a lot to be excited for. The rotation outside of Gerrit Cole yet again will be a question mark. Luis Severino has looked good in spring training so far, but it’s still unknown what’s expected of him this year inning wise. Outside of those two, the rotation will include Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, and Nestor Cortes Jr. Pitching coach Matt Blake did a great job with the staff last year, but I think they’re relying too much on Taillon being healthy all year, and Cortes not regressing after an impressive 2021 campaign. The Yankees will be good, I just think the other teams are better. They had the opportunity to go a step above and sign guys such as Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, or Trevor Story, but it seems the front office thinks the guys they have now will suffice.
Fangraphs Projections: 90.6-71.4
My Prediction: 87-75
Key Addition: Isiah Kiner-Falefa
2022 Preview: Boston Red Sox
Boston had a very successful 2021 campaign, and was just two wins away from a World Series appearance. After demoralizing the Yankees in the Wild Card game, they defeated Tampa in the divisional series rather easily. They fell to Houston in the Championship Series, but proved how prolific their offense can really be. Ironically enough, last year was supposed to be a year dedicated to shredding payroll, and developing younger players. Entering this year, Boston has relatively the same roster outside of their major Free Agent landing: Trevor Story. Story takes this offense from already great, to borderline unfair.
The addition of Story allows for Boston to get creative. After trading RF Hunter Renfroe, Boston got back Jackie Bradley Jr., who was a part of the teams 2018 World Series title. Boston’s rotation is lead off by Nathan Eovaldi, who has found success in Boston. Chris Sale recently fractured his ribcage with no timetable to return currently. Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck also remain viable options at the back end of their rotation. Nevertheless, it won’t matter when Boston is averaging 5-6 runs a game. Their lineup will do a lot of damage this year, and it will be tough for any opponent to take down Boston in a playoff series. I think they’ll finish just behind Toronto for the American League East crown.
Fangraphs Projections: 86.2-75.8
My Prediction: 95-67
Key Addition: Trevor Story
2022 Preview: Baltimore Orioles
The only team in the division who isn’t arguably a contender are the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles will probably be one of the worst teams in baseball this year record wise, but to say their lineup flat out stinks is just wrong. All-Star Cedric Mullens has become a huge player for them, along with Ryan Mountcastle, Trey Mancini, and Anthony Santander. They signed Catcher Robinson Chirinos and 2B Rougned Odor during the offseason, which should provide some veteran prescence throughout the year. Chirinos will start the season in the lineup, until the Orioles call up baseball’s top prospect Adley Rutschman. The highly-touted catcher out of Oregon State was expected to be called up during the first half of the season, but a recent tricep strain has him sidelined for a few weeks.
Baltimore’s pitching will be a reason for their lack of success heading into this year. John Means has proven himself as a quality starter, but outside of him it’s just question marks for the most part. Baltimore is bringing back mostly the same staff, with the addition of Jordan Lyle in free agency. I also think it’s worth noting that Baltimore doesn’t have a single easy divisional opponent. They will consistently be playing the likes of Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto, and New York. They’re a rebuilding team still, but Baltimore would fare so much better if they were just a part of any other division. Still, the emergence of Rutschman is incredibly exciting, and should draw a lot of fans to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Fangraphs Projections: 64.2-97.8
My Projections: 67-95
Key Addition: Adley Rutschman (when called up)