Is baseball’s best division getting even better? Or is it merely shifting power dynamics? Time will tell but what we do know entering into 2022 is that there seems to be a new player at the table in the AL East in the form of the rising Toronto Blue Jays.
The traditional hierarchy of this division, once belonging to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox doesn’t feel so certain anymore. The Yankees are in the midst of their longest championship drought and Boston is good but seems to be a step behind where they were when they were winning titles. Tampa Bay is always one not to overlook but this year, all signs are pointing North.
Can the King of North be King of the East?
- +800 to Win World Series
- +375 to Win American League
- +150 to Win AL East
The Toronto Blue Jays have a great story, one that is woven in statistical success but also unexpected anecdotes. Take for example three of their best players. Not only do the Blue Jays have the son of one all-time great, they have the sons of three in Vlad Guerrerro Jr., Bo Bichette, and Cavan Biggio. And all three of those guys are showing that they can be capable of their own success in this league. Especially Guerrero, who’s swing has been said by some to be even better than his Hall of Fame father’s.
Guerrero leads an impressive lineup which in addition to the two other generational players mentioned, includes George Springer and the newly added gold glove third baseman, Matt Chapman. From top to bottom, Toronto has one of the top lineups in baseball and should be expected to score a lot of runs this year. It is clear the Jays are looking at their championship window as wide open and why shouldn’t they? Outside of the Dodgers, there may not be a better team in baseball right now than the boys up North. 2022 could well be the year ‘Oh Canada’ returns to the World Series stage.
Will the Yankees Stay Healthy Enough to Make a Run?
- +1000 to Win World Series
- +550 to Win American League
- +240 to Win AL East
There must be something in the New York water. Both the New York Mets and New York Yankees saw promising seasons derailed last year due to injuries to their top players. And there are certainly several question marks already, around if their top talent can stay healthy and contribute over a 162-game season. The Yankees are always in the conversation to compete. They are always willing to spend money and bring in top free agents. But here is the thing, none of that matters if those impact players are constantly landing on the DL. Such was the case last year as Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and others found themselves rotating time on the bench due to various ailments.
New York has a team built to compete and built to contend with the Blue Jays if they can keep them on the field. Their offense is built for power with several players candidates for rebound performers in 2022 including DJ LeMahieu and Gleybar Torres. But the team also added Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo to maximize that depth. The pitching is good enough that this team can compete. So, start spreading the news…
How Much Longer Can the Rays Sustain their Cinderella Run?
- +1600 to Win World Series
- +750 to Win American League
- +300 to Win AL East
Let’s take it back to 2008 for a second. After defeating the AL East’s best in both the Yankees and Red Sox, the Tampa Bay Rays reached the World Series, falling to the Philadelphia Phillies in the season’s final series. But for the Rays, just getting there was a feat of majesty. Since 2008, Tampa Bay’s miracle magic seems to just keep coming back as the Rays have won at least 90 games in seven of those last 12 seasons (excluding their 40-win Covid-shortened 2020 season, though that was the highest win total in the AL that year) and have won the AL East three times. When we talk about buying championships, the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, are some teams that come to mind. But the Rays are the exact opposite. Tampa has one of the lowest payrolls in MLB and yet, even when they must watch their top talent walk for bigger paydays elsewhere, the Rays keep going. Their farm system is constantly producing excellent players as next-man-up is key to Tampa’s success.
2022 should be no different. The Rays are a team made up of young stars, including one that Tampa does not want to lose in Wander Franco. The Rays made a huge splash when they signed their top prospect to an 11-year contract, something almost unheard of for a team with such a low financial ceiling. But Franco is that good and along with key players in Tyler Glasnow, Shane McClanahan, Corey Kluber, and rising outfield prospect Josh Lowe, Tampa once again has enough to not just compete but defend their divisional title from 2021. No one knows how to get more out of less than the Rays and they are prime to once again surprise doubters this year.
What About Us? The Red Sox and Orioles
If one looks at projected win totals and odds, you are probably thinking, ‘how in the world do the Red Sox and Orioles belong in the same conversation?’ Well, it’s simple. For as different as these two teams are, they are similar in that neither has enough to challenge the three juggernauts of the Yankees, Rays, and Blue Jays.
The Red Sox are better than the Orioles but that’s not saying much. Boston will look to guys like Nathan Eovaldi and free agent acquisition Trevor Story to try to get them back in the conversation this year, but the deficit of talent seems to be too much for the team to get over. That’s not saying the Red Sox can’t be a decent and potentially wildcard team. It’s just that the rest of the division is ahead of them, especially with the question marks Boston has among their pitching staff.
The Orioles well, they’ll have a tough go. Playing games against the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays on such a consistent basis won’t help things. The team has some young and up-and-coming players to keep an eye on, mainly John Means, who threw a no-hitter last year. But he’s likely to be traded if the deal is right at the deadline. Baltimore is clearly rebuilding, and they are far away from even sniffing the upper echelon of this loaded division.
This is the toughest division to handicap. The Blue Jays feel inevitable, but the Yankees have the star power to turn things around and the Rays are always a team you can’t count out. That all being said, there is a razor thin margin here as any one of these three could come out on top. Our pick is going to be to ride with the Blue Jays. Expect big things from this team at the trade deadline as they are all in on a championship this season.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.