MLB: AL East Preview, Predictions & Betting Picks

Aaron Judge: AL East PredictionsThe MLB season has been delayed but everyone is still hopeful that baseball will be returning in some capacity in 2020. Whether that means a shortened season, more weekend doubleheaders or less of an all-star break, no one really knows. What we do know however, is that when baseball returns to the lives of Americans everywhere, we’ll be fully prepared for it.

Prior to the impact of the coronavirus on American sports, USABetting started our division by division preview series by examining the NL East, home of the world champion Washington Nationals. So now, it is time to look at their counterpart, the AL East, which currently boasts the team tied for the top odds to win it all, the New York Yankees (+350; tied with Los Angeles Dodgers).

New York Yankees (+350 to Win the World Series; +150 to Win AL Pennant)

A quick look at the betting odds with the leading U.S. sports betting sites, such as Bovada, seems to tell us that there is a clear favorite in the AL East and that team is the New York Yankees. Staked at –450 to win the division (2nd best odds are Tampa Bay Rays at +375), the Yankees enter the 2020 season with lofty expectations considering what the team did last year.

NY won 103 games but was ultimately bounced from the postseason in the ALCS by the Houston Astros, something by now Yankees fans will contend happened as a result of the cheating Astros. Even though Houston was punished and looks to be this year’s pariah, no results were changed meaning the Astros kept the pennant. In 2020, the Yankees have all eyes on that prize and the one that comes after, their first World Series trophy in a somewhat unfathomable 11 years.

They have the team to do it so long as they stay healthy, something that was not the case in 2019 and initially looked like wouldn’t be the case in 2020. The delayed season seems to be gifting no team more than New York, who may now have Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton ready to start when the season does. That wouldn’t have been the case had the MLB year begun in March as planned. The same goes for some of the Yankees’ top arms including James Paxton who was expected to miss a month with injury. All these injuries that were supposed to stand as an obstacle in New York’s way, may well be gone come May? June? Who knows?

This is one of the best lineups, best rotations and certainly best bullpens entering into the 2020 season and now they will be firing on all cylinders on day one. That’s good news for New York but bad news for the rest of the American League.

Tampa Bay Rays (+2000 to win the World Series; +900 to win AL Pennant)

After winning 96 games in 2019 and clinching their return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, it firmly seems that the Tampa Bay Rays are back into the contender category. It has been a while since we could say that about the Rays, who surprised everyone when they reached the World Series in 2008. That team was made up of young-and-hungry stars and once again, youth seems to be the motto for the Rays. Tampa Bay boasts the top prospect in all of baseball in Wander Franco. It’s unlikely Franco will be promoted in 2020 but it’s not out of the question. Even if the Rays do hold him in the minors for the season, Tampa Bay still has one of the youngest units in all of the majors with just four players over the age of 30, just one of them being a position player.

Most of the Rays top names are on the right side of that number and in the midst of what many consider to be one’s athletic prime. Guys like Austin Meadows, Yandy Diaz, Brandon Lowe and Hunter Renfroe are all primed to have good seasons in follow-up to their strong 2019 campaigns.

Then there is newly acquired Japanese prospect Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, who was lighting it up in the spring before the early cancellation of spring training. If he can pick up where he left off, the Rays will certainly have a formidable lineup to challenge the Yankees in the division.

From a pitching standpoint, there may not be a better top three in baseball than what the Rays have in Charlie Morton, Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow. Some teams in baseball don’t have one ace as good as any of these guys and Tampa has three. Pitching combined with great defensive baseball and a solid lineup from the top to bottom of the order certainly makes the Rays dangerous and if not for the time the Yankees now have to get healthy, may have been the favorite to carry the AL East over the first half of the season. As such, this just means that the Rays and Yankees should be set for some real battles this year.

Boston Red Sox (+3000 to win the World Series; + 1500 to win AL Pennant)

The Red Sox made the biggest splash of the offseason when they traded perennial all-star Mookie Betts in exchange for top prospects to restock their farm system. While it was largely known prior to the trade, moving Betts sealed it. Boston was headed for a rebuild year. Only two years removed from winning the World Series in 2018, the Red Sox played decently last year, winning 84 games. It wasn’t enough as the team missed the playoffs and finished third in their division. In the end, poor pitching and just general inconsistent play doomed the champs. While expectations aren’t particularly high for Boston as they adjust to life without Betts, there is still a decent foundation here that it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see manage to make a playoff run.

Boston will rely on young talent, some of whom, much like the Yankees, should be ready for the start of the season now that there are some extra months added on to the schedule. This includes Alex Verdugo, the centerpiece of the Betts trade. Then of course there is still a solid 1-4 in the lineup with Andrew Benintendi, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and JD Martinez.

This is going to be a run-scoring lineup for sure but can the pitching keep up? In 2019, that wasn’t the case. The bullpen remains a question and beyond Chris Sale, the starting rotation certainly has holes. The Red Sox may luck into a wildcard spot but their focus is on the future and being World Series contenders again, perhaps sooner rather than later.

Toronto Blue Jays (+8000 to win the World Series; + 4000 to win AL Pennant)

Baseball is full of bottom dwellers and for years now, the AL East has had two. One of those, the Toronto Blue Jays may be on the rise and headed for a return to glory not felt since the early 90s when the team won the World Series.

Ironically enough, the three guys they will look to get them there are all kids of MLB stars from the 90s. It almost seems unfathomable that one MLB team has the sons of three stars, Bo Bichette (dad Dante), Cavan Biggio (dad Craig) and Vlad Guerrero Jr. (dad Vlad Sr.), but welcome to Blue Jays baseball in 2020. These are three young kids and if the Jays can find a way to keep them all beyond their rookie deals, Toronto may find playoff success relatively soon. Good news is they have a little bit of time before the tough decisions have to be made as all three are under team control for some time.

Toronto is a young, exciting team that should be fun to watch in 2020. They have got some solid pitching prospects in the pipeline and should no doubt do better than the 95 losses they had in 2019. The Jays aren’t there yet but any step in the right direction as these young kids continue to develop is nothing but a positive for Toronto.

Baltimore Orioles (+50000 to win the World Series; + 40000 to win AL Pennant)

Then there is Baltimore. Far removed from the days of Cal Ripken and his Iron Man playing streak, the Orioles have been one of the MLB’s worst teams over the last several years. Truly, there seems no real end in sight to Baltimore’s struggles. Expect Baltimore to throw a lot of guys into plugging these holes. Their top prospect list is promising and with nothing to lose, it wouldn’t be surprising to see most of them get playing time in 2020.

The team embarked on a long rebuild and that process is still ongoing. If it yields the fruit of a contender however, then it will have all been worth it. In the meantime, the Orioles will just look to lose less than 100 games for what would be the third year of such a losing streak. It may be doable especially if Chris Davis’ spring training is a sign of more to come. That would be somewhat of a nice story in all this, to see Davis return to the days of being “Crush,” and not the guy who’s barely hit over the Mendoza line in his last two seasons.