The AL East, home to the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, and Tampa Bay Rays, is one of MLB’s most competitive divisions and 2021 appears to be no different.
While the New York Yankees are a clear favorite, the Rays, Jays and Red Sox are all within just seven games of each other for second place and presumably a wildcard spot. Only the Orioles, who project as one of baseball’s cellar-dwellers, fall outside of that margin. Either way, much like the NL East, things are always heated and competitive when these rivals meet so expect some great baseball from the AL East in 2021.
New York Yankees (projected to win 100.1 games; -165 to win the AL East)
To anyone who watched the New York Yankees play in 2020, this should come as no surprise. Because while the Yankees did finish in second in the East and ultimately lose in the ALDS to the rival Rays, it was New York who looked the better team on paper.
The Yankees’ problem though, was injuries. The talent was there but keeping it on the field proved an impossible task. No one was hit the way New York was last year and that certainly had an impact on the team’s chances. 2021 is a new year and following a successful offseason, the Yankees are once again primed not just to win the East but to be serious playoff contenders.
D.J. LeMahieu returned on a new six-year contract, helping shore up a lineup that expects to score a lot of runs this season with Luke Voit, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees did lose two of their starters in the offseason but they arguably improved in that area, signing Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon. These two join Gerrit Cole and the returning Luis Severino.
New York isn’t a perfect team and depth could be an issue if top stars get injured again, but one should never count out the Bronx Bombers.
Tampa Bay Rays (projected to win 86.5 games; +325 to win the AL East)
The Tampa Bay Rays shocked many when they took advantage of New York’s injury woes and never looked back. In the middle of a short season, the Rays staked their claim to the East, ultimately winning the division by seven games which tied the Oakland Athletics as top first-second margin in MLB.
The Rays again beat the Yankees in the playoffs, firmly staking their claim to the division. Maybe that was true in 2020, but the thing with the Rays is, their windows are always going to be small. A small market team with one of the league’s largest payrolls, the 2020 offseason for the Rays always felt like it would be a salary dump and, boy, was it ever.
Tampa declined the option on Charlie Morton and traded Blake Snell while he still had value to them. Both men were crucial pieces of the Rays’ run to the World Series last year.
Pitching mismanagement though, perhaps cost Tampa its chance to win the franchise’s first championship, with Snell being at the heart of it. His exit from the Rays was all but certain. Tampa still has a good roster, buoyed by some great talent in guys like Randy Arozarena and Austin Meadows. If New York can’t stay healthy, well, then this division might be the Rays’ for the taking. Either way, it will certainly be a battle.
Toronto Blue Jays (projected to win 84.8 games; +500 to win the AL East)
After what feels like a lifetime of a rebuild, the Toronto Blue Jays and their second-generation stars, are finally turning the corner toward contending. Toronto made the playoffs for the first time since 2016 last season. If they have anything to say about it, the Blue Jays would like to return this year. To the team’s credit, they broke out their checkbooks this offseason, showing a commitment to keeping their success going.
The biggest of which, and one of the biggest moves in all of MLB, was when the Blue Jays splashed hard in the George Springer market. Springer was considered one of the top players available this year and Toronto beat many teams in securing the centerfielder’s services. Springer adds to an incredibly exciting young lineup that features Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, and of course, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Pitching doesn’t project to be one of Toronto’s strengths, however. While offensively, the Blue Jays can compete run-for-run with New York and Tampa Bay, it’s on the mound where the big falloff is. Beyond Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is a bona fide Cy Young candidate, the Blue Jays don’t have much. They did pick up Steven Matz in the offseason and he’ll help, but this rotation will need some luck as well in the back of the rotation and bullpen.
Boston Red Sox (projected to win 80 games; +1400 to win the AL East)
The Boston Red Sox are falling fast. They even bested the Orioles last year for the bottom spot of the AL East. Even at their worst, the Red Sox never seemed like they would be that bad. Well, clearly the Red Sox, who have missed the postseason in back-to-back years, don’t want to be that bad either.
Boston enjoyed a pretty successful offseason adding Adam Ottavino to help in the bullpen, Garett Richards to bolster the rotation and Kike Hernandez to add some excitement to the lineup. The Red Sox are still to find their way but the team is unlikely to finish in last place again.
Baltimore Orioles (projected to win 67.5 games; +10000 to win the AL East)
Every division seemingly has one of these this year. The team that makes you go, “well, there is no chance they win the title.” This year in the AL East, that team continues to be the Baltimore Orioles.
Baltimore is in the midst of their rebuild, one they have seemingly been enjoying as long as Toronto. Where the Blue Jays are turning the corner, the Orioles still seem stuck. The team is focused on a youth movement and boasts one of the youngest and therefore least experienced lineups in all of baseball. Baltimore may even get younger this year as the youth movement should see several top names in the pipeline get playing time with the big-league squad. The Orioles have a Rookie of the Year contender in Ryan Mountcastle, and John Means should be fun to watch on the mound. Beyond that, just hold tight O’s fans. All of this is going to pay off, someday.
Our AL East Preview’s Betting Predictions & Picks Verdict
While the Rays should give them some trouble as there are questions as to whether New York can stay healthy all season, the conclusion of this AL East preview and predictions’ article is to back the Yankees.
Unlike last year’s shortened campaign, the Yankees will have a longer season to handle any sort of injury adversity that comes their way. The runway is too long and the Yankees seem better equipped to keep their level of play over the longer season. So, our pick is to take the Yankees to win the AL East with Bovada Sportsbook.
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.