American League East: An absolute powerhouse will be fun to watch
1: Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)
Wander Franco will enjoy his first full season in the majors as the Rays look to repeat as AL East champions. The team with an uncanny ability to consistently develop talent as good as anyone in the league. Brandon Lowe is coming off a career-high 39 homers with Austin Meadows, Randy Arozarena and Mike Zunino providing a mix of power and speed as a collective group. Kevin Kiermaier will provide the Gold Glove defense in center field.
Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz look to be two important cogs in the rotation, along with former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Baz will miss the start of the season after elbow surgery, but hopefully not too much time. They have overcome pitching injuries before. Even with the Jays, Sox and Yankees having the “shinier” teams on paper, it’s hard to bet against the Rays these days. Oh, and they still have one of the top farm systems in baseball.
2: Toronto Blue Jays (93-69)
They just missed out last year, but Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Jays have a good chance to make a run at the postseason in 2022. While losing infielder Marcus Semien to free agency, they landed former Giants pitcher Kevin Gausman to take over the top spot in the rotation. Gausman will join a rotation that also features Jose Berrios and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Jays also made a big splash in acquiring Platinum Glove third baseman Matt Chapman via trade with the A’s.
Vladdy will build off his AL MVP runner-up season as he has become one of the most exciting players in baseball. He hit 48 home runs while slashing .311/.401/.601 in 161 games in 2021. If slugging outfielder George Springer is healthy, an everyday lineup with Guerrero Jr., Springer, Chapman, Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Teoscar Hernandez will be really tough to beat.
3: New York Yankees (89-73)
Let’s ask this question first, can the Bronx Bombers stay healthy throughout the season? If they can, then they will boast one of the better lineups in the American League. Center pieces Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge combined for 74 homers last year. They added slugging third baseman Josh Donaldson and shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa in exchange for Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez.
Former Cub Anthony Rizzo will return to the Bronx, giving them a nice productive lefty bat and a good glove at first. For now, they are holding on to infielder Gleyber Torres, who has struggled the past two years after such a good start to his career. While the rotation boasts one of the best in righty Gerrit Cole, the rest of the staff has some question marks. Will Luis Severino stay healthy this year? One also could wonder if closer Aroldis Chapman’s struggles in 2021 were just the results of a down year or a sign of decline.
4: Boston Red Sox (88-74)
Another surprise in 2021, the BoSox made it to the ALCS before bowing out to the Astros. While Kyle Schwarber, Adam Ottavino and Hunter Renfroe are no longer in Boston., it’s not to say they won’t still be in the mix. They made a splash last week, adding former Rockies All-Star infielder Trevor Story on a six-year deal. He will play up the middle with Xander Bogaerts. The lineup will also feature slugging DH J.D. Martinez, left fielder Kike Hernandez and third baseman Rafael Devers.
They reunited with veteran pitcher Rich Hill and outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. as well. Ace Chris Sale is very important to this season but unfortunately, he is already having injury issues again. Nathan Eovaldi and Hill will play big roles in the rotation, but the pitching overall is going to be suspect. No doubt the Red Sox are a competitive team, and them and the Yankees can go neck and neck, but it would not be surprising if they drop off a bit from what they did in 2021.
5: Baltimore Orioles (59-103)
Hard to imagine what being a fan of the Orioles has been like the past five years. The good news is their farm system is very strong now and there is a possible light at the end of the tunnel. Top prospects Adley Rutschman and Grayson Rodriguez are worth following. That said, it is going to be another rough year at Camden Yards. They added former Rangers slugger Rougned Odor who should add some pop offensively. It was great seeing Trey Mancini return from his battle with colon cancer last year, hitting 21 homers while slashing .255/.326/.432.