Going into the 2020 season, the Yankees are the clear favorite to win the AL East. Adding Gerrit Cole to the 2019 AL division champions simply raises their odds to win the division for the second year in a row and separates themselves from even further from their divisional rivals. Having said that, the Yankees will have to play those teams 19 times each over the 2020 season, so let’s break them down.
The Orioles were the second-worst team in baseball in 2019, finishing with a record of 54-108. It is news to nobody that they will not be contending in 2020. So far, they have done reasonably well throughout the beginning steps of their rebuilding process. They have acquired four Top-100 prospects according MLB.com’s rankings, including No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft Adley Rutschman.
Trey Mancini is one of very few players on this roster that can make an impact right now. The 27-year-old is about to begin his fourth full season and has had a productive career so far. In three full seasons played, Mancini batted over .290 and had an OPS over .800 twice, and has hit 24 or more home runs in each year.
The Blue Jays finished in fourth place in the AL East in 2019 with a record of 67-95. The Blue Jays are in a similar position as the Orioles, though they are further along on the process of rebuilding. Blue Jays fans finally got to see their highly-touted number one prospect Vladimir Guererro Jr. make his debut. While Guerrero had an uneven rookie year, his teammate and also Blue Jays rookie Bo Bichette, stole the headlines, hitting .311 over 46 games played in his rookie year.
Outside of those two, players the Yankees should look out for are Randal Grichuk, who hit .284 with eight homers and 15 RBI in 19 games against the Yankees in 2019, as well as Hyun-Jin Ryu, who pitched to a 2.32 ERA in 2019 for the Dodgers. The Blue Jays do not have a bad team, and on a good day can put up a fight against the Yankees. I wouldn’t expect the Yankees to lose many games to the Blue Jays in 2020, but they certainly are in a better position than the Orioles to do some damage.
The Red Sox followed up a World Series title in 2018 with an 84-78 record in 2019 and a third-place finish in the AL East. After losing Craig Kimbrel to the Cubs in free agency and seeing a down year from their pitching staff and bullpen, the Red Sox were a shell of the team they put on the field in 2018. Having one of the best offenses in baseball was not enough for the Red Sox pitchers to keep up with.
The Red Sox will still have the most threatening lineup to the Yankees in the AL East with players like Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts. The Red Sox, however, have done nothing to improve any part of their pitching staff this offseason and, in fact, have lost their manager in Alex Cora, as the team and Cora mutually parted ways in the wake of MLB’s sign-stealing scandal.
Outside of the Yankees, the Rays were the best team in the AL East in 2019, finishing in second place with a record of 96-66. Going into 2020, the Rays will be a complete team and will most likely compete with the Yankees more so than any of their other AL East opponents.
Players to look out for are starting pitchers Blake Snell and Charlie Morton, and infielders Brandon Lowe and Austin Meadows. All four players have been All-Stars in their careers and three of them were last season. Snell and Morton are two of the best pitchers in baseball and could be in the running for the AL Cy Young award. Lowe and Meadows were two of MLB’s best rookies last year and in all likelihood won’t slow down in 2020. The Yankees were 12-7 against the Rays last year, which likely was the reason they beat them out in the division race. The Yankees got significantly better after adding Gerrit Cole to their rotation, but if they’re going to win the AL East again, beating the Rays will be vital.